By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Bishop Thomas Zinkula shared his appreciation for first responders during the seventh annual Blue Mass May 16 at St. Paul the Apostle Church. “It is great to be here and to recognize folks who are there for us when we are not at our best,” he said.
More than 300 people attended the Mass, organized by the parish’s Knights of Columbus Council 15725 to honor first responders throughout the Quad-City area, such as dispatchers, law enforcement officers, fire fighters and medics.
“The attendance was fantastic,” KofC Mark Gassen said. As first responders and others walked to the church, they saw a firetruck with its ladder outstretched and an American flag hanging from it. Members of the Black Hawk Pipes and Drums of the Quad Cities played across the street in front of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School. Davenport Patriot Guard Riders held flags and opened the church doors for attendees. An honor guard presented the colors before the processional hymn began.
“This evening we recognize and thank those who serve our community by keeping and restoring the peace,” Bishop Zinkula said, referencing a Quad-City Times article quoting Sgt. Eric Gruenhagen. The sergeant said: “The Blue Mass is a peace rally bringing first responders and the community together seeking peace, unity and God’s blessing.”
“Peace, unity and I would suggest the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Zinkula said, noting that Pentecost Sunday is May 28. “Pentecost is the coming of the Holy Spirit. John will tell us about Jesus appearing to his disciples in a locked room and saying to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ And then we will hear about Jesus breathing on them and saying, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ We are united in spirit and peace is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.”
The bishop explained that the unity and peace that come from the Holy Spirit are accessed in the Communion rite. In the Eucharist, “We become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In essence, we become Christ’s first responders to live the mystery of the Eucharist when we take Christ into the world…. Not only are peace officers to be Christ to those whom they encounter,” the bishop said, “they also are to see Christ in them.”
“In today’s first reading from the Acts of Apostles, we see this interplay in action. There is an encounter between two prisoners — Paul and Silas — and a jailer. After an interesting experience — an earthquake that frees the prisoners — the jailer takes them into his home, bathes their wounds and shares a meal with them. The peace and unity of the Holy Spirit clearly are present in this first responder situation.”
“We, the Knights of Columbus, offer the Mass so the community has the opportunity to show their appreciation for our first responders,” Gassen said, “and of course, our first responders get to witness that support. And having that appreciation shown in the presence of God, is a great feeling.”
Mission BBQ donated the food for a reception after Mass for first responders in the parish hall. The restaurant shows overwhelming support for military personnel and first responders, Gassen said. “We are so thankful for their support.”
Gassen also expressed gratitude for all who made the event special — Bishop Zinkula, Father Bruce DeRammelaere (the pastor), and the parish, community, sponsors, BSA Troop 20, the pipers and Patriot Guard. “Please don’t let this appreciation only happen for these few hours. Our first responders need a thank you all the time. Give them a smile and a prayer every chance you can. Hear a siren, stop for a moment and think, and give thanks for them.”