Bishop Kemme honors first responders at annual Blue Mass

First responders and their families took part in the annual Blue Mass Sunday, Sept. 12, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. (Advance photo)

Bishop Carl A. Kemme at the annual Blue Mass Sunday, Sept. 12, described Jesus as the first, last, and greatest responder because he laid down his life for the salvation of all.

The Blue Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception a day after the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Bishop Carl A. Kemme said to about 100 first responders and their families.

“I am certain that most of us remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we learned of those attacks,” he said. “In the days immediately after, we began to hear of the heroic actions of those first responders in New York, who in spite of the incredible danger rushed into those buildings in order to save as many lives as possible.

So many perished, he said, asking the many men and women in uniform to not forget their heroic self-sacrifice and adding that their giving of their lives is “a testimony to all current first responders of the quality that is needed in this line of service to humanity.”

Those attending the Blue Mass gathered for a group photo with Bishop Carl A. Kemme. (Advance photo)

Pray for first responders

Bishop Kemme said the faithful pray for all first responders, the members of the various branches of law enforcement, paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters.

“We pray for their safety as they respond to our community’s emergency needs, often placing themselves in peril as they offer their service,” he said. “We are grateful to you for your dedication and commitment to the welfare of the members of our community. Please know of our deep respect for all that you do and for what you stand for in our society.”

Bishop Kemme then related their bravery to a diocesan favorite son, Fr. Emil Kapaun.

“In just a few weeks, our diocese will be recalling the heroic and virtuous witness of our beloved Father Emil Kapaun, as we receive the return of his mortal remains and honor him with Christian burial right here in our own Cathedral,” he said.

Fr. Kapaun a ‘first responder’

Although he was a military chaplain, the bishop said, he was in many ways a first responder to his brother prisoners of war in a hellish camp where so many perished – including Fr. Kapaun.

“He responded as you all do – and we all must – for the good of others, in spite of the cost it requires us to pay,” he said.

“He responded with uncommon hope, courage, and perseverance, instilling these qualities in the soldiers, who would have otherwise quickly lost all hope to survive.”

Fr. Kapaun did whatever was necessary to keep his brothers alive in the camp, Bishop Kemme said, even the most mundane and unsavory of acts.

“For this, we are confident that someday, perhaps someday soon, this humble priest of Kansas will be raised to the glory of the altar as a saint.”

Mass for peace and justice

Bishop Kemme said one of the intentions for the Blue Mass is for the preservation of peace and justice.

“For it is peace and justice that our world so often lacks as we face the many trials and challenges of our times, often caused by man’s inhumanity to man,” he said.

Justice and peace emanate from faith, the bishop said, relating his comment to the second reading.

“To build a world where peace and justice reign, is the task of each person and it begins with each of us in our personal relationships, for if we are not men and women of peace and justice in all that we say and do, how can we ever expect there to be such in our families, our neighborhoods, our places of work and school and indeed in the whole world.”

The Gospel of the day explains, he said, how to do so: by denying ourselves, taking up the cross, and following Jesus, by losing our lives for the sake of the Gospel which is the Gospel of justice and peace, and in so doing, saving it.

“This is what those first responders did on 9/11. This is what Father Kapaun did 70 years ago and this is what we must do, perhaps in less dramatic ways, but no less important and impactful ways in our day and time.”

Bishop Kemme closed his homily by urging the faithful to ask Jesus to help us to do their part in building a world of stronger and greater justice and peace.