BRIDGEPORT— “Never work with a partner who does not know fear,” Fr. Charles Allen said a veteran police officer once told him. “People who know fear learn how to overcome it when they are called on to protect others and heal the wounds of the world.”
Fr. Allen became the first Blue Mass Honoree to also deliver the homily at the annual Mass, held this morning in Bridgeport, commemorating the 9/11 terrorist attacks and honoring the bravery and service of active first responders in Fairfield County.
He was recognized for guiding the Blue Mass since its inception and serving as longtime chairman of the observance.
The Mass began with a procession with bagpipes sounding down Washington Avenue under a huge American flag draped from a Fire Department rescue truck outside the front door of St. Augustine Cathedral.
“Today, we celebrate the heroes of 9/11,” Fr. Allen said to the police, fire and emergency personnel and all those who gathered at the 18th annual Blue Mass. “We also realize that we may need that heroism again on any given day.”
In his homily he urged police, fire and EMT’s to be lifelong learners, to find co-workers whose judgement they respect, to prepare the next generation for service, “and to pray often as Luke tells us, ‘O Lord, you have been our refute in every age. Pray that He will always be with us, watch over us, and protect us the most difficult of times.’”
In presenting the special award to Fr. Allen, who is assistant to the president of Fairfield University and a long-time Fairfield Police Department Chaplain, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano noted that this year’s Blue Mass coincided with the 60th anniversary of Fr. Allen’s ordination as a priest. “Your service has enriched lives in the entire community,” the Bishop said.
After Holy Communion the Bishop presented a special posthumous award to Sir Knight Angelo Fernandez, a member of both the McGivney Council 12615 and the Sheridan Assembly 107. Mr. Fernandez, who died in August of this year, was recognized for being a “driving force” behind the need to honor first responders. His wife, Sally, accepted the award in his honor.
The Bishop and Fr. Allen then presented awards to this year’s honorees from the Newtown, Fairfield, Greenwich and Norwalk Police Departments.
“Day after day you work quietly, valiantly and generously. You put your lives on the line so our lives are safe . I pray for you each day that God give you the strength to do what you need to do.”
Photos by Amy Mortensen
Police Department Honorees
Norwalk Police Officer Julio Rodriguez of the Special Services Division was recognized for his work on the Task Force to remove narcotics from the city of Norwalk. He was involved in two major cases that removed deadly narcotics including fentanyl l from the streets and saved lives.
Greenwich Police Officer Joseph Havranek for over 43 years of dedicated service in law enforcement. Officer Havranek was involved in many community outreach programs including TRIAD for senior citizens. He has served as n usher and has been an usher at 7 am Mass at Saint Mary’s Church in Greenwich for the past 15 years.
Fairfield Police Officers Paul Medvegy and Mark Letsch were honored for their professionalism and compassion in responding to serious accidents as Crash Reconstructionists for the Fairfield Police Department. Over the past several months, Officers Letsch and Medvegy have responded to tragic events which have resulted in the unexpected loss of several people and required support to the family and friends who found themselves engulfed in a tragedy.
Newtown Police Officers Lieutenant Richard Robinson and Sergeant Scott Ruszczyk created one of the top stress and resiliency courses for law enforcement in Connecticut In the future they hope to see all law enforcement officers utilizing skills to take care of their mental and physical well-being throughout their careers and to never see an officer lost to the tragedy of suicide.
The recessional began with the Presentation of Colors followed by the playing of Taps, which filled the recesses of the historic Cathedral, and the singing of America the beautiful.
After Mass, the bishop greeted first responders who joined together for the annual Blue Mass photo. Many well- wishers also took photos of the honorees and personally thanked the men for their service in keeping other safe.
FR. CHARLES ALLEN, FAIRFIELD UNIVERSITY
Father Charles H. Allen, Special Assistant to the President and University Chaplain of Fairfield University. Father Allen has served on the Blue Mass Committee for many years, both as a member and Chair, and is also the Catholic Chaplain to the Fairfield Emergency Services.
Additionally, Father Allen has served on several boards including the Fairfield Arts Center and St. Vincent’s Hospital Member Institutional Review Board.
The Boston native has a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from Boston College, as well as Master’s Degrees from the Gregorian (Rome), Brown and Columbia Universities in Theology, Mathematics, and Educational Administration respectively. Father Allen entered into the Society of Jesus on August 15, 1959, and was ordained in September 8, 1973. He is currently the Special Assistant to the President and University Chaplain of Fairfield University.
Father Allen was born just outside of Boston, Massachusetts two months after the start of World War II. His parents, grandparents and great grandparents were all from Boston.
Wanting to be a priest and to see the world at the same time, he joined the Jesuits when he was seventeen. Having lived in Mexico, Italy, France, Spain, England, Ireland, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, he has seen a good deal of the world and had very happy and fulfilling years as a priest.
