At the Blue Mass, remembering the fallen

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The Metro Transit Police Honor Guard steadily marched up the center aisle of St. Agnes Church in Arlington Oct. 3, signaling the start of the diocese's annual Blue Mass. For the past 12 years, police and public safety officials have come together to pray for their fallen and receive special prayers for their safety from the diocesan community.

Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde celebrated the Mass with Father Bill Korpi, a Fairfax Fire and Rescue Department chaplain, and Father Robert J. Rippy , chaplain of the Arlington County Police Department.

"They always need our prayers," said Father Korpi. "But more than that, it lets them know that we care about them, and that is why we have chaplains."

Many who attended the event came in place of a family member who could not attend. Hector Dittamo, a parishioner of Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Lake Ridge, came for his son Paul who died in a car crash while on duty in 2010. After his son's death, Dittamo joined Concerns of Police Survivors, a support group for family members of officers killed in the line of duty, and is now president of the organization. Betty Ittner, a mother of four, came to pray for her son who is a Fairfax County deputy.

Each year organizers work hard to spread the word about the Mass, and each year they see new officers. Firefighter Joseph Palau attended the Mass with his family for the first time this year after seeing a flier at the station.

"I was very pleased and grateful that they put this together to recognize our efforts," said Palau. "I thought it was a good balance between honoring us and having a regular Mass where they prayed for everyone."

Sabrena Singh, a fire and rescue service woman from Centreville, considers prayer a vital lifeline in her line of work. She has attended the Mass for the past three years and came this year with her husband and cousin despite having just finished a 36-hour shift.

"I decided to come any way because it is so important," said Singh. "We need so much prayer."

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015