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Catholic Voice
October 24, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 18   •   Oakland, CA
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Inside the cathedral, first-responders in uniform and in street clothes, some accompanied by their families, took their seats.

Blessings and gratitude for those who serve

A bagpiper played "Amazing Grace." More photos at facebook.com/TheCatholicVoice.

Sgt. Ruben Pola of the Hayward Police Department and his daughter Lauren,brought the gifts to the altar during Mass.

A little rain and wind didn't stop the Oakland Fire Department from keeping tradition. An American flag was suspended between two ladder trucks parked on Harrison Street outside the Cathedral of Christ the Light as the Blue Mass began on Oct. 14.

Inside the cathedral, first-responders in uniform and in street clothes, some accompanied by their families, took their seats.

Bagpiper Fred Payne played "Highland Cathedral." Fourteen uniformed members of the Knights of Columbus, with purple, white and green plumage and gleaming ceremonial swords, lined the cathedral aisle.

Rev. Jayson Landeza, pastor of St. Benedict Parish in Oakland and chaplain to several agencies, including the Oakland Police Department, welcomed those gathered "to give thanks and ask God's blessing on our first-responders," adding the "Catholic community of the East Bay" extended its appreciation for their work.

"We give thanks in a special way because you put your life on the line every day," Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, said at the beginning of Mass.

Remembered, too, were the two Palm Springs police officers — one about to retire, the other a new mother just back on the job after maternity leave — killed in the line of duty earlier in the month.

In his homily, Bishop Barber said, "God places angels over us to protect us from exterior harm."

"What about our interior? Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemy," the bishop said.

"It takes more than an angel to save us from ourselves," he said." That's why God has given each and every one of us a conscience.

"Our conscience tells us to do what is right because it is right," he said, calling conscience the "voice of God."

"May God send his angels to protect you from all external harm," he said. "May God's voice protect you and me from ourselves."

At the end of Mass, those lost in the line of duty, and the former and retired officers who "passed from this duty station to the next," were remembered. The bagpiper played "Amazing Grace."

The bishop offered a blessing for the first-responders, including, "When they are called on in times of need, let them faithfully serve you in serving and protecting the needs of all your children."

Attending the Blue Mass for the first time were two probation officers from Contra Costa County who grew up in the East Bay.

"You never know what's going to happen when you knock on someone's door," said Robbyn Nicole Livingston, a graduate of Salesian High School in Richmond.

Two days after release from prison, the ex-convicts report to Livingston. Some have been imprisoned for years, and might not have anyone they can ask questions, even as simple as how to catch the bus from their residence to her office.

It can be an "exciting and anxious" time, she said.

"You can never have too many angels," she said.

Her colleague, Trish Cannon, a graduate of Christ the King School in Pleasant Hill and Carondelet High School in Concord, said she was happy to see the church welcome people of all faiths to the Blue Mass.

A year ago, Jay Mitchell attended the Blue Mass to pray for his nephew, who was discerning a move from his career path in business to firefighting in Cleveland.

This year, Mitchell, a parishioner at St. Augustine in Oakland, was back, praying in thanksgiving for his nephew getting the firefighting job he wanted, as well as for his safety and the safety of all first-responders.

Among the first-responders attending with his family was Officer Danny Salcido, an 18-year veteran of the Oakland Police Department who patrols the area near the cathedral. This marked his second time at the Blue Mass, but the first with his children.

"I like it," he said. "I don't feel like I'm by myself."

His wife Janet said the Mass is "a good reminder we are loved."

Attending together for their second year were Sgt. Ruben Pola of the Hayward Police Department and his daughter Lauren,14. This year, they brought the gifts to the altar during Mass.

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