By Ryan Blessing
Photos by Jackson Morrison
They respond to fires, accidents and medical emergencies and put their own lives on the line at times while doing so.
That selfless dedication shown by firefighters and EMS personnel, at all hours of the day and in all kinds of conditions, received praise and thanks at the 27th annual Diocesan Mass in their honor, held Saturday, October 19 at the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Norwich.
Firefighters and ambulance crews love a parade, and the procession before the Mass from Chelsea Parade to the Cathedral included trucks from Occum, East Great Plain, Mapleville, Quiambaug, Stonington, Chesterfield and Harrisville, Rhode Island. Marchers wore their navy-blue dress uniforms, and most wore polished black shoes and white gloves.
As they arrived at the front of the cathedral, the vehicles slowly rolled beneath a large American flag, hung over Broadway from atop two fully extended ladders on trucks belonging to the Cromwell and Danielson departments. The firefighters marched in line into the cathedral, accompanied by the Connecticut Firefighters Pipes and Drums bagpipe band. Some carried flags of their departments, or a ceremonial ax, one of the tools of a firefighter.
Most Reverend Michael R. Cote D.D., welcomed the firefighters, emergency responders and their families. “First responders fearlessly face danger and risk their lives out of love and compassion for those they have been called to serve,” Bishop Cote said. “It is both this goodness and sense of self-sacrifice that we celebrate each time we gather for this special Mass.”
The homilist was Deacon Richard Lapierre, from Our Lady of Good Help and St. Theresa parishes in Burrillville, Rhode Island. He’s also a chaplain to the Northern Rhode Island Firemen’s League. A 32-year veteran of the Oakland-Mapleville Fire Department in Rhode Island, the deacon talked about the family bond that forms among firefighters and EMS members and recalled his own time as a firefighter.
Commitment to service
“Working 56 hours a week, sleeping in the station, and continuing to be a part of the wonderful fraternity of firefighters was exciting and rewarding,” he said. He recalled the generosity of families that took him in as one of their own. Becoming a firefighter or EMS member is more than taking on a role or a job, Deacon Lapierre added. “We are becoming a member of a family, With a common commitment to service in our greater community.”
Officers of the Mass this year were firefighters from Montville, Yantic, Baltic, Bozrah, Groton, Mystic, Gales Ferry, Flanders, Poquonnock Bridge, Chesterfield, Gardner Lake and Rhode Island. Chesterfield Fire Department Chief Kevin Truex led the Prayer for Firefighters and EMS Personnel.
“When called upon to face the danger of flames or serve an ill or injured person, give us the courage and alertness to protect our neighbors and all others whom we pledge to aid,” Truex said, reciting the prayer.
Fallen firefighters and ambulance workers who have died in the line of duty since 1993 were honored by their brethren as well. After the name of each was read, firefighters rang two bells in succession – one on the altar, the other in the choir loft.