PROVIDENCE — Everyday, police officers, firefighters and paramedics respond to dangerous situations to help and save people they don’t know.
“Courage and humility are impressive virtues. You can’t teach them. You can’t grab hold of them. But you sure can see them when someone has them,” Father Robert Marciano said during the Mass for Public Safety at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul on Sept. 30.
Father Marciano, pastor of St. Kevin and administrator of St. Benedict parishes in Warwick, addressed several dozen uniformed police officers and other public safety personnel who came from across Rhode Island for the special Mass.
“They stand watch each day and night, to keep us safe,” said Father Marciano, who told the officers in the pews that he and the citizens of Rhode Island “sleep under a blanket of safety and security because of you.”
Formerly known as the Blue Mass, the Mass for Public Safety was intended to give the faithful an opportunity to thank the state’s public safety personnel for their service and to ask God for their continued well-being and protection.
Uniformed officers from the Rhode Island State Police, the Providence Police Department and other local municipal departments that included Warwick, North Providence and Burrillville, among others, processed into the cathedral.
A color guard of officers also presented flags as Fathers Marciano and Joe Escobar, the pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Providence, who is also chaplain to the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association, entered the cathedral to celebrate the Mass.
The Mass for Public Safety was changed from a Blue Mass — which is traditionally offered for police officers — to reflect that the service was offered for all uniformed public safety personnel. The Mass was attended mostly by police officers.
Father Marciano, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel chaplain who also serves as chaplain for the Warwick police and fire departments as well as the Providence Fire Department, highlighted in his homily the recent example of dozens of U.S. Marines who ran to a raging structure fire in Washington, D.C., as the kind of selfless service offered by men and women in uniform.
“No masks, no water, just brave men and women who saw people in peril and sprang into action,” said Father Marciano, who added that in the end, it was about “neighbors helping neighbors.”
The “brave men and women” who serve as police officers, firefighters and paramedics in Rhode Island, Father Marciano added, respond to emergencies “everyday in our homes, our schools, in our streets, our places of work,” to rescue and help people “without knowing us.”
“They provide the blanket of safety and freedom we live in,” Father Marciano said.
After the Mass, Providence Police Major Michael E. Correia said he appreciated the kind words of Father Marciano, who is his parish priest.
“I think sometimes cops forget, a lot of people do appreciate us,” Correia said. “That’s not why we do our job. We’re very happy to go to work every day to protect the public and do our job. We do appreciate the support from the diocese, from Father Marciano in particular and from the public at large,” Correia added.
Rhode Island State Police Lt. John Grassel said he was struck by Father Marciano’s message about “neighbors helping neighbors.”
“That’s really what a police officer is,” Grassel said. “He or she is part of the community.”
Grassel added that the Mass for Public Safety was a welcome opportunity for the state’s law enforcement community to come together and renew their commitment to keeping people safe.
“These are obviously challenging times for the country and for the world,” Grassel said. “So it’s nice to take a pause and to reflect.”