Law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics, emergency room personnel and civilian support staff from across the Archdiocese of Los Angeles processed into the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Downtown L.A. on April 17 for a special Mass honoring their calling and devotion to public safety.

Officer Dennis Padgett of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Community Relationship Division, said the “root” of the observance — dubbed the Blue Mass — is found in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed be the peacemakers.” He described the Mass as an opportunity to pray for the fallen, pray for those who serve our communities every day and to help “humanize first responders.”

“I just think it’s an awesome way to … help build and maintain that trust that we’ve been trying so hard to build up,” Padgett told The Tidings before the Mass. “We’re always called to build unity and I think that doing it through faith is a huge channel that reaches out to various ethnic [and] cultural backgrounds. I feel it’s a great platform for first responders and the community to come together.”

Further, noted Padgett, this year’s Blue Mass officially revives a temporarily dormant local tradition; the last such celebration in the archdiocese (formerly referred to as the Public Safety Mass) was observed five years ago.

“The opportunity to revive this Mass honoring first responders … is a true blessing,” said Padgett, who is a parishioner at St. Kateri Tekakwitha in Santa Clarita and volunteers with Life Teen at Holy Redeemer Church in Montrose and St. James the Less Church in La Crescenta. “My faith is a huge part of my life.”

Notable guests in attendance included L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell; LAPD Chief Charlie Beck; Deputy Chief Beatrice Girmala, commanding officer of West Bureau Operations and the highest-ranking woman in the LAPD; Deputy Chief Robert Arcos, Central Bureau Operations; and captains from across the city and county. In addition to the LASD and LAPD, other participating agencies included the California Highway Patrol, the L.A. City and L.A. County Fire departments and several others.

Scores of public safety officers, personnel and cadets in attendance at the Blue Mass wore their agency uniforms and were accompanied by numerous friends and family members, nearly filling the cathedral. Archbishop José H. Gomez conducted a special “Blessing of the Badges” during the morning liturgy.

“Today we are praying in a special way for our brothers and sisters who serve in law enforcement and public safety,” said the archbishop during his homily. “We give thanks today for everyone who has answered the call to service … to help keep our communities safe. We owe you a debt of gratitude. … Every day many of you put your lives on the line for us, put yourselves in harm’s way.

“We’re grateful for your devotion and your commitment,” he continued. “And we want to remember especially our fallen brothers and sisters, those who have given their lives in the line of duty … for all of us, for the common good.”

Padgett agrees that working in the field of public safety is a vocation of sorts, noting that, “We all do this job because we genuinely care about people.”