The church at Cubero, NM was packed on April 28, 2017 as first responders from agencies in Gallup and Cibola County gathered for the annual diocesan Blue Mass.
When a student at nearby St. Joseph School in San Fidel wrote to Bishop Wall asking for a blue mass, he might not have realized that his request would kick off an annual tradition, now in its third year. Both of his parents are police officers with the Laguna Tribal police. Last year, Kohn told the Voice of the Southwest “My mom helped me come up with the idea of a mass just for the police officers, to thank them for their service”.
This year, Bishop Wall returned as the main celebrant, telling those present during his homily that “In a very Christ-like way, a first responder puts his or her life on the line.”
But like Kohn, Bishop Wall also has a personal connection to emergency service providers.
“I always tell police, firefighters, EMTs – one of the first things I do in the morning is I pray for first responders,” he said. “One of the reasons for that is my oldest brother is a battalion chief, a firefighter in Chandler. So he’s the first one on that list. And so I assure them of my prayers.”
Joseph DeSoto is the fire chief for Cubero. It’s an area around 25 square miles with a small population, and DeSoto and many of his associates are volunteers. When needed, their department will lend a hand to the agencies of surrounding counties, day or night.
“I look at some of the people here who are like first responders, and what we do, it’s great stuff,” DeSoto said. “I think some of the people are kind of unappreciated, especially the people who do it for a career.”
And even though the Blue Mass is a one-day event, he’s grateful for the prayers and support from the Catholic community.
“I think it gives us spiritual enlightenment. What we’ve done with non-Catholics, is tell them ‘even if you’re not Catholic, please come for the blessing.’ We’re all brothers. I’m just really really thankful and grateful the Bishop was able to come down and do the Blue Mass. And we feel very fortunate.”
As everyone files out of the church, students from St. Joseph School present each person, Catholic or not, with a pin of St. Michael the Archangel, blessed during the mass by Bishop Wall.
Next door, police and firefighters brush elbows with young students and their families at a shared lunch. The final event of the day is a giant group photo. “Okay, everyone say ‘donut’!” someone calls out, a joke that gets a lot of laughs. Kohn’s mother gives him a big hug. He’s about to board the bus back to school, and she is back on duty, off to protect and serve her community once again.
View our gallery of images from the event: