Photo courtesy of John Flynn
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ - The 14th annual Blue Mass honoring fire, police and first responders from the Bayshore will be held Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Agnes Church.
The tradition began in Baltimore, MD in 1933, when a mass was celebrated to honor members of the city’s police department; it was named “Blue” to accent the color of the officers’ uniforms.
The tradition, which spread throughout the country, was introduced in Atlantic Highlands with the formation of a Blue Mass Committee in 2004, in preparation for the first mass on Oct. 20 that year. Locally, the Mass honors fire, police and first responders in Highlands, Atlantic Highlands and Middletown, and includes prayers for safety and expressions of gratitude for families of officers and volunteers who provide support for their bravery and dedication.
When St. Agnes and Our Lady of Perpetual Help churches combined into a single parish in 2006, the Blue Mass was expanded and also included US Coast Guard personnel and National Park Service rangers at Sandy Hook. This marked the first time Coast Guardsmen, the only military service recognized as both a law enforcement and first responder detail, were ever included in a Blue Mass anywhere across the nation.
Clergy of all faiths from area churches as well as chaplains in the honored departments are invited to participate in the evening of dedication, together with the 4th Degree Color Corps of the Knights of Columbus, scouts, bagpipe and drum organizations and individuals and the church choir. Attendees at the mass also receive a commemorative gift at the close of the ceremony and a reception is held at the Shore Casino at the Municipal Yacht Harbor immediately after. A police detail provides traffic safety prior to the ceremony, handed by hundreds of local residents, and music outdoors also precedes the mass.
Plans and arrangements for the Blue Mass and ceremony are under the direction of the Rev. Joseph J. Donnelly Council 11660 of the Knights of Columbus. Brian Anderson is Grand Knight of the local council.