Law enforcement officers and firefighters join worshipers in Lewiston on Sunday at the annual Blue Mass at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul to honor first responders. Credit: Courtesy of Dave Guthro of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland

Hundreds of law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency personnel, and parishioners on Sunday attended the 2018 Blue Mass at Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Lewiston.

The Mass honors first responders, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. It has been held in Maine since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Last year, it was held at St. John Catholic Church in Bangor.

Bishop Robert P. Deeley said in his homily Sunday that the Blue Mass is a way to thank and bless Maine first responders, no matter their faith traditions.

“I read last week that, now, some 17 years after 2001, we have a generation of youngsters who have little recall of this terrible tragedy,” he said in his homily. “Events such as today keep the memory alive of the generosity of those who serve us. We need to pause to give them thanks.

“Our purpose in being here this morning is not only to thank you, our first responders, but also to thank God for your service, and to ask God’s blessing on each of you,” Deeley continued. “May He protect you as you serve us.”

The assembly was a mix of members of the public safety community, many in uniform, joined by men, women and children who attended in order to share their own gratitude, diocesan spokesman Dave Guthro said in a statement. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, Maine Public Safety Commissioner John Morris, members of the Legislature and local officials were among the many dignitaries who attended the Blue Mass.

“Their presence with us is a tribute to the work that is done by all who serve,” the bishop said. “We are grateful that they come this morning to join us in honoring those who serve and to be with us in our prayer that God will watch over and care for all who serve to ensure public safety.”

Deeley also told public safety officials that their work is service in the very way Christ calls people to take care of each other.

“The vocation of each Christian is to serve others, as the Lord himself did, freely and impartially,” Deeley said. “We would often choose to take care of ourselves forgetting the other. Jesus calls us to serve, to be conscious of the other. Service is at the heart of the work you do in the many ways you protect and serve the people of our communities here in Maine.”

The Blue Mass, which refers to the blue dress uniforms that firefighters, law enforcement and other first responders wear, is planned and organized by diocesan officials and representatives from local, county and state public safety agencies, according to Guthro.

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