WILMINGTON – Police activity has been under a microscope around the country, and last Friday, May 1, observed as Law Day, members of law enforcement and other first responders gathered to take comfort in their faith among supporters at the eighth annual Blue Mass at St. John the Beloved Church.
Bishop Malooly and other members of the clergy concelebrated the Mass, which drew participants from various agencies in Delaware and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This year, for the first time, students from Delaware Military Academy attended the Mass as well.
The bishop noted that he had been following the events in his native Baltimore, which saw several nights of unrest following the death of a man in police custody. He said he was keeping the Baltimore officers in his prayers in addition to those in his diocese.
“It’s a time for us to honor and remember you,” he said. “In times like these, it’s important for the rest of us to pray for you daily.”
Public service, Bishop Malooly continued, demands a sense of faith. Each day is a gift.
State police superintendent Col. Nathaniel McQueen said he appreciates the opportunity for officers to get together with each other and with the community no matter what the climate is.
“I think it’s important at any time we can get together with the community and really honor the history, honor the service of law enforcement and our emergency medical personnel. It’s been a tough time. Certainly, we welcome all the prayers from the church and from the diocese and certainly from the bishop. It sustains us.
“Folks think that law enforcement (people) can endure by themselves, but we also rely on our faith and our families and community,” he said.
Father William Cocco, the pastor of St. John the Beloved and a former Ocean City, Md., officer, said there are problems in law enforcement as there are in any profession, but the “vast majority” of officers are dedicated men and women who do a good job every day.
Even Jesus, he continued, did a great job but was not always respected by the people of his day. “They said things about him that weren’t true and cast aspersions upon him that were generalities, and I think that happens in the world of public service.”
Robert Jones, a Delaware State Police lieutenant and a member of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in Glasgow, said it is important to keep the bigger picture in mind.
“The important thing is that we serve the community and also, again, the bonding between law enforcement and the public is very important,” he said. “We’re public servants; we’re here to serve the public. It’s very touching that these men and women have put together the Mass and the food to thank us.”
One of the DMA students in attendance was Nathan Freebery. He said the state police have a positive relationship with the school, so several students wanted to be there to support them.
“It was definitely very powerful. I liked seeing all the priests up there, especially the bishop, showing their support for the people who kind of put their lives on the line to help us out. To relate that back to the faith is awesome,” said Freebery, a member of St. Catherine of Siena Parish.
The Mass also was an opportunity to remember two members of the clergy who dedicated a significant portion of their lives to emergency personnel.
Father Richard Smith, who died last October, was chief of the Crash, Fire, Rescue and Police Department at the Mercer County (N.J.) airport. Father Oscar Frundt served as a chaplain to the Delaware State Police for more than 50 years until his death on April 13.
The Knights of Columbus, who organize the Mass and luncheon, honored Father Frundt with a plaque presented to McQueen. Earlier in the Mass, Bishop Malooly recalled that Bishop Saltarelli had relieved Father Frundt of his duties as chaplain in 2005, when the priest was 78 years old, “but he never got the notice.”