AUBURN — Auburn’s Catholic community honored its law-enforcement personnel May 17 with a Blue Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Parish.
"It’s a very important thing for the church to recognize the way these (officers) literally every day and every night put themselves in harm’s way to make us feel safer," explained Deacon Larry Feasel, homilist at the Mass.
The Blue Mass drew dozens of police officers, sheriff’s deputies and troopers from the Auburn Police Department, the Cayuga County Sheriff’s Office, the New York State Police, and the police departments of several towns and villages in Cayuga County, as well as many police officers’ families. According to Auburn Police Chief Gary Giannotta, such a Mass had not been held in the Auburn area until Deacon Gary DiLallo instituted it three years ago, and it’s quickly become a highly anticipated event in the law-enforcement community.
"We get better and better participation every year. It’s a nice thing that he does for us," Giannotta said.
Deacon DiLallo, parochial administrator at St. Francis of Assisi and St. Hyacinth parishes, said he first proposed the idea of the Blue Mass to Giannotta and Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould because he wanted his parishes to do something new and different for their community. Even parishioners who are not part of the law-enforcement community have embraced the Blue Mass, added Deacon DiLallo, who has a background in law enforcement.
"I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. The fire department wants me to do something for them now, and the correctional officers do, too," he said.
Deacon DiLallo chose to hold the Mass on May 17 because national Police Week was May 13-19 this year, he said. The memorial week has been held every year since 1962, when President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers’ Memorial Day. May 17 also was Ascension Thursday, which made it a perfect day to hold such a Mass, Deacon Feasel noted in his homily.
"Today is most appropriate for this Blue Mass since the Holy Mother Church designates this as a holy day of obligation. I would suggest that we, too, have obligations today, to recognize the work done by law enforcement, to ensure that we support their work, and that we give them the resources necessary to protect and serve," said Deacon Feasel, a professor of criminal justice and law at Monroe Community College, and former director of the college’s public-safety program.
Other communities choose to hold their Blue Masses on other days, such as the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel, who is the patron saint of police officers, but in reality every day is an appropriate day to recognize the work of a community’s law-enforcement personnel, he told the Catholic Courier.
Nonetheless, the timing of the Auburn Mass was especially significant because the previous Sunday’s Gospel reading had included the words, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends," he added.
"This is a possibility for every deputy sheriff, police officer and state trooper, as well as for their family on every shift they work. To date this year there have been 37 in-service deaths of law-enforcement professionals across the country. … As people of faith we must be as attentive to these losses as we are to losses of service members overseas," Deacon Feasel said.
Blue Masses give the community an opportunity to show their gratitude and appreciation to their local law-enforcement personnel, and to let those professionals know the community is praying for their safety and security, he said. This gesture is much appreciated, Giannotta said, explaining that Police Week can be a tough week for law-enforcement personnel as they remember their deceased brethren, especially those who have passed away within the past year.
After Deacon Feasel’s homily, members of the local law-enforcement agencies lit candles in memory of their departments’ deceased, and the widows of deceased officers also lit memorial candles.
"It’s a nice tribute," Giannotta said.
Those in attendance not only were paying tribute to the deceased, but recognizing that law enforcement is more than simply a career or a job for officers, deputies and troopers. The men and women who enforce our laws are expected to provide a sense of security and safety to the community, and to promote justice, Deacon Feasel said.
"In our church we believe there can be no peace without there being justice, and people need to understand and to believe that those who are accused of criminal actions receive a fair and impartial trial, and that their investigation likewise be done in a fair and impartial manner," he said.