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Hundreds recognize public safety community at Blue Mass in Lewiston

The large American flag, held in place atop ladder trucks provided by the Auburn and Lewiston Fire Departments, waved in a slight breeze as the Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corps and the Maine State Police Pipe and Drum Unit offered a stirring performance of “Amazing Grace.” Honor guards from around the area stood in front of the Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul in Lewiston, standing reverently as the music made its way down Ash Street and beyond.  

The scene greeted hundreds of law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency personnel, and parishioners as they entered the 2018 Blue Mass on Sunday, September 16, in Lewiston. The Mass annually bestows blessings upon all who contribute to public safety and health in Maine and honors first responders for their heroic service.  

The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Robert P. Deeley, who noted that the Blue Mass tradition was revived in the Diocese of Portland after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and that gathering to honor our communities’ heroes will always be important.

“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,” said the bishop during 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. 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 to share their own gratitude. Senator Susan Collins, Congressman Bruce Poliquin, Public Safety Commissioner John Morris, gubernatorial candidate Shawn Moody, state senators and representatives, city councilors, and local mayors were among the many dignitaries at the Blue Mass.

Many of the Mass’ participants are also connected to the public safety community, including Deacon Jeffrey Lewis, who is currently the chaplain for the Gardiner Fire Department, was an EMS provider for over 38 years, and has served as a firefighter. Lieutenant Todd Bernard of the South Portland Police Department and Chief Robert Schwarz, executive director of the Maine Chiefs of Police, served as readers. Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson was one of the gift bearers, and representatives from the Lewiston Police Department, Auburn Fire Department, Maine State Police, and the Portland Police Department comprised a multijurisdictional honor guard that posted and retired the colors before and after the Mass.  

The Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corps and the Maine State Police Pipe and Drum unit performed outside before and after the Mass, and a reception for all gathered was hosted by the Knights of Columbus in the parish hall after the Mass.

The Blue Mass, which refers to the blue 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. 

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