Support each other, seek help bishop advises
From her seat in the second row of the Cathedral of Christ the Light, Lauren Pola, 13, could see up close what the community thinks of the work of her father, 25-year Hayward Police Department Sgt. Ruben Pola.
Her first Blue Mass, Oct. 9 in Oakland, was memorable.
"I enjoyed it a lot," said Lauren, who wore an ice-blue dress to Mass, a complement to her father's dark blue uniform. "My dad and all the officers were being respected."
"I felt really proud of him," Lauren said. "It was an honor to miss school to go to this," she said.
Her father, Sgt. Ruben Pola of the Hayward Police Department, was attending his first Blue Mass.
"I offered her the opportunity to go," said Sgt. Pola, who served in Hayward with Sgt. Scott Lunger, who was killed in the line of duty earlier this year.
On their way to Mass, the father and daughter stopped by her school and handed in her homework.
With them was Isidra Aguilar, their proud mother and grandmother.
It was also the first blue Mass for Lillian Grace Calonge, who at 5 weeks may have been the youngest person in attendance. But cuddled close to her mother, Margaret Calonge, and near her grandmother and father Sgt. Nick Calonge, she was safe and secure, her little head adorned with a white bow as she slept through the Mass.
"This means everything," said her father, when asked what it meant to have three generations of women in his life at his side. "We work for our families and the community," he said, and to be blessed and honored at the Mass was meaningful.
With attendees from more than a dozen police and fire agencies from around Alameda and Contra Costa counties, the cathedral was a sea of blue — the Mass is named for the predominant color of the uniforms. It opened with the honor guard from the Pittsburg Police Department presenting the colors.
Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, celebrated the Mass, with a dozen priests, many of them chaplains in the local law enforcement, concelebrating.
In his homily, Bishop Barber told the gathering, "Good and evil spirits have been waging war over human beings since creation.
"Most of you sitting in this church today, you deal with bad angels or evil spirits every day."
He called upon his 24 years' experience as a Navy chaplain in reminding them, "All of us are subject to temptation."
He encouraged them to "call on their good angels" — and "talk to somebody," a co-worker or a chaplain, for example.
"Support each other," he advised, encouraging then to seek help when they need it, and advise others to do so if they see someone in need of help.
"You enter danger every day when you come to work," he said. "God has given you angels. Cooperate with these angels. They will help you out."
A particularly poignant moment at the end of Mass was when Bishop Barber offered special prayers for those who have died in the past year, naming specifically Sgt. Lunger, whose father and stepmother brought up the gifts for communion earlier in the Mass.
Bagpiper Patrick Teffs stepped forward and "Amazing Grace" floated through the cathedral.
The Mass, whose trappings include a pair of ladder trucks with the American flag hanging from them parked outside the cathedral's Harrison Street side, and police motorcycles parked in a row on the cathedral plaza, also featured a lone police hat and firefighter helmet on stands at the altar.
Concord Sgt. James Nakayama attended the Mass out of uniform. He was seated with his three children, ages 8, 6 and 3. Sgt. Nakayama, a parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Brentwood, said he was attending the Mass to keep a promise to be there. "For me, the Mass solidifies the Catholic fellowship and reinforces these values in our profession," he said.
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