By Colleen Rowan WEIRTON—In his homily for the celebration of the annual Blue Mass in Weirton, Very Rev. Dennis R. Schuelkens, Jr., V.E, asked the honored guests seated in the front pews of the church—police officers, firefighters, first responders, and members of the U.S. Military—to take a moment, turn around, and look at the congregation. “They are here to celebrate and to give thanks to you,” Father Schuelkens said.
St. Joseph the Worker Church was filled that day with parishio- ners along with members of neigh- boring parishes as well as children and young people from the Catho- lic schools of Weirton—Madonna High School, St. Joseph the Worker Grade School, and St. Paul School—all of which sponsored the Mass with St. Joseph’s.
“On behalf of the student bodies of the Catholic schools of Weirton, we would like to welcome all of the police officers, fire- fighters, first responders, and members of the armed forces and all invited guests to this Blue Mass to honor those who are willing to lay down their life every day,” Ma- donna High School student Madalena Daugherty said in her welcoming before Mass.
The Mass was celebrated on Sept. 11, and also offered prayers and remembrance for those killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, at the Pentagon, and in a field near Shanksville, Pa., 19 years ago. “Close to 3,000 people,” Father Schuelkens said. “We remember them, we pray for them. We pray for their families. That loss is palpable. It still remains in the hearts of those who lost loved ones.” Father Schuelkens
spoke of the many who ran into the buldings that day to help, to sacri- fice.
“St. Joseph the Worker Blue Mass is a way for our area Catholic schools to honor those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, and for us to also say thank you to our local police officers, firemen, first responders and military for their service,” said Recheal Fuscardo, principal of St. Joseph’s, in the days after the Mass. Students from all of the schools participated in the Mass.
“We say thank you Lord to those individuals who say yes. Yes, I will defend, and I will protect, and I will help even at the risk of my own life,” Father Schuelkens said in his homily. “We give thanks be- cause there are law enforcement of- ficers, there are firefighters, there are first responders, and there are people in the military who say, ‘I’ll step forward, I’ll take the risk.’”
Father Schuelkens reminded the congregation that when danger occurs—fires or other tragedies or catastrophes—they, the honored guests at this Blue Mass, are the ones that run into it. Everyone has a call in their lives, he said, and God has called them forth to de- fend and to protect.
“And we see in the Gospel,” Father Schuelkens said, “‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ God has placed in their hearts a sense of purpose and duty, of lifting the community. They are called to bring safety. And they do it every day.
“We thank the Lord for these community leaders who step for- ward and say, ‘I’m willing to serve … even at the risk of my own life.’”