Blue Mass celebrated in Madison Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Jun. 01, 2017 -- 12:00 AM
Blue Mass 2017
Madison Fire Department Chief Steven Davis lights candles in honor of those who died in service to the community during a Blue Mass for first responders at St. Bernard Church in Madison on May 18. To view or purchase photos, go to (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

MADISON -- "As Catholics, we know that we are universal," said Fr. Michael Radowicz, pastor of St. Bernard Parish in Madison.

"We welcome all people, all faith traditions here on this night as we gather together to honor and to pray for the men and women who are charged with a great responsibility, bringing Christ to those who are sick and to those who are in need of safety."

Those words opened the first Blue Mass celebrated in Madison on May 18 at St. Bernard Church.

It was held in thanksgiving for all first responders, including sheriff's deputies, police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

The Mass, which took place during National Police Week and the day before the annual Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony at the State Capitol in Madison, was a year in the making and the idea of Dick Rinehart, a retired Madison police lieutenant of 36 years and member of St. Bernard, and Father Radowicz.

"We just have to show respect for the profession and I think the way things are going today, I think faith plays an important role in all of their lives," said Rinehart.

Every first responder in Dane County, regardless of religious affiliation, was invited to the Mass.

Honoring the sacrifice

Father Radowicz was the celebrant at the Mass and Madison Police Chief Mike Koval and Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney read the readings.

Along with Madison police officers and Dane County deputies, attending were Madison firefighters, UW-Madison police officers, Fitchburg police officers, and other emergency workers.

Also in attendance were the St. Bernard Parish Knights of Columbus Council 9082 and the Bishop William O. O'Connor 4th Degree Assembly, Knights of Columbus.

During his homily, Father Radowicz reflected upon the fire that destroyed St. Raphael Cathedral in Madison 12 years ago.

"I can't describe in words that sadness that overcame me to see the mother church of our diocese, a building which is home to our most prominent liturgical celebrations, as no more," he said. "It was a difficult day for me and many others."

He recalled an image he saw that day in news coverage -- a firefighter standing in the parking lot with the ciborium, holding the Eucharistic Lord.

"It filled me with such peace," Father Radowicz said, adding the building may have crumbled, but "the true cornerstone, Jesus Christ, was present that day."

He said the Mass was to "honor the men and women who have made it their lifelong purpose to be that light in the darkness" like the light shown on the firefighter and Jesus in the parking lot.

Calling their work a "vocation," Father Radowicz told the first responders that "when someone is in need, you spring into action" using the gifts and talents that God gave them.

He also spoke of their on-the-job challenges of not always having time to think about their actions.

"You don't have time to think when a bullet flies past your head," he said. "You don't have time to think when a window explodes from a fire and you hear the voices of those screaming for rescue. You don't have time to think when you see someone who isn't breathing and they need immediate intervention . . . you must react instantaneously to the things happening around you."

He added, "Your desire to do good" remains unchanged and "we can never question your motives or where your hearts are as things unfold around you."

He also acknowledged the family members in attendance that "every day they are making a sacrifice as they let you go out that door, allowing you to enter a world where nothing is certain and nothing is guaranteed."

Prayer and support

Following the homily, Father Radowicz prayed petitions for all those gathered to "keep them safe and allow them to be great witnesses of God's love to those they protect and serve," for those who have been injured in the line of duty, and for an end to acts of violence and hatred.

Madison Fire Department Chief Steven Davis then lit two memorial candles to honor police, fire, and emergency workers who died in the line of duty or from other causes.

Chief Davis, Chief Koval, and Sheriff Mahoney each spoke following Mass.

Chief Davis called the police and deputies in the county the fire department's "brothers in blue" and encouraged everyone to "always have a good prayer and a good thought for them."

"They are human beings and we tend to forget that," he said. "They need the support of the chiefs, they need the support of the community."

Chief Koval said that there needs to be "spiritual dimension" in service work and the Blue Mass helped to "validate and affirm that dimension of who we are as servant leaders."

He remarked that he gives recruits a coin of St. Michael the Archangel -- the patron saint of police.

"Remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and all of those who stand ready, willing, and able to do the same for a complete and absolute stranger -- what greater nobility is there," said Chief Koval.

Sheriff Mahoney reiterated that the work they do is a "call."

"We enter this service to our citizens and our community because we were called to do this work . . . we get up every morning and feel blessed," he said.

The sheriff called the Mass "uplifting . . . It reminds us why we are in this profession."

Father Radowicz closed the evening saying, "Know that we love you, know that we care for you, and know that we celebrate with you tonight."

The entire church then prayed the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.

Following Mass, a reception was held in the parish center gymnasium.

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