The tradition of paying tribute to first responders at a Blue Mass, goes back to the mid-1930s in Washington DC. At St. Patrick’s Church in Kankakee, Fr. John Peeters, CSV, pastor, brought the tradition to the parish 15 years ago, and it continues to be a powerful way for parishioners to thank — and bless — fire, police and emergency personnel who work to protect them.

Fr. John Peeters welcomes first responders.

This year’s Blue Mass took place Sept. 9. Each year, the Mass takes place during the same weekend as the parish’s Half Paddy Fest, but it also coincides in close proximity to the anniversary of 9/11.

First responders in attendance included members of the Kankakee City Police, the Sheriff’s Police, Kankakee firefighters and paramedics.

The tradition opens with a solemn procession, when officers march from the Kankakee County Courthouse down to St. Pat’s, this year led by members of the Knights of Columbus. Fr. Peeters welcomed them to the historic church, where during the Mass, police and firefighters, seated in the first pews, sang and prayed along with the assembled parishioners.

At its conclusion, Fr. Peeters always thanks the men and women in attendance for their heroic service to the community.

“We entrust you to the protection and the intercession of Saint Michael, the patron of police, Saint Florian, the patron of firefighters, and Saint Luke, the patron of medical personnel,” he says in a final blessing. “May they guard you and guide you and continue to enable you to be healers and forces for peace and justice in our community.”