By ANDREW HANSEN
Police officers, fire fighters, and other emergency responders from different parts of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois came to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield Sept. 28 for a Mass offered for them. Praying for their safety and continued diligence in their work; to thank them for their selfless commitment to taking care of people in our communities; and praying for the repose of the souls for those who died in the line of serving and protecting, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki celebrated the Blue Mass for emergency responders.
“There is risk with everything as it’s part of what we do,” said Carl Hinman, Captain Paramedic with the Springfield Fire Department. “It’s why we are called a ‘higher calling.’ We put ourselves on the line for others. Sometimes, all the help you can get can be the difference between saving someone and not saving someone, and sometimes that help has to come from places that we don’t really understand, and I have seen and even benefited from help from above.”
“Every police officer knows there are moments when they have to have the help of God and it is only the help of God that sees them through that shift,” said Deacon Rob Sgambelluri of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, who is also retired from the Illinois State Police. “The Blue Mass — we pray for that — to pray for that help, pray for that guidance, and pray for protection for all of us and all the people we serve.”
The day began with emergency responders from several different agencies gathering at the Cathedral, followed by the posting of the colors, and then Mass.
“We believe as Catholics that Christ comes present to us in the Eucharist,” said Bishop Paprocki. “So, for the sanctification of our work as we go forth and we are sent out from this Mass, we believe that we take Christ with us. So, with Christ in our hearts, we send our emergency responders to go out as they do their work to remember that Christ is with them and helping them in all that they do.”
Beyond having Christ within them, first responders say that coming together for this special Mass helps create a more positive culture in our society.
“Everything that is going on and the narrative that ‘everything we are doing is wrong,’ the Blue Mass is just outstanding to show the support, the outpouring support, the community has, to pray for us that we come home safely and do our jobs efficiently,” said Cheryllynn Williams, the Chief Deputy for the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office.
“We believe prayer is good at this time, and it’s imperative that we do this (have the Blue Mass),” said Limey Nargelenas, the Springfield Park District Police Chief.
After Mass, Terrance Gainer was the guest speaker in the Cathedral atrium. He is a former U.S. Senate Sgt. At Arms, Chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, and Director of the Illinois State Police, and is a retired Captain of the U.S. Navy.
“I think part of this is just to thank the first responders — the police, fire, hospital workers, the ambulance folks,” Gainer said. “These have been a tough couple of years with COVID and some of the disorder across the United States. So, we need to support each other and be there for each other.”