Almost every person in their lifetime will be impacted in some way by the services emergency personnel provide, whether it’s a firefighter, law enforcement officer or other first responder.
Bishop Donald Kettler wants to honor all those who serve and protect the people of the Diocese of St. Cloud by celebrating a “Blue Mass” May 19 at 7 p.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. A light reception will follow.
“We need to recognize and pray for the work of our first responders,” he said. “They do such an important ministry that is related in many ways to Jesus’ message of caring for people. I think there’s a close relationship between what they do and the church and her mission — one that’s related to the message of mercy that we are hearing in this Year of Mercy.”
St. Cloud Police Department Public Information Officer Jason Burke said it is good anytime people can come together and support the work of public servants.
“In today’s world, there is a lot of negative press about the work we do,” he said. “It’s always good to have our work seen in a positive way. In the St. Cloud area, we have a very supportive community.”
Support and sacrifice
Similar events like the Blue Mass have been held at the parish level — such as the one held in Melrose each year.
Joe Finken, mayor of Melrose and chaplain for the Melrose Fire Department, has served as lector at the annual Mass held at St. Mary’s recognizing those serving the public and those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. This year, he will assist in bringing up the gifts at the Blue Mass in St. Cloud.
“I’m really excited to be a part of it,” Finken said. “An event like this is important, not only for me as a firefighter, but for all those out there serving the public.” Finken grew up in Melrose and attended St. Mary’s Church and school. Earlier this year, he was one of the firefighters who responded to a call at his parish March 11.
“It was just something you never want to see,” Finken said.
Whenever a crisis like a major fire ripples through the community, Finken’s role as chaplain is to help the team find the resources they need to deal with it.
“I do get some people that will come and visit with me about their struggles,” he said. “I don’t give advice but I usually know where to point them in the right direction. Sometimes it is to Father Marv [Enneking, pastor of St. Mary’s] or another source. There are lots of options out there,” he said.
He also said the firefighters rely a lot on each other to get through the tough times. “We have such a close network and we are very open among ourselves. We help each other out. Besides my family, the bond with my teammates is one of the strongest I’ve ever had. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them.”
Finken said that even though they have a tight knit team, there are times when it’s not enough. Then they work closely with grief counselors. He remembers his first call to a fatality.
“It was one of my best friends,” he said. “In small towns, you pretty much know everybody. That gets pretty tough to take sometimes.”
Finken said he finds some of his best support at home.
“I’m so lucky I have such a wonderful wife always there to help me,” he said. “I will tell her I had a bad day — not get into details — and she will talk me through those tough days.”
His wife, Dana, and their four children have had to make sacrifices, too, he said.
“Right in the middle of anniversary dinners, birthdays, holidays, I’ve been called out. You lose time with your family. But when a person dials 911, that’s the toughest three numbers anyone ever has to dial,” he said. “So you go. You just go.”
Prayer is also key in his line of work.
“I do say prayers. I ask God to help me to do my job. Many of us were praying that night of the church fire,” he said. “When we are at a bad scene, there is always somebody praying. Faith helps a person through a lot.”
All are welcome
Bishop Kettler said everyone is welcome to attend the Mass, even if they’re not Catholic. Invitations have been sent to first responders around the area.
He hopes those who come feel the prayerful support of fellow worshipers as well as a sense of solidarity with other people who do similar work.
Emergency workers also have the support of the church, he said.
“We are concerned about their welfare,” Bishop Kettler said. “If they are really struggling with something, they can call upon us and we’ll help them anyway we can.”