Cardinal Donald Wuerl processes into St. Patrick Church before the May 1 Blue Mass, which is held every year to thank law enforcement and public safety officers for their service and to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty. (CS photo by Jaclyn Lippelmann)
Cardinal Donald Wuerl processes into St. Patrick Church before the May 1 Blue Mass, which is held every year to thank law enforcement and public safety officers for their service and to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty. (CS photo by Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Cardinal Donald Wuerl and several Washington-area police chaplains joined bagpipers, drummers, and honor guards from different law enforcement agencies on May 1 as they processed down 10th street and into St. Patrick Church in Washington for the 24th annual Blue Mass, which is held every year to thank law enforcement and public safety officers for their service and to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty.

Those in the procession walked underneath a large American flag hung from the ladders of two firetrucks and past many onlookers, including 10 officers on horseback. The pews of St. Patrick were full and well secured as officers clad in the uniforms of various federal, state and local agencies filed into the church to celebrate Mass together. 

Msgr. Salvatore Criscuolo, the pastor of St. Patrick and the chaplain of the Metropolitan Police Department and several other law enforcement agencies in the District of Columbia, greeted the congregation. Addressing the survivors of those who were being honored that day, he told them, “Today we remember your loved ones for how they lived and how they served.”

Msgr. Criscuolo joined Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who was the principal celebrant of the Mass, along with Father Raymond Fecteau and Msgr. Karl Chimiak, who both also serve as chaplains to several law enforcement agencies in Maryland.

The Blue Mass took place just before National Police Week, which this year is May 13-19. The lectors and gift bearers for the Mass were all officers from various law enforcement agencies.

“Every moment of every day, a league of dedicated men and women stand ready to come between us and harm’s way,” said Cardinal Wuerl in his homily. 

While there is always violence around, the Blue Mass sends the message that, “in the midst of all this, there is peace,” said the cardinal.

This peace comes in two forms, Cardinal Wuerl continued, with the first being “the peace that only God can give,” and the second being “the peace all of you have to sustain,” he told the officers. 

“We come together because we recognize the goal of life, to remain in peace…is a struggle that takes place in our hearts and in our streets,” he said.

At the conclusion of the Mass, Prince William County Deputy Chief Steven Thompson read the names of 17 law enforcement officers from the Washington metropolitan area who lost their lives in the line of duty, 11 of whom died in 2017. Officers from their respective agencies stood and said “present” in their honor. 

Afterward, two buglers from the United States Capitol Police stood on opposite ends of the church as they played “Taps” to remember the fallen.

In 2017, the United States lost 135 law enforcement officers in the line of duty.

Cardinal Wuerl noted that during this Easter season, the Church reminds us that “there is life to come” and “in dying, life is not ended, it is changed.”

This knowledge, he said, allows “great consolation for those who have gone before us.”

Amtrak Police Officer Ryan Tullar has performed the K-9 sweeps prior to the Blue Mass for the past four years, but this year was the first time he was able to stay for the entire Mass.

“It was wonderful to celebrate officers who have given their lives for us,” he said. “Having the Church’s support (and) the chaplains mean a lot to us.”