PHOTO: Blue Mass held at St. Agnes Church. AHHerald file photo
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS _ The annual Blue Mass honoring first responders of Middletown, Highlands and Atlantic Highlands as well as Sandy Hook will be held Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Agnes Church, it was announced by coordinator John Flynn.
The mass has become a tradition in the Our Lady of Perpetual Help-St. Agnes parish since Flynn started it in 2003 and has grown each year. In 2004, a Blue Mass Committee was formed to raise funds for costs connected with the mass which honors fire, law enforcement and EMS volunteers in the Bayshore.
The Mass and reception which follows at the Shore Casino after mass are open to all who want to honor those officers and volunteers who respond throughout the year to local emergencies and needs including the Coast Guard stationed at Sandy Hook and rangers at Gateway National Recreation Area.
The Rev. Jarlath Quinn, pastor of OLPH-St. Agnes, will officiate at this year’s mass, with the Rev. Martin Biglin con-celebrating and giving the homily. Music Director Courtney Grogan will present the Combined Choir of OLPH-St Agnes and music for the mass, and the Rev. Joseph J. Donnelly Council of the Knights of Columbus will participate as ushers and in a support role.
The Fourth Degree Knights, the patriotic arm of the Knights of Columbus, representing assemblies from throughout the area, will present an Honor Guard, and volunteers from the various organizations being honored will participate in readings during the mass.
Also participating in an event which draws hundreds and grows each year, are fire, police and first aid cadets from the three towns, the Middletown Fire Department Color Guard and local scout troops as well as the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, national Park Service Rangers and a Pipes and Drums band. The Rev. Joseph J. Donnelly Knights Council assumed the responsibility for the organization and operation of the Blue Mass so after it began in Atlantic ighaHigHighln Highlands.
The tradition of this annual event in the United States began in Maryland in 1933, when a mass was celebrated to honor the member of Baltimore’s Police Department. It was named Blue Mass to honor the traditional color of police uniforms. Purpose of the mass is to pray for the safety of all participants and to show the gratitude of a community for the responders as well as their families who provide support.
When Flynn was a drummer in the Ocean County Emerald Society Pipes and Drums and participated in a Blue Mass at St. Mary’s in Barnegat in Ocean County, he was moved by the impact it had on the attendees and honor it showed volunteers, and wanted to participate in spreading the tradition to his home parish of St. Agnes. When that church merged with our Lady of Perpetual Help in 2006, the honorees also expanded to include first responders in Highlands as well as Coast Guard and National Park Service rangers at Sandy Hook. This marked the first time the Coast Guards, then only branch of military SERVICE NNCONSSIDERED both as a law enforcement and first responder organization, had ever been included in a Blue Mass nationwide.
Clergy from all area churches and chaplains of the honored departments are invited to take participate in the service. As the honored attendees leave church after mass, a blessed specially designed gift pin is presented to everyone in commemoration of the Celebration.
The Blue Mass Committee raises funds to pay for reception, gift pins and other costs. Donations are most appreciated and can be made by sending checks for the Blue Mass to the Rev. Joseph J. Donnelly Council # 11660 Knights of Columbus, http://kofcdonnellycouncil11660.org/