At a Divided Time, First Responders Unite the Nation, Bishop Says at Blue Mass

NORWALK— People in Houston and Florida and the Caribbean whose lives have been disrupted by hurricanes were very much on the mind of more than 400 people who filled St. Matthew Church for the 16th Annual Blue Mass today.

The Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Fr. Charles Allen, S.J. of Fairfield University, Msgr. Walter Orlowski, pastor of St. Matthew Parish, and other priests who serve as Police, Fire, and EMS chaplains throughout the diocese.

“It’s ironic that we gather here on such a beautiful day when so many people down South are suffering terrible tribulations and their lies are in peril,” said Fr. Charles Allen, S.J., who delivered the homily.

Fr. Allen, who serves as Chaplain of Fairfield Town Emergency Services, said he was happy to see that many Churches were serving as sanctuaries.

Reflecting on the Gospel reading, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am,” Fr. Allen praised the Police, Fire and EMT’s for “watching out for others,” and treating those in harm’s way as brothers and sisters. He said they save lives through their “skill, strength, and love.”

This year’s honorees were recognized for acts of bravery, public service and compassion in the line of duty. Honorees include Officer Maryhelen McCarthy from the Patrol Division of the Newtown Police Department; Weston firefighter and EMT Mark Blake; Norwalk Fire Department firefighter George Baez; Norwalk Police officers Anthony DePanfilis , Matthew Nyquist and Jose Silva.

In brief remarks thanking uniformed personnel Bishop Caggiano said that the “Great Prayer of Thanksgiving” at Mass was the appropriate way to recognize the personal sacrifice and bravery of uniformed personnel who “give of themselves sacrificially and generously.”

The Bishop said that at a time when the country is divided, First Responders represent the best of what it means to be an American.

“When there is an emergency, you don’t ask if someone is a Republican or Democrat, a Liberal or Conservative, an English speaker or not, you serve them because they are brothers and sisters in need You remind us what makes us a great nation, and that what unites us in Christ is greater than what could divide us because of personal differences,” the bishop said.

After Mass Bishop Caggiano and Fr. Charles Allen recognized Blue Mass honorees for their courage and services to the community. Each officer came forward to receive a plaque.

Officer Maryhelen McCarthy from the Patrol Division of the Newtown Police Department is a seventeen year veteran of the Newtown Police Department. She has counseled those suffering from the tragedy of the Newtown shootings of 2012 to most recently remembering a Newtown police officer who had died of an illness related to his service at Ground Zero after 9/11, to responding to a bomb threat at St. Rose of Lima Church.

Weston Volunteer Fire Department EMT Mark Blake Mark is a Life Member of our fire department. He has done a great deal for our Weston Fire / Rescue Team and our town over the years. He has been recognized as our Firefighter of the year and received our Chief and President’s Award. He worked as a Logistics Officer for the American Red Cross during the 9/11 attack in New York City. He also worked at the L’Ambiance Building collapse in Bridgeport.

Mark is the Coordinator of Safe Kids of Fairfield County. He has run multiple Safe Kids car seat clinics in Weston. Mark and his wife Eileen have two sons, Ryan and Liam. The boys spend lots of time helping out at the firehouse and during car seat and child safety clinics with their dad.

Norwalk Firefighter George Baez is a ten-year veteran of the Norwalk Fire Department. Prior to his coming to the Norwalk Fire Department he was a twelve-year veteran of The United States Marine Corps attaining the rank of staff sergeant.

During his years in Norwalk he has involved himself with a number of community activities. These would include working with the Jefferson School Children in their Basketball program and the Briggs / Pathways Academy High School with their Fire Academy Program. He assists with the City of Norwalk Public Safety Cadet Program.
Firefighter Baez is the lead of the Norwalk Fire Department Honor Guard. He is currently assigned as Deputy Chiefs Aid. He is married to April and they have two children.

The Norwalk Department of Police Service recognized officers Anthony DePanfilis , Officer Matthew Nyquist and Officer Jose Silva, for their excellent team work and professionalism displayed during an extremely dangerous situation on May 12, 2016

“The officers demonstrated courage in the face of extreme danger and the use of restraint when confronted by a potentially life threatening adversary. The officers were able to handcuff the suspect and take him to the hospital for evaluation,” said Fr. Allen.

Officer Anthony DePanfilis was born and raised in Norwalk. He joined the department on February 26, 1999. During his tenure at the Norwalk Police Department, he has served in the Patrol Division, Special Services and in the U.S. Marshals Violent Fugitive Task Force. Over the course of his career, Officer DePanfilis has garnered numerous awards, medals and citations including a Police Service Cross, Medal of Merit and four Officer of the Month awards for outstanding and courageous police work. Officer DePanfilis is married and has two children.

Officer Matthew Nyquist joined the department on July 25, 2013. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Scranton and a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Long Island University. Officer Nyquist is married to fellow Norwalk Police Officer, Georgia Lazarides Nyquist and they have one young child. Officer Nyquist is currently assigned to the First Platoon.

Officer Jose Silva joined the Norwalk Police Department on March 26, 2015 after working at Pratt & Whitney – United Technologies, building jet engines for U.S. military fighter planes. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance from Central Connecticut State University. Officer Silva is originally from the Cape Verde Islands off the northwest coast of Africa and is a native speaker of Cape Verdean Creole and Portuguese. Officer Silva is currently assigned to the First Platoon.

The Blue Mass is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and other generous benefactors throughout Fairfield County.

Chaplains of the Fairfield County Fire, Police and Emergency Medical Service Departments

Rev. Charles H. Allen, S.J. Fairfield Town Emergency Services
Rev. Sudhir DSouza Norwalk Police Department
Msgr. Laurence R. Bronkiewicz Ridgefield Police Department
Msgr. Stephen M. DiGiovanni Stamford Police Department
Rev. Bruce Roby Stratford Fire Department
Rev. Thomas P. Thorne Westport Police and Fire Departments and Federal Bureau of Invesigation
Rev. Francis T. Hoffmann Noroton Fire Department
Rev. Christopher Perrella Noroton Heights Fire Department
Deacon John J. Moranski Bridgeport Police Department
Deacon William D. Murphy Germantown Fire Department
Rev. Samuel V. Scott Danbury Police Department
Rev. Robert J. Post Stamford Fire Department
Msgr. William J. Scheyd New Canaan Emergency Services and Norwalk Fire Department (Retired)
Msgr. Richard J. Shea Trumbull Police Department
Rev. Michael Dunn Weston Police and Fire Departments
Rev. Joseph Cervero Redding Police Department
Deacon Frank Masso Huntington Volunteer Fire Company No. 3
Rev. Nicholas Pavia Stratford Police Department
Deacon John DeRoin Stony Hill Fire Department & EMS, Bethel

Photos by Amy Mortensen