Among many other things, the Jesuits have provided him the opportunity to receive an excellent education. He has a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from Boston College, as well as Master’s Degrees from the Gregorian (Rome), Brown and Columbia Universities in Theology, Mathematics, and Educational Administration respectively. Father Allen is multi-lingual.
Father Allen has served on the Blue Mass Committee for many years, both as a member and Chair. He is also the Catholic Chaplain to the Fairfield Emergency Services. Additionally, Father Allen has served on several boards including the Fairfield Arts Center and St. Vincent’s Hospital Member Institutional Review Board.
Recognized for his services, Father Allen has received several prestigious awards including the Fairfield University Alumni Award and the Paul Harris Rotary Award.
“In my years of chairing the Blue Mass committee,
I have come to appreciate the wonderful spirit of the pastors and their staffs
with whom I have worked, the generosity
of the Knights of Columbus, the competency and hard work of my friends
at the Catholic Center, and the dedication of first responders
who have added such dignity and spirit to this annual ceremony.”
OFFICER JULIO RODRIGUEZ, Norwalk Police Department
Chief Thomas Kulhawik of the Norwalk Police Department has nominated Police Officer Julio Rodriguez of the Special Services Division. Officer Rodriguez is assigned to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bridgeport Resident Office, as the Norwalk Police Department’s Task Force Officer for several years. During his tenure in this assignment, Officer Rodriguez has become the senior TFO of his unit. Officer Julio Rodriguez has earned consistent praise and statements of professional respect from his DEA supervisors, fellow Task Force Officers and Agents, other members of law enforcement, and representatives of the United States Attorney’s Office.
His case work has resulted in the seizure of significant amounts of heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine and crystal methamphetamine from the streets of Norwalk and southwestern Connecticut. In 2019, Officer Rodriguez participated in numerous DEA and joint agency narcotics investigations, two of which deserve special mention because of their significant impact on the City of Norwalk.
In March of 2019, Officer Rodriguez and the DEA initiated an investigation targeting members of Mexican drug cartels operating here in Norwalk and in the greater Norwalk area. The investigation took on the form of a wiretap investigation, spearheaded by Officer Rodriguez. Officer Rodriguez maintained liaisons with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and organized both telephone and physical surveillance on the cartel members and associates. As a result, a significant regional narcotics distribution operation was disrupted.
In June of 2019, Officer Rodriguez culminated an investigation into Charles Thelusma a prolific drug dealer whom was a major source of heroin and fentanyl into the City of Norwalk in 2017 and 2019. The arrest of Thelusma was the result of a joint investigation with the DEA and the Norwalk Police Special Services Division.
These two high profile 2019 cases are only a snapshot of Officer Julio Rodriguez’s efforts to remove narcotics from the City of Norwalk. Both cases dismantled dangerous distribution operations and removed a significant amount of deadly narcotics from the neighborhoods of Norwalk, undoubtedly saving lives. Officer Julio Rodriquez’s professionalism and dedication to the City of Norwalk has had a profound impact on large scale narcotic dealing and has vastly improved the quality of life for all residents.
LIEUTENANT RICHARD ROBINSON AND SERGEANT SCOTT RUSZCZYK, Newtown Police Department
Chief James Viadero, Newtown Police Department has nominated Lieutenant Richard Robinson and Sergeant Scott Ruszczyk for this year’s Blue Mass Award.
It goes without saying that a career in law enforcement is stressful. The experiences that a law enforcement officer has to endure during their career can lead to high levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Coping with this stress successfully is not something that officers are generally taught and this unfortunately can lead to improper methods of coping such as drug and alcohol use, anger issues, self-harm and even suicide. The specter of police suicide is at critical levels in our country. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook School shooting the need for short and long term psychological care for officers was recognized by the Newtown Police Department. In conjunction with the group Heart 911, which was already within the Department assisting officers with resiliency, Newtown Police Sergeant Scott Ruszczyk attended S.M.A.R.T. training through The Henry Benson Institute and Harvard University.
After receiving further training, Lt. Richard Robinson and Sgt. Ruszczyk set about to adopt this nationally accepted and evidenced-based program for use within the field of law enforcement. After many weeks of hard work and dedication they first rolled out the new training program to officers within the Newtown Police Department. Both officers have since become certified police instructors in the fields of police stress management and have taught the program to other officers including officers at the Bridgeport Police Academy, Officers in Wethersfield after their recent officer-involved shooting, hundreds of officers that attend recertification training in Fairfield County, and to police chiefs within Fairfield County and throughout Connecticut.
Lieutenant Robinson and Sergeant Ruszczyk’s S.M.A.R.T. program teaches stress management and reduction by focusing on the brain-body connection and through the use of a number of various skill sets allows officers to perform self-care and prevention. Through their tireless efforts they have demystified and destigmatized psychological and mental health care, and they have already taught hundreds of officers skills they can use to combat stress and to promote resiliency.
