City’s finest honored at special Mass

Donning plumed hats and colorful sashes and capes, members of the Knights of Columbus lined the center aisle of St. Mary’s Church Saturday, stoically facing one another as a procession of altar boys and religious officials meandered up the walkway.

The Knights of Columbus were dressed up for the second annual Blue Mass, an evening service commemorating the daily work of public safety professionals in and around New Haven.

Founded in New Haven, the Knights of Columbus is a fraternal order of the Catholic Church.

“We know what a contribution everyone in public service makes to the community,” said Father William A. Holt, O.P., prior and pastor at the church. “We have to acknowledge them and their families. It’s really important.”

During the ceremony, the Knights of Columbus held their unsheathed sabers in an arch as Holt shuttled through the gauntlet of well-dressed men, Bible in hand. The notes of “O God Our Help in Ages Past” wafted from the pipe organ in the rear of the grand gothic structure at 5 Hillhouse Ave.

Holt said about 475 people attended the event, but added that the crowd paled in comparison to the throng that peopled the pews at last year’s inaugural Blue Mass.

“Last year it was much bigger because of 9/11 — there was more involved,” Holt said.

Members of the Coast Guard, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Connecticut State Police, among other municipal, state and federal offices, attended the commemorative service and complimentary dinner with their families.

“I thought it was respectable,” said 15-year-old Roseanne Rodican, whose father and mother are a sergeant and an officer, respectively, in the New Haven Police Department. “I appreciated it because it honored both my parents.”

Marynell Baltz, the wife of Greg Baltz, assistant supreme secretary of the Knights of Columbus, agreed.

“[We want to do] anything we can — to honor these people and let them know they have our support,” she said. “We really can’t do enough.”

According to Jack Eckenrode, assistant special agent in charge of the New Haven division of the FBI, the concept of the Blue Mass is not a new one. He said it was purely coincidental that the first one in New Haven occurred after the terrorist attacks.

“The planning was already underway,” Eckenrode said. “[The terrorist attacks] did give the impetus for more people in the crowd, though.”

Elsewhere, the Blue Mass traditionally has been held on or near Sept. 29, the feast day of St. Michael, patron saint of policemen.

The Rev. Thomas Thorne, an FBI chaplain, said he thought the event served its purpose, recognizing and uplifting the hardworking members of the law enforcement community.

“They have some special needs,” said Thorne. “I think it’s good for them once a year to be fed spiritually.”

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