Honoring first responders


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — A Blue Mass in support of law enforcement, firefighters, medic/EMT/paramedics, corrections departments, dispatchers and first responders was celebrated May 17 at St. Paul the Apostle Parish.

Anne Marie Amacher
Bishop Martin Amos received the eucharistic gifts from paramedics John Gilbert and Terry Rawls during the Blue Mass on May 17 at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Davenport.

An honor guard presented the colors before the start of Mass. Representatives from the Davenport Police, Davenport Fire and Scott County Sheriff’s department made up the guard.

During his homily, Bishop Martin Amos said the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, occurred three months after his ordination as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio. “I was in my office when the first tower was hit. I went downstairs to the Social Action Office as they had a TV and we all saw the second tower hit. That event certainly changed life as we knew it.”


Eleven days later, the City of Akron, Ohio, held a memorial service for the firefighters, police and emergency medical technicians. Civic leaders, representative from the various religions and faith denominations, uniformed members of the safety forces and a host of other people were present.

“I was asked to put the events of that Tuesday and its aftermath into perspective. I thought, when a family member dies, it takes more than 11 days for them to put things into perspective — if they ever do.

“When an unheard of event like 9/11 occurs, it will take more than 10 years to put it into perspective — if we ever can.

“We do want to remember events like 9/11. We want to remember the bravery of those who gave their lives. We want to remember families who were affected. We want to remember those who were first on scene: emergency medical people helping in rescue efforts, police continuing to protect citizens, firefighters saving buildings; and we also want to remember the many, many acts of kindness and support that often follow tragic events.” This all testifies to our interconnectedness.

He read the poem “No Man is an Island” by John Donne. “Certainly we are interconnected within our families, among our friends, in our neighborhoods and in our faith communities,” Bishop Amos said.

The media draws us into events around our country and around the world. “We see in the midst of tragedy — whether it is a tornado, a flood, a mass shooting or an accident — people coming together. We realize how fragile human life is. We need each other.”

“Tonight we say thank you to you in uniform. We do not take your avocations for granted. As long as there are accidents and evil deeds we need these women and men who are selfless in their dedication to others. We appreciate that each 9-1-1 call is a call that carries with it the possibility of the ultimate act of giving. To those who are present, we say thank you.”

For those whose names are in the book of life because of their deeds of goodness, the church prays: Eternal rest grant onto them O Lord.
He hoped that all in the congregation would appreciate a little more the people who are important in their lives. “Hopefully we are more mindful of those who are connected with our lives. Hopefully tonight calls each of us to also ask: How am I spending my life for others?”
He quoted from the prayer of peace attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. “Hopefully tonight reminds us about the long road we must still travel in respecting all human life. We ask God’s blessing on you, our first responders. You are in our prayers.”

Mark Gassen, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Knights of Columbus Council 15725, helped plan the Mass and reception. He said the Blue Mass gives the community the opportunity to show support to first responders in a place of God. “We bring them here tonight in unity with the community.”

Success is based not on numbers, but on how the first responders felt, Gassen said. The church was filled with community members as well as first responders and their families, he added. Concelebrating the Mass were Fathers Chuck Adam, Rich Adam, Paul Appel, Jason Crossen, Tony Herold and Chris Young. Fr. Appel and Fr. Young are chaplains for Davenport Fire and Davenport Police departments.

Lt. Brian Votroubek with the Iowa State Patrol and a member of St. Paul’s, said the Blue Mass was “really neat” and he appreciated the efforts of the Knights of Columbus to honor all first responders. “It feels good to be appreciated for the work we do.”

Joe Collins, a paramedic with Genesis Health Systems in Davenport, said he has worked with many first responders over the years in some “horrific circumstances.” He liked being able to see those same people in better circumstances. He appreciated the celebration as an expression of gratitude for first responders and all that they do.

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