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Public Safety Mass revived, will be held Sept. 21

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BOSTON -- Revitalizing a tradition that had lapsed for more than a decade, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley will celebrate the Mass for Public Safety Personnel and Families, Sept. 21, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

The Mass at the cathedral follows a tradition in many Catholic dioceses in the United States of celebrating what is commonly called a "Blue Mass," to honor law enforcement officers and remember those fallen in the line of duty. Such Masses were celebrated for many years in the Archdiocese of Boston with differing titles, including "the Public Safety Mass" and "the Red and Blue Mass" for fire and police. However, the last Public Safety Mass was celebrated in March 2001.

Deacon James Greer, director of the Office of Chaplaincy programs for the Archdiocese of Boston, said the idea of bringing back the Public Safety Mass was originally raised by Middlesex County Sheriff chaplain Jesuit Father Richard Deshaies.

In recent months, the Office of Chaplaincy Programs and the Office of Divine Worship formed a steering committee to organize the event. Deacon Greer said the committee decided not to call it a "Blue Mass" to avoid the possible misperception that the Mass is only for law enforcement. Instead, the Mass is being held to honor public safety workers from the full spectrum of men and women serving their communities in uniform.

"It's all fire, police, EMS, the Department of Corrections, all of the sheriff's departments, all of the jails that the sheriffs have, the FBI, the DEA, environmental police, parks, all of those type of agencies we are going to want to try and bring together and have a Mass of thanksgiving for the work they do, but also to remember those who have given their lives in the line of duty to protect our citizens," Deacon Greer said.

Father Thomas Dade organized the first "Blue Mass" in the United States to honor police and firefighters, Sept. 29, 1934, in a tradition said to have drawn over 1,000 uniformed public safety workers into St. Patrick Parish in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Deacon Greer said the state police are expected to join a procession before the Mass with their mounted unit. He stressed that the invitation extended to the entire archdiocese, with town officials and politicians invited to honor those who serve their respective communities.

"Everybody is welcome. You don't have to be Catholic. We want to give thanks to all the public safety employees and their families, because it's important for us to understand that families are effected just as much as the individuals who put on the uniform," he said, referring to his 10 years of service at various fire departments in Massachusetts and 21 years in the Coast Guard.

The archdiocese is encouraging priests serving as police, fire, or emergency service chaplains to notify Deacon Greer so they can be provided further information. To promote the event, the archdiocese created the Mass for Public Safety Personnel and Families Facebook event, and a website at bostonpublicsafetymass.org.

Father Daniel J. Mahoney, chaplain of the Boston Fire Department, served on the steering committee to organize the Mass.

"It's a Mass of thanksgiving for the blessings and the graces each member has received from God, and also it's a Mass of affirming them in their very public stance protecting life and property, which applies to both law enforcement and firefighters," he said.

Father Mahoney said it is important to come together in a way that reaches beyond each of the respective fields in public safety work, for a reckoning with the shared commitment between all those who serve their community on the front lines.

"We're all in this together. As we say in the fire service, we watch everybody's back and they watch ours," he said.

Father Mahoney said he hopes the word reaches all corners of the Archdiocese of Boston, so those who serve their communities in times of trouble can come and receive recognition from a grateful community.

"Hopefully, we'll have a good response to this. We're putting out the publicity. Deacon Greer has been great in helping us get the word out, and in planning the liturgy, and the ceremonies that go with it. Two Boston ladder trucks will be outside the cathedral that day with the American flag, so it's for God and country in a very real sense," he said.

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