By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Around 300 people paid tribute to those who have served our country by attending a Memorial Day Mass on May 31 at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church.
A crowd had gathered at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Davenport, but the skies opened up and the rain came down prior to the start of the planned outdoor Mass. The Mass-goers piled into their cars to head to St. Paul’s, the alternate site for the celebration in case of inclement weather.
Loras Council 532 sponsored the annual Mass. Fourth Degree Knights lined the main aisle in full regalia. Boy Scouts from Troop 20 of St. Paul the Apostle Parish presented the honor guard. Several priests and deacons from the area were in attendance.
Msgr. John Hyland, vicar general, was the celebrant. He welcomed everyone to the Memorial Day Mass and said, “If it doesn’t work, try again. We stood at the cemetery and it started to shower. So we decided to try again at the church.”
During his homily, Msgr. Hyland said, “On this Memorial Day we celebrate the Feast of Mary’s Visitation and this is very appropriate as she is the Patroness of our country and also is known as the Queen of Peace. We especially honor those who have given their lives in securing peace and we pray for those currently serving our country to ensure that gift of peace.”
He talked about the Civil War and how in Columbus, Miss., a group of women carried wildflowers to place on the graves of the Confederate soldiers. The women then noticed another group of graves — those of the Union soldiers. With little discussion, they began to lay flowers on those graves as well.
“The healing of a nation began at that point. The compassion of these Southern ladies for those who died fighting against their husbands, fathers and sons gave a clear message that, in death, all are equal.”
That gesture was passed by word of mouth. “Union and Confederate soldiers were touched by this simple act of honor.”
Msgr. Hyland said a Union veterans’ organization, called the Grand Army of the Republic, designated a special day to honor the fallen from both sides. May 30 was chosen for that purpose.
New York was the first state to recognize this day, in 1873. It was identified as Decoration Day. In 1882 it was adopted as a holiday across the United States and renamed Memorial Day. In 1973, this day of remembrance was officially established on the last Monday of May.
People gather on Memorial Day to honor the memory of not only those who have given their lives for the freedom of our county, but also for others who “in some ways helped to protect us,” Msgr. Hyland said. He identified those to be remembered:
• Our Founding Fathers who wrote this land’s fundamental freedom into the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
• Those who died in all wars; in the terrible war between the States that gave rise to this Memorial Day celebration; of the two World Wars; of all those who surrendered themselves to death in Korea, in Vietnam, the Middle East, in the turbulent revolutions of the developing countries, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• The first victims of the nuclear age, whose lives were taken in the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
• All whose lives have been claimed in prison camps throughout the world.
• All who have met death through senseless violence both on streets and in their homes.
• All whose lives have been snuffed out through willful abortion.
• The lives sacrificed on the altars of prejudice, hunger, neglect and hatred.
• All who have been slaughtered on the highways and streets of our country.
• All who have sacrificed their lives in order to save another life: police officers, firefighters, state troopers and sheriffs and sheriff’s officers.
• Those whose lives have been terminated through the effects of drugs of all types and description.
• The martyrs whose blood was shed so that others might know the love and mercy of God the Father and our Redemption through his son, Jesus Christ.
• Those who have gone before us, and whose vision and courage opened the Church to a deeper understanding of her mission to the world.
• All those who have touched our lives, directly and indirectly, individually and collectively, making them better because of their self-gift to us.
• All our dear loved ones, who now share the eternal vision of glory with the Father, in the joy and peace of Christ’s resurrection. May all of these dwell in the mansions of heaven with the Father, the heaven that Jesus has prepared for all.”
Following Communion, Alec Schauer of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School and Parish played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes, followed by “Taps” on the trumpet by Joe Seng.