It was a worship service that was meant to remember and honor the brave heroes of the September 11 terrorist attacks 18 years ago, and to pray for all first responders who run toward danger to save others when everybody else runs away.
That was the focus of the Blue Mass Thursday, Sept. 12, at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca.
About two dozen area police, Sheriff’s and correctional officers, paramedics, EMS personnel, and firefighters attended. Among them were Manteca Police Chief Jodie Estarziau, Oakland City police officer Richard Tupou who sat with his children Nicky, Richard and Alexis who attend St. Anthony’s School, and Vice Mayor David Breitenbucher, a former City Fire captain, who sat with the congregation.
“The idea of this Mass is to remind us what they do every single day, and to pray for them because (their job) is not easy,” said Father Chad Wall in his homily.
“Their entire job is a life of love — incredibly noble. They go forward when everybody else runs away. They have enormous virtue; enormous heart. So we pray for them..., for God to protect them. Let’s give thanks to God for their good example.”
It is because of the color of their uniform — which is worn by most of first responders — that this service is called a Blue Mass, the St. Anthony’s pastor told the students and community members who took part in the prayer service which is held every year. The occasion was held during the weekly St. Anthony School student Mass. The Blue Mass was coordinated by members of the school’s student council.
Father Chad noted that all of the students at the service were not yet born when the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 occurred. It was “something that shook our nation to the core,” he explained to the students while talking about the tragic events that transpired that day.
To understand the bravery of first responders, Father Chad said these emergency personnel all ran toward the burning buildings to save the people trapped inside, “knowing it was super dangerous” to do so.
“That’s what love is,” he said, having the will to do good for others. “That’s a hero; that’s a saint.”
He added, “They were acting like Jesus. It takes so much courage to be a first responder.... They place themselves in danger for us. In our moments of danger, we rely on them.”
After the homily, the entire congregation, led by Father Chad and Deacon Jeff Vierra, offered prayers to all the first responders by collectively extending their hands over them.
A reception for all the guests was held in the cafeteria following the Mass.