Bishop to pray for police at first-ever diocesan Blue Mass

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PROVIDENCE — On Sunday, Sept. 18, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin will celebrate the inaugural Blue Mass at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. This moving Mass dedicated to the men and women in ‘blue’ will be an opportunity for the community to offer their support and prayers for those who continue to put their lives on the line.

Chief of Police for the City of Providence Colonel Hugh Clements Jr., said that this Blue Mass could not have come at a better time. Col. Clements explained that as police officers are being vilified across the country, and with recent police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge as well as officer-involved shootings in San Jose, the Blue Mass is an opportunity to bring the community together on a local level — and to pray for protection and peace in the nation.

“When something happens in San Jose, we feel it here in Rhode Island,” Col. Clements said. “There have been horrific events in the last few months and we have seen and heard the tremendous support in our community. We know that certainly comes from the diocese and within the faith-based community. We know we have a lot of support in the community.”

For many years, local law enforcement have always been invited to the annual Red Mass, a time to pray for local judges, attorneys and government officials, but beginning next week, local police officers will have their own yearly spiritual celebration.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Col. Clements. “We have participated in the Red Mass for years and we had always felt there should be something for police and that was the impetus. It finally comes to fruition. We are genuinely appreciative to the diocese for running this first ever, and what we hope to be, an annual Mass. We rely quite strongly on our respective faiths based on the work we do, to guide us in our work and individually in our lives.”

The Blue Mass will begin at 10 a.m. as police process into the cathedral. Col. Clements hopes for representation from every single department in the state. Following the Mass will be a small reception in Cathedral Square.

Chief Vincent Vespia, who has served with the South Kingston Police Department for 34 years and with the Rhode Island State Police for 22 years, feels that the Blue Mass is a wonderful occasion to pray for and with police officers and their families, but also to rebuild relationships in the community.

“Law enforcement these days are not held in the highest esteem,” said Chief Vespia. “This is a way we can partner with the community and build support now and in the future. On a national level, law enforcement administration is desperate to try to connect with the communities we serve. This is a very important way in attempting to do that. I am absolutely thankful and I hope that it will perpetuate.”

Chief Vespia added that Father Joseph Escobar’s leadership has been a driving force behind the upcoming Blue Mass. Father Escobar, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Providence, has served as chaplain to the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association since 2006. The chaplain explained that a great way to support law enforcement is always through prayer.

“Come to the Blue Mass and pray for them,” he said. “You can pray particularly the prayer of St. Michael the Archangel for their safety as they help keep us safe.”