STEUBENVILLE - It didn't take long for Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton to agree to celebrate a Blue Mass Sunday at the Holy Name Cathedral.
"I am honored to show the support of our faith for the men and women who put their lives on the line for the rest of us. I am very grateful for the police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who work hard every day to keep us safe," Monforton stated.
"I personally offer my sincere gratitude and my blessing to all men and women who serve their communities," said Monforton, who explained he used to assist Cardinal Adam J. Maida during Blue Masses in Detroit.
MAKING PLANS — Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville joined Alexandra Hart and her husband, Steubenville Patrolman Eric Hart, at Holy Name Cathedral in Steubenville to review plans for a Blue Mass set for 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the Cathedral. - Dave Gossett
Steubenville Patrolman Eric Hart and his wife, Alexandra, organized the Blue Mass at St. Peter Catholic Church for four years before taking a break last year.
"Monsignor George Yontz had died and his death was heavy on our hearts. But after two city police officers were involved in a running gun battle in the LaBelle neighborhood earlier this year, we both felt it was time to ask Bishop Monforton if he would preside over a Blue Mass this year. These were two of our youngest officers who exchanged gun fire with a suspect. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured, but it could have easily ended in a different way," said Hart.
"On any given day you never know what can happen on the job. When I leave for work I always kiss my wife and tell her I love her. You just never know how the day will end," cited Hart.
The Blue Mass was first celebrated at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., in 1934.
Hart and his wife have tried to organize the annual Blue Mass close to Sept. 11 to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks on the United States.
The veteran city police officer had been married 14 months and was working the afternoon shift on Sept. 10 the day before terrorists hijacked four planes in the United States and changed the country forever.
"I was up late after working the shift and didn't wake up until after the attacks had occurred. My first thought was, 'why are they doing this to us?' I was in disbelief. And, as the day continued I felt sorrow for the police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel along with the civilians who died that day," Hart related.
"I felt very vulnerable that day. I felt such sorrow for those who gave their lives for others as well as all of the innocent people who died in the attacks. I also felt fear of the unknown because of New York, Shanksville and Washington. It was a very emotionally draining day for all of us," said Alexandra Hart.
"As the wife of a police officer, I see the sacrifices my husband and other police officers make for the community. There are a lot of behind the scenes work that people don't see," related Alexandra.
"The Blue Mass is open to all safety personnel from throughout the Ohio Valley. We are asking police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel to join us in full uniform by 10:15 a.m. on Sunday. We will have reserved seats. And, we are also inviting community residents who want to remember and honor the fallen police officers, firefighters and EMTs to join us for the Blue Mass," stated Eric Hart.
Hart said Mark Nelson of Nelson Fine Arts and Gifts on Lincoln Avenue has once again created a special gift for each uniformed officer attending the Blue Mass.
"Mark Nelson and his staff are proud supporters of the safety forces, and we thank them for their prayers and support," Hart said.
"Steubenville Police officer Shawn Scott and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation Agent J.P. Rigaud will sing 'Amazing Grace.' And Steubenville High School Marching Band Director Rick Hicks is set to play taps during the Mass. We will have our special ceremonies prior to the start of the Blue Mass and at the conclusion of the Mass," Hart declared.
"I have sent invitations to all area police departments, fire departments and EMTs. We are planning to have a city fire truck at the cathedral. And, I am strongly encouraging all men and women who serve their communities to join us Sunday for the Blue Mass. I also hope to see community representatives join us and pray for all of us," remarked Hart.
"I hope to be able to say a few words at the conclusion of the service. It is a very moving and often emotional service. And my wife and I thank Bishop Monforton for agreeing to celebrate the Blue Mass. This is a special day for all of us," Hart said.