Sgt. Dave Duplantis standing far right with a riffle serves the Belle Glade area. He is shown leading the Palm Beach County Honor or Color Guard during presentations at the diocesan Blue Mass Sept. 29 at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola. He has served for more than 25 years and said, "I love serving the community." He was happy to be attending the Blue Mass. "It makes me feel good that we are being respected at this Mass. It is so nice of the diocese." (LINDA REEVES|FC)

Annual Mass honors public servants

PALM BEACH GARDENS | Often you hear stories of selfless courage and heroism demonstrated by law enforcement heroes, firefighters and other first responders taking action without hesitating, risking their lives to save a life.

During the annual diocesan Blue Mass Sept. 29, those who wear various uniforms and badges representing different agencies are honored, thanked and blessed for their courage, heroism and great dedication to serving citizens of South Florida and the Diocese of Palm Beach. Tributes and prayers will also go to the selfless, fallen heroes who have died while responding to save another.

“The Blue Mass is our way of honoring these brave men and women who serve our communities and to ask God for his protection of them,” said Father Albert Dello Russo, chancellor, who served as celebrant of the 2017 Blue Mass at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola. The celebration will be held again this year at the cathedral with Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito as main celebrant and homilist.

The Blue Mass is coordinated each year between the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the Diocese of Palm Beach and this year, as with years past, it is held on the feast day of St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael, the archangels. St. Michael is the leader of angels and the patron saint of police officers and military personnel, and Catholics turn to the popular saint for protection against evil.

Organizers are sending out invitations and spreading the word about the Mass throughout the five-county diocese. Active and retired officers and personnel from different municipalities, federal, state and local jurisdictions within the five counties of the diocese are invited to attend and bring family members. Members of the community of all faiths and beliefs are invited, and parishioners from the various faith communities are encouraged to attend and bring guests.

“I’ve been attending the Blue Mass for approximately 15 years and personally got involved roughly 10 years ago,” said Lt. Steven Thibodeau of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office “I felt it was a beautiful gesture from the bishop to host such an event and deserved our respect and attendance.”

The Mass begins with an honor guard processing in and presenting colors. During the Mass, prayers will be directed for the uniformed men and women sitting in the pews, and other first responders and safety and emergency officials. Prayers will also be lifted for the souls of those who have died all in the name of service. Following the Mass, refreshments will be served and people have a chance to join in fellowship.

The U.S. Fire Administration, which tracks and collects information on the cause of on-duty firefighter fatalities, reports that already this year 64 firefighters have died, and a report from the FBI indicates that 46 officers were killed in the line of duty in 2017. A webpage of Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring America’s fallen law enforcement heroes, states that 22,000 officers have made the ultimate sacrifice in the United States since 1791. Countless other first responders and emergency and safety officers have also died.

“For me, the Blue Mass represents hope,” Thibodeau said. “Hope the men and women of law enforcement aren’t serving in vain, hope as we protect and serve the community that our guardian angels are protecting us, hope that more law enforcement find their way to God, and hope that we are making a difference in this world. It’s beautiful to see the tough cop kneeling before the Father almighty, recognizing we are humble servants who need strength from God to cope with the evil in this world.”