By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
Hundreds of police officers, firefighters, law enforcement officials, first responders and others gathered Aug. 12 at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe for the sixth annual Diocese of Dallas Blue Mass celebrated by Bishop Edward J. Burns.
The annual celebration honors first responders, prayerfully asking God to protect them in the line of duty and to help them in their calling to be servants of good. Called the Blue Mass to represent the color of the uniforms predominantly worn by many first responders, it dates back to 1934 when Rev. Thomas Dade began the service in Washington, D. C. as part of his duties with the Catholic Police and Fireman’s Society.
Bishop Burns called the celebration an opportunity to support all the courageous men and women who serve as first responders in the nine counties that make up the diocese.
“We know all that you do is essential for us,” Bishop Burns said. “And it is essential for us to carve time out so that we may pray to almighty God so that He may strengthen you and give you His grace so that you can continue the wonderful works you do in our communities.”
Prior to the celebration of the Blue Mass, Bishop Burns stood upon a stage outside the cathedral, blessing a procession down Ross Avenue of police cruisers, fire trucks, emergency vehicles and even Little Dude, a mustang ridden by a member of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office’s mounted posse.
For Dallas Police Department Chief Eddie Garcia, the blessing and celebration of Mass served as a heart-warming reminder of the support first responders have in the community.
“The support that we get is incredible from this community and from this city,” said Garcia, who as a Catholic was appreciative of the bishop’s outreach and support. “It means a lot that he’s taking time to bless our fleet and bless our departments, to bless law enforcement and first repsonders. It’s an incredible experience.”
Garcia said whether they were Catholic or not, the Blue Mass offered first responders a time of reflection.
“It’s an opportunity to sit in a place, listen to the word of God — or stay and just reflect and speak to God in your own way — about the challenges and issues we are facing,” he said. “It is truly appreciated.”
Sgt. Richard Tear, who is with the police department for Dallas Area Rapid Transit, has been involved for several years with the diocesan planning committee for the Blue Mass. He sees his involvement with the Mass as an honor and believes the event is a blessing for all first responders who attend.
“This is for everyone who is a first responder. You don’t have to be Catholic. You don’t even have to be religious,” said Tear, a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Parish in Frisco.
“To me, this is an opportunity for first responders to know that they are loved and cared for. With what we do, it means a lot that the diocese does this for us.”
In his homily, Bishop Burns reminded those in attendance that like He was for the early disciples, Jesus is here to provide for them so that they can carry on with what they do.
“And that is indeed why we take a moment like this in the Diocese of Dallas,” the bishop said. “So as to remind you that the Lord indeed breathes into you the strength and the grace that is necessary to rise to new life.”
Gazing out over those gathered at the cathedral, Bishop Burns said he had only “to look at the courageous and brave men and women,” knowing what they meant to their communities and all that they sacrifice for those communities.
“And yes, indeed we pray that you have that strength,” he said. “We know that we need you to stay strong, and we need to pray for you and to lift you up in prayer.”
As the bishop of the diocese, Bishop Burns also pledged continued support to first responders in the nine counties.
“If there is ever anything that our diocese can do for you, all you have to do is call upon us because it’s important that you know that together we partner with each other in order to bring about the common good,” Bishop Burns said. “Thank you for your presence. Thank you for all you do. Thank you for the sacrifices you make. May God bless you for the wonderful noble work that you do for our community. We’re glad to have this opportunity to pray for you and to pray with you.”
As in years past, the Blue Mass provided an opportunity to remember those deceased and fallen officers and department members. Representatives from the Dallas Police Department, Dallas Fire Rescue, Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and DART Police Department read names as the Dallas Fire Department “Last Alarm Bell” was tolled.
The Mass closed with Bishop Burns offering a special prayer for first responders.
“Send down your blessings upon these your servants who so generously devote themselves to helping others. Grant them courage when they are afraid, wisdom when they must make quick decisions, strength when they are weary, and compassion in all their work,” Bishop Burns prayed. “When the alarm sounds and they are called to aid both friend and stranger, let them faithfully serve you in their neighbor. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
Looking for more images from the Diocese of Dallas Blue Mass? Visit our photo gallery!