By CATHERINE OWERS
University President Fr. John Jenkins celebrated a Blue Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Thursday in honor of firefighters and police officers.
The Blue Mass honors not only Notre Dame Security Police and Notre Dame Fire Department, but also personnel from local and nationwide departments, fire chief Bruce Harrison said.
"Notre Dame Security Police and the Notre Dame Fire Department are the hosts and represent the University, and then [they] encourage anyone who wants to participate to come," Harrison said. "Particularly [police and fire personnel] in the region - St. Joseph County and beyond - we try to invite in." Harrison said the Mass especially honored police officers and firefighters who have passed away in the last year, both in the line of duty and after their retirement.
"We like to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as the passing of all the retirees in our 'family,' so to speak," he said.
According to the Notre Dame Fire Department website, the Blue Mass is named for the color of uniforms that many police officers and firefighters nationwide wear. The Mass was first celebrated at Notre Dame as the traditional 'month's mind' Mass for victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Blue Mass continues for them and for the police officers, firefighters and rescue workers who have died while serving and protecting others.
The guest speaker at this year's Blue Mass, George Hernandez, is a firefighter from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and was a member of the United States Forest Service as a hotshot firefighter, Harrison said. He said hotshot firefighters gained recognition last summer when 19 members of an elite group in Arizona died. "They were out trying to protect property and got caught in what they call a burn-over," Harrison said. "The number of loss of life is particularly astounding."That was a very tragic event for our wildlife community. And see how quickly it has lost focus"
"We like to think that since we are common in cause, we provide an opportunity to remember [the hotshot crew] and understand the hardships their families are going through without them."Harrison said he hopeseNotre Dame will continue to host an annual Blue Mass.
"It is a somber occasion, but it is meaningful to try and capture that spirit of remembrance, and I think that this is what it's all about," he said.
Contact Catherine Owers at firstname.lastname@example.org