Lieutenant Robinson and Sergeant Ruszczyk have created one of the top stress and resiliency courses for law enforcement in the State and it is their wish to create a national model for this type of training. In the future they hope to see all law enforcement officers utilizing skills to take care of their mental and physical well-being throughout their careers and to never see an officer lost to the tragedy of suicide.
OFFICER MARK LETSCH AND OFFICER PAUL MEDVEGY,Fairfield Police Department
Chief Christopher Lyddy, of the Fairfield Police Department has nominated Officer Mark Letsch and Officer Paul Medvegy for this years Blue Mass Award.
Officer Mark Letsch and Officer Paul Medvegy are Crash Reconstructionists for the Fairfield Police Department. As part of their work they find themselves having to console and inform family members and friends who may have recently lost a loved one. Over the past several months, Officers Letsch and Medvegy have experienced a lot of tragic events which have resulted in the unexpected loss of several people.
Officers Medvegy and Letsch have stayed steadfast in their focus of work, completing an investigation that is done to its fullest potential, while at the same time being a support to the family and friends who now have found themselves engulfed in a tragedy that is often incomprehensible to them. Although this work is unavoidable and must be completed, the compassion and adoration that they show to these families is second to none. The support that they give to the family and friends during these times of loss, gives a sense of comfort that is almost immediately recognized when the news is brought to them of a sudden loss. These officers constantly perform their duties as police officers and skilled investigators no matter what they may be faced with, while at the same time being a husband, father, brother, and son to their own family and friends. It does not go unnoticed that they love what they do.
Officers Mark Letsch and Paul Medvegy have shown an exemplary form of compassion, support, and skill in their daily work as crash Reconstructionists.
OFFICER JOSEPH HAVRANEK,Greenwich Police Department
Chief James Heavey of the Greenwich Police Department has nominated Police Officer Joseph Havranek. Officer Havranek served in the United States Air Force from 1963-1967. During his time in the Air force Officer Havranek was a member of the Air Police and held top secret clearance and worked at a Top Secret Command Post. Officer Havranek credits the Air force for his greatest achievement: it is where he met his wife of 52 years, Barbara who was also a member of the U.S. Air Force.
In 1976 Officer Havranek joined the Greenwich Connecticut Special Police Force, where he was issued badge #384. Officer Havranek quickly moved up in the ranks and attained the rank of Special Police Sergeant in 1978. Officer Havranek served in that capacity until he was sworn in as a regular officer in May of 1989. Officer Havranek served with distinction with the Greenwich Police Department as an officer until his retirement in 2006.
During Officer Havranek’s career at the Greenwich Police Department Officer Havranek received multiple awards for outstanding service, including eight department commendations and being named officer of the month.
Officer Havranek was immediately sworn back into the Special Police force following his retirement. Officer Havranek served as a special officer from 2006 until his final retirement on June 30th 2019. In total, Officer Havranek has dedicated over 43 years of his life to law enforcement.
Officer Havranek was involved in many community outreach programs including TRIAD for senior citizens. He also served as a scout leader and served as the Police Explorer Advisor for many years. Officer Havranek was a founding member of the Greenwich Police Honor Guard and served on the team until his final retirement in 2019. Officer Havranek continues to volunteer as an usher and has been an usher at 7 am Mass at Saint Mary’s Church in Greenwich for the past 15 years.
Chaplains of the Fairfield County Fire,
Police and Emergency Medical Service Departments
|Reverend Charles H. Allen, SJ||Fairfield Town Emergency Services|
|Reverend Jeffrey W. Couture||Weston Police Department|
|Reverend Joseph Cervero||Redding Police Department|
|Deacon John DeRoin||Stony Hill Fire Department & EMS, Bethel|
|Reverend Sudhir Dsouza||Norwalk Police Department|
|Reverend Brian P. Gannon||Trumbull Police Department|
|Reverend Francis T. Hoffmann||Noroton Fire Department|
|Reverend Timothy A. Iannacone||Fairfield Police Department|
|Deacon Frank Masso||Huntington Volunteer Fire Company No. 3|
|Deacon John J. Moranski||Bridgeport Police Department|
|Reverend Richard D. Murphy||Greenwich Police Department|
|Deacon William D. Murphy||Germantown Fire Department and Danbury Police Department|
|Reverend Robert J. Post||Stamford Fire Department|
|Reverend Nicholas Pavia||Stratford Police Department|
|Reverend Christopher Perrella||Noroton Heights Fire Department|
|Reverend Bruce Roby||Stratford Fire Department|
|Reverend Paul raj Sankaralingam||Norwalk Fire Department|
|Monsignor William J. Scheyd||New Canaan Emergency Services and Norwalk Fire Department|
|Reverend Rolando Torres||Bridgeport Police Department|