Hundreds of law enforcement officers, firefighters, first responders and others gathered at St. Patrick Church in Washington, D.C., on May 7 for the 25th Blue Mass to invoke God’s blessing on law enforcement personnel.

“We celebrate today the lives of those who have been lost in the line of duty. We celebrate today their memory. We celebrate today all our first responders,” said Msgr. Salvatore Criscuolo, pastor of St. Patrick Church, who serves as chaplain to the D.C. Metropolitan Police, other D.C. first responders and several federal law enforcement agencies.

Honor guard members process into St. Patrick Church for the Blue Mass. (CS photo/Andrew Rozario)

Washington Auxiliary Bishop Roy Campbell Jr. was the principal celebrant of the annual Blue Mass, so named for the traditional color of the dress uniforms of police officers and firefighters. It is offered each year during National Police Week.

During the Mass, prayers were offered for those killed in the line of duty and for the protection of first responders.

Msgr. Criscuolo served as homilist at the Mass. Paraphrasing the biblical passage from John 15:13, Msgr. Criscuolo said, “We know there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another. Today we remember those who laid down their lives.” 

Msgr. Salvatore Criscuolo, the pastor of St. Patrick Church and chaplain for D.C. first responders, gave the homily at the 25th Blue Mass sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington. (CS photo/Andrew Rozario)

Other concelebrants included Father Raymond Fecteau, pastor of Our Lady of the Visitation in Darnestown, Maryland, and a police chaplain to several departments in Montgomery County; Msgr. Karl Chimiak, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Beltsville, Maryland, and a police chaplain to several departments in Prince George’s County; and various other priests.

Among those attending the Mass were U.S. Attorney General William Barr; Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general; FBI Director Christopher Wray; the attorneys general from Virginia and the District of Columbia; and more than 500 military, law enforcement, fire safety and public safety officers from dozens of municipal, county, state and federal agencies. 

Relatives of area officers killed in the line of duty last year also attended the Mass.

Speaking directly to survivors of those lost in the line of duty, the priest told them that their deceased loved ones “will never be forgotten and their memories are always in our hearts.” He also assured them that “death and sin do not have the final word.”

Law enforcement officers from federal agencies, including the Border Patrol, above, were among those attending the Blue Mass. (CS photo/Andrew Rozario)

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, there are more than 900,000 active law enforcement officers in the United States. Last year, 158 public safety officers were killed in the line of duty, 14 of whom were from the Washington Metropolitan area.

To the first responders attending the Mass, Msgr. Criscuolo assured them that “you are always in our prayers, and we pray each day that you return home to your loved ones.”

“You are defined by running into a burning building. You are defined by running into a building or area with an active shooter. You are the guardians of our community,” Msgr. Criscuolo told the first responders. “Your calling is sacred. Do not ever forget that – your calling is sacred.”

Although this was the 25th Blue Mass, the tradition of a such a Mass is much older. From 1934 until 1975, police officers would congregate annually to pray for their comrades who fell in the line of duty and ask God’s continued blessing for their own safety. The Masses were offered at various parishes throughout the District. The practice was re-established in 1995 and designated as the Blue Mass, and since then it has been celebrated at St. Patrick Church.

Prior to the Mass, color guards from various law enforcement groups gathered under an American flag hung over the street by two fire ladder trucks and then processed into the church. 

At the end of the Mass, the names of the 14 police officers who died in the Washington metropolitan area last year and six others who died in previous years were read, along with the date of their “end of watch” – the day they were killed. This was followed by two trumpeters playing “Taps.”

Massgoers processed out of the church while singing the hymn “America the Beautiful,” which included the verse, “O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life.”