Blue Mass Honors Fallen Police and Firefighters
Photo Courtesy of: San Bernardino Catholic Diocese
The Blessing of the Badges.
By John Andrews
2013-10-24 at 08:45:23
2013-10-24 at 08:45:23
After a year that saw several Inland law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, including two in the high-profile Christopher Dorner case, the annual Blue Mass offered by the Diocese of San Bernardino took on added poignancy. The Diocese of San Bernardino offered this special liturgy to honor police officers, deputies, firefighters and other public safety personnel on Wednesday evening, Oct. 9, at Christ the Redeemer Church in Grand Terrace. Auxiliary Bishop Rutilio del Riego was principal celebrant and police and fire personnel, active and retired, participated in the Mass. All were invited to attend. “Our police, firefighters, paramedics and others in public safety show great courage and sacrifice to keep our communities safe,” said Bishop del Riego. At the conclusion of the Blue Mass, the ceremonial “Last Alarm” was rung to honor those in public safety who have died in the line of duty during the previous year. Among those remembered during the Last Alarm were Riverside Police Officer Michael Crain and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Detective Jeremiah MacKay, who both lost their lives in the pursuit of rogue cop Christopher Dorner, a former Los Angeles police officer who violently targeted law enforcement personnel throughout Southern California in February. Also honored in the Last Alarm were firefighters Christopher MacKenzie, Kevin Woyjeck and William Warneke, members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots interagency firefighting crew who were lost fighting the Yarnell Hill fire near Prescott, Arizona in June. All the three men had ties to communities in the Diocese of San Bernardino. Christopher Douglas, a CAL FIRE engineer/paramedic with Riverside County Fire, San Bernardino City Firefighter Norman Walters and California Corrections Officer Gilbert Cortez died in the line of duty this year and were also remembered during the Last Alarm. At the Blue Mass a member of the public safety community is recognized by the Diocese with the Chief Patrick G. Crowe Public Safety Award. The award is given to a public safety member who exhibits exceptional service to the community, department or church in some way. This year the recipient of the award was San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Sergeant Mark Martinez. A 22-year veteran of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Sgt. Martinez has worked a multitude of assignments including patrol, narcotics, custody and transportation. A lifelong resident of Colton and a Colton High School alumnus, he is currently assigned to the Fontana Sheriff’s Station. Colleagues describe Martinez as an outstanding mentor and a model of faith-filled police work. He is an active parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church in Colton and has spent two years in the Diaconate Formation Program for the Diocese of San Bernardino. “I was very surprised and very humbled to receive the award,” said Martinez. “I think what made it special was the tie-in to Colton,” he said. Former Colton Police Chief Patrick G. Crowe was known for his efforts to use his religious beliefs upon which to build his law enforcement career. Martinez added, “I think the connection between the community and law enforcement is faith. I really believe in service, especially when it comes to the community and our youth,” he said. “Every Blue Mass is held in the memory of the officers we’ve lost, and it made me connect my faith with my family. They’re there for us—they know the long hours we work, the holidays and the soccer games we miss—and they support us. This is also giving thanks to the families for giving us their support.” Martinez lives in Colton with his wife of 24 years, Emily. The couple has three sons: Mark Jr. (25), Manny (19) and Ryan (14). The Blue Mass first began in 1934, when Rev. Thomas Dade, a priest from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, initiated the Catholic Police and Fireman’s Society while assigned to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Washington D.C. On September 29, 1934, about 1,100 police officers and firemen, dressed in blue uniforms, celebrated the first Blue Mass in St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. Bishop Barnes brought the northeastern U.S. tradition to the Diocese in 2002. Each year the Mass alternates between the two counties that fall under the Diocese of San Bernardino.