Ongoing Blue Mass Honors, Prays for First Responders
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
September 16, 2021
SHANNON—The Blue Mass became an annual event for St. Wendelin Parish beginning one year after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
At the 20th anniversary of the attacks this year, the event began with participants gathering at the Shannon Fire Station and processing to St. Wendelin Church a couple of blocks away. 
The procession went along Hwy. 72, led by parishioners and others carrying flags, followed by several first responders, Knights of Columbus, parishioners and Father Michael Bolger, pastor, and Father Timothy Barr, pastor of St. Joseph and St. Mary parishes in Freeport.
At Mass, first responders sat in reserved pews, and others filled the church around them.
Chaplain Ellis Boughton of the Shannon Fire Department proclaimed the first and second readings, and Father Barr proclaimed the Gospel. 
Father Bolger then gave a rousing homily, reflecting on “the two realities that emerged” in the days following the attacks. 
The first reality, he said, “is what we celebrate tonight — the bravery” of the first responders.
The tragedy, he added, “helped us realize how vital are first responders … when disaster strikes … they are the men and women who run toward the danger to save others, rather than run away from the danger to save themselves.”
He noted that the first Blue Mass in 1934, celebrated in Washington D.C. by a Baltimore priest, “was intended to ask God’s blessing for all first responders, (for their) protection (and) to ask for the intercession of St. Florian (patron saint of firefighters and paramedics) and St. Michael the Archangel (patron of law enforcement).” 
The special Mass was named for the color of many of the uniforms of first responders, he added, noting that Blue Masses were held regularly until the 1960s when they mostly faded away before returning in many churches after Sept. 11, 2001.
The second reality, Father Bolger said, was the unity in America that welled up in the days following the attack.
“I remember people coming together despite political and ideological differences,” he said, recalling the prevailing feeling that “we’re all Americans first and foremost … part of that same national family … the United States of America. 
“Where is that now? How unified are we as a nation? Can America ever be united again as we were back in 2001? … We are strongest and most effective when we are united.”
American unity and blessing and protection for first responders “is my hope and my prayer for the 2021 Blue Mass,” Father Bolger concluded. “God bless all first responders and God bless America.”
After the Mass, Bill Spoerlein, coordinator, honored the “founding parents” of the event: Laverne and Betty Keppen. 
Laverne, who founded the parish Knights of Columbus Council #12841 on Jan. 3, 2001, requested a Blue Mass be held at the parish on the first anniversary of the attacks. 
He and Betty coordinated what became an annual Blue Mass for many years until he could no longer do the work, and Spoerlein was asked to coordinate it. 
“On this day of the 20th anniversary,” Spoerlein said, “I thought it was fitting that we should recognize Laverne who is with us in spirit.” Calling the Blue Mass “a blessing,” he presented Betty with a framed certificate, with his thanks.
This year, as in other years, Knights and parishioners provided a 9/11 float and marched with first responders at the annual fall parade in nearby Lena, and also created 9/11 displays.
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