STEUBENVILLE - Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton had just finished his sermon praising the police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians sitting in front of him when the distinctive sound of a Steubenville fire truck siren sounded outside of the Holy Name Cathedral.
It was a stark reminder of the unknown that faces first responders every day.
"When I was a young child I had a plastic firefighter hat, a red wagon and the garden hose and I pretended I was a firefighter. That shows the admiration I had for firefighters and for police officers when a cruiser would drive down our street and for EMTs when I heard an ambulance siren," said Monforton.
STANDING PROUD — Members of 15 area first responder units attended the annual Blue Mass Sunday at Holy Name Cathedral. Organizers said 33 police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians participated in the special Catholic Mass to honor their services and to pray for their safety. The first responders included representatives from the Steubenville, Toronto, Wintersville, New Alexandria and Cross Creek police departments. Also attending the Blue Mass were representatives from the Steubenville, Mingo Junction, Brilliant, Wintersville, Martins Ferry and Toronto fire departments. And emergency medical technicians from the Ambulance Service Inc., Martins Ferry and Toronto participated in the Blue Mass. - Dave Gossett
"You do the work that is not seen except by a few others. On behalf of the church, I thank you. And I feel it is providential we hear the parable of the lost sheep today in our readings. We must embrace the responsibility of our professions as a shepherd embraces his lost sheep. Our roles in the community are not simply a 9-to-5 job. You and I are our brothers and sisters keepers," Monforton told the 33 first responders sitting in the church pews.
"Today we single out those we honor at this Blue Mass. You are heroes. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. The stress of your service is not just yours. It is also on your families and your friends. Our prayers are with them as well," added Monforton.
The Blue Mass started somberly when Steubenville Police Officer and department Chaplain Shawn Scott slowly read, "our local fallen brothers and sisters who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our community."
"From the Steubenville Police Department Patrolman Thomas McGough, Patrolman Leonard Lamatrice, Lieutenant Scott Roe, Patrolman Owen Burns, Patrolman Lafayette Mercer and Patrolman Leslie John McDonald. The fallen hero from the Toronto Police ... Patrolman Ralph Benton Miller Sr., Steubenville Fire Department fallen heroes ... Fireman Henry Bauman, Fireman Casimir Pawelczyk, Fireman Patrick McKay and Fireman Michael McGraw, and Mingo Junction fallen heroes, Lieutenant Michael J. Maguschak Sr. and Patrolman William J. Snider," intoned Scott.
"Cold meals, missed holidays, forced double shifts, missed school activities are just some of the many sacrifices that we as first responders and our families make on a daily basis. But we chose this line of work because we want to make a difference in the lives of those we encounter. It is our deep desire to serve our community, to be there for those who are in need of a helping hand, to love those who have been forgotten and to protect those who are vulnerable. We are here to serve, to be your servants," stated Steubenville Police Officer Eric Hart who, along with his wife, Alexandra, organized the Blue Mass.
"Tragically, all too often, we see both child abuse and spousal abuse and neglect. We are first responders to homicide and suicide calls and fatal car accidents. We have seen people take their last breath in our arms. There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop for an officer, firemen or EMTs. We ask for your prayers for us. Please pray that God holds us in his merciful hands and that his holy angels always protect us throughout the course of our duties," said Hart.
Taps was played by Steubenville High School Marching Band Director Rick Hicks, and Scott, joined by Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent J.P. Riguad, sang a version "Amazing Grace" at the close of the Blue Mass that saw the crowded church stand and applaud the first responders sitting side by side in the church pews.
"It was a very moving Mass for many of us. I appreciate all the people who came today to show support for the first responders and we are already planning a Blue Mass for next year," remarked Hart after the Mass.