By Lois Rogers | Features Editor
For the 13th time in as many years, hundreds of federal, state, county and municipal law enforcement officers gathered in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, March 20 for the Diocesan Celebration of Law Enforcement.
More than 600 people from the four counties of the diocese – Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean – and beyond, took heart from the words of Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., who spoke of the prayers being offered up and the gratitude being expressed for “all those whose lives bear constant witness to the responsibility to ‘protect and serve’ our neighbors through the enforcement of law in this great nation and state and city.’”
Click HERE for gallery of photos.
In a moving homily, Bishop O’Connell addressed his “brothers and sisters from deep within the ‘long blue line’ from which this Mass takes its name,” acknowledging the “debts we can never repay – but we can and do pray for you and with you.”
He spoke of our belief in the Judeo-Christian tradition that God created us and is at work in the human community and that he “gives us the wisdom to know the truth and to order our lives in such a way that his presence and care can be known and experienced.
“God wills and wants the best for us,” said the bishop. “He places deep within our hearts and souls a recognition that, as his creation, we have a responsibility for one another…
“I am certain there are days when what you deal with, and what you see, makes absolutely no sense to a reasonable mind, when it may even lead you to question God,” the bishop said. “Yet we who are believers see with a different set of eyes the mysterious hand of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, without whom life in this world could never make any sense at all.
“We need to believe and have faith that God our Creator never leaves our side. And faith, above all, brings us peace so that we need not be troubled or afraid.
“And God speaks other words to you as police, as public servants: words like duty and honor, words like integrity and service would be difficult to understand if you did not walk among us, if the Lord did not walk among and with you who ‘protect and serve.’”
As always, during the Prayers of the Faithful, the congregation had the opportunity to pray for those law enforcement officers who did protect and serve last year at the cost of their lives:
-- Officer Jorge Oliveira, an 11-year-veteran of the Essex County Sherriff’s office working with the dangerous fugitive squad who was also a staff sergeant with the New Jersey National Guard on this third tour of duty when killed in Afghanistan
-- Officer Joseph Wargo, a Mount Arlington police officer who died in a car crash while on patrol Oct. 16, 2011
-- Ocean County Prosecutor’s Detective Tina Rambo, killed in an automobile accident while on duty
-- Trooper Anthony Fotiou, a 23-year veteran of the New Jersey State Police who suffered a fatal heart attack while conducting commercial vehicle inspections at Carney’s Point
-- Special Agent John Capano, gunned down in a robbery attempt on a Long Island pharmacy.
It was the thought of these fallen officers, and all officers at risk of such a fate, that led Chief Maria Melnick of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to make the journey from Newark to Trenton for the Mass. “This is the first time I’ve come to the Blue Mass here,” she said.
When you think of the fallen, Melnick said, “it’s just something you have to do.”
Expanded story and photo gallery to come