The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and Christ Cathedral celebrated the annual Blue Mass on Sunday, Oct. 8, a Catholic tradition that honors first responders and prays they find strength, courage and wisdom.
The Mass, hosted for a second year at the Garden Grove cathedral, brought together police, firefighters and other personnel from around Orange County. The event included singing “America the Beautiful” with the 17,000-pipe Hazel Wright Organ. Two officers gave readings.
Bishop Timothy Freyer, who also serves as a police chaplain for Anaheim, presided over the Mass, which attracted about 400 people.
“I am grateful to all of the law enforcement members and first responders who have come to pray with us and to ask the Lord to watch over them and protect them,” Bishop Freyer said before giving a special blessing to the personnel.
The Blue Mass dates to Sept. 29, 1934, at St. Patrick parish in Washington, D.C., and has since expanded to become a national event throughout the Catholic Church. The Sept. 29 date also coincides with the feast day for St. Michael, patron saint of military and police officers.
Many of the attending officers were sitting in a reserved section fronting the altar. Among them was Brea Police Chief Adam Hawley. A lifelong Catholic and Servite High School grad, Hawley said his faith helps keep him grounded in a stressful job, and that it acts as a reflection of how to treat and engage with people.
“Christ taught us to love our neighbor,” he said. “I actually hope that all of us put that into action in the world. We’re there to help the most vulnerable people. I see that as a calling to do that.”
Anaheim Police Officers Andrew Dao, Mark Hwang and Austin Kook came to Mass together, representing their fellow brothers and sisters in uniform. They credited their faith in keeping them level-headed in their policing careers.
Hwang, who has been with Anaheim for five years and was with LAPD before that, came at Bishop Freyer’s invitation. He also credited his Catholic faith with guiding his day-to-day duties as an officer.
Rich “Sarge” Pena served the Buena Park Police Department for 35 years, retiring as a sergeant. He’s now the lead instructor at Rio Hondo College’s police academy and a member of St. Martin de Porres parish in Yorba Linda.
“I’m here to show my faith,” Pena said. “God gave me the light to be a police officer. I was a teacher, I went to law school, but faith is the most important.”
Pena said he tries to attend any Blue Mass he can, wherever it’s celebrated, to show camaraderie for the law enforcement community. For Christ Cathedral’s Blue Mass, he wore his Buena Park PD badge on a blue necklace.
“The Blue Mass means everything to us … I think it’s important that we all come together,” Pena said. “You don’t have to be Catholic. All you need to do is bring the love of Christ and how he can protect us and protect our families.”