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Blue Mass honors first responders
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St. Anthony of Padua pastor Chad Wahl lead the congregation in praying over the first responders who atended the Blue Mass on Wednesday. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/Bulletin Correspondent

St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca honored the largest group to date of first responders to attend the annual Blue Mass celebrated by the parish.

More than two-dozen emergency personnel in uniform were present at the worship service presided over by church pastor Chad Wahl who, along with the students of St. Anthony School, their families, and parishioners, prayed over them at the conclusion of the Mass.

Police officers, firefighters, deputy sheriffs from the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department, correctional officers, and EMTs from the Manteca District Ambulance Service were among those who were seated in a place of honor next to the altar. One of the police officers was Richard Tupou who is with the Oakland Police Department. He and his family are new residents of Manteca; their son, Richard Jr., is a first grader at St. Anthony School. Under Sheriff Annette Mondavi led her group from the Sheriff’s Department.

“It was absolutely beautiful. It’s nice to be recognized,” commented Mondavi about the service and the reception that immediately followed the Mass. She has been with the department for about 30 years and has attended the Blue Mass every year for the last three years.

The service was held during the weekly students’ Mass held on Wednesdays during the school year. It’s a liturgy wherein the students do all the readings and prayers of the faithful, plus lead the singing and be altar servers. Members of the Student Council also helped in hosting the reception for the first responders. This year, they also personally delivered the invitations to all workers in the field of public safety by going to the various places where they work such as the police and fire departments.

During the pastor’s “teaching” homily where he involved the students in the question-and-answer portion of his topic about the critical role played by first responders during emergency situations such as the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 on American soil, two Ambulance District personnel had to leave in response to an apparent emergency. Sometime later, three more staff members followed suit.

Adding color and formality to the occasion were members of the Knights of Columbus who ushered in the first responders at the beginning and end of the Mass wearing their colorful ceremonial attire.

The Blue Mass, so called because of the blue-colored uniforms predominantly worn by those who work as first responders, is held at St. Anthony of Padua as close as possible to September 11. This annual tradition was started after the 9-11 attacks which resulted in the loss of nearly 3,000 lives when the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda took down the World Trade Center in New York, while attacking two more places including the Pentagon.