By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — First responders and parishioners from throughout Scott County gathered for the first Blue Mass since 2019 at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church on May 18.
Many first responders — firefighters, law enforcement officers, medics and dispatchers among them — wore their uniform to Mass. Outside the church, an American flag hung from the extended ladder of a fire truck. Black Hawk Pipes & Drums of the Quad Cities played outdoors before and after Mass. The Honor Guard presented the colors before Mass.
Father Bruce DeRammelaere, pastor of St. Paul, welcomed the gathering. “We gather for our Blue Mass tonight to honor those who serve by providing safety and protection for our community. Here tonight are those who serve in local, county, state and federal law enforcement, highway patrol, correction officers, firefighters, medics and emergency medical personnel, dispatchers … all those who serve in public safety.”
“These first responders take on incredible responsibility and, at times, at a profound personal price. Some make the ultimate sacrifice,” Father DeRammelaere said. The first responders strengthen the common good through the unconditional sacrifice they make in accepting their responsibility, he continued. “And so we need to pause to give them thanks. Our purpose in being here this evening is not only to thank you, our first responders, but also to thank God for your service, and to ask God’s blessing on each of you. May he protect you as you serve us.”
Father DeRammelaere presided at Mass and his concelebrants were Father Nicholas Akindele, Father Paul Appel, Father Jacob Greiner, Father Andrew Rauenbuehler and Father Chris Young. Father Appel, the homilist, said he woke up more than once in 2019 to a bad dream. He remembers seeing a big, dark, cloud over Davenport’s horizon. “What did it mean?” Contemplating passages from Jeremiah, he sensed it meant to be prepared, but he wasn’t sure for what.
Later, while driving down Lincoln Street in Davenport, a large raindrop fell on his windshield, even though it was a sunny day. “Here we go, I thought.” Then March 2020 came roaring in and the world experienced “loss of life and illness, as we had not seen in a long time. We also saw resentment and anger. We are still picking up the pieces today.”
He reflected on society and freedom and how living in a rural area may seem to offer more freedom than city living. However, freedom does not mean being free to do whatever you want. In city living, “You give up some freedoms, but you have ‘munus’ (the gift of service) — the promise to protect and serve.” Laws serve to protect citizens, he said. He encouraged parents to teach their children what it means to be a responsible citizen. He asked people to vote, to meet with members of their city council, county board or other governing body. “Show up to social events. This helps build strong community. We all want the same thing —a safe place to live and a good education.”
As Mass concluded, Father DeRammelaere thanked the St. Paul Knights of Columbus for hosting the Blue Mass, especially Mark Gassen, who has publicized the Blue Mass from its start. “Mark did all the work.”
Father Appel bestowed the final blessing on the first responders, asking God to “Pour out your abundant blessings upon these women and men, your servants, who generously devote themselves to helping others. Grant them courage when they are exposed to danger, wisdom in making critical decisions, strength when they are weary, and compassion in all their work. In every emergency, when they are called to aid both friend and stranger, help them to see you in the face of all those in need.” Finally, he asked God to protect, guide and give strength to the first responders and to bless them with his peace.
A reception in Denning Hall followed Mass. Davenport Police Sgt. Eric Gruenhagen, a member of St. Ann Parish in Long Grove, said he has attended every Blue Mass celebrated at St. Paul the Apostle. As a first responder, he relies on his faith and on the support of the public. He believes the Blue Mass is a great way for the faith community and surrounding community to come together. KofC member Steve Harvey said it was “awesome to see the return of the Mass. It was an honor to do it again.”