By Linda White
Gray skies, a mist of drizzle, and bagpiper Joanne Glover greeted those who gathered at Saint Michael Parish on Saturday, October 1 to appreciate, recognize, and celebrate the First Responders of Bedford.
Members of Bedford’s fire, rescue, EMS, 911, law enforcement, and parishioners from the Catholic community at Hanscom Air Force Base along with their families were welcomed by Monsignor William F. Cuddy, Jr. to a Mass and dinner in their honor.
The operative expressions heard throughout the evening involved sincere thanks and gratitude for the dedication of our Bedford First Responders who join forces with more than 25,300,000 First Responders in the United States.
Monsignor Cuddy commented, “The goal of the evening is to recognize those who are in the role of Bedford First Responders — Police, Fire and EMT as well as military personnel assigned to Hanscom Air Force Base. We offered prayers of thanksgiving for their service and commitment as well as prayers for their safety.
“St. Michael is the patron saint for police and military and St. Florian is the patron saint for firefighters,” Msgr. Cuddy continued. “The Mass and dinner were held on Saturday following the Feast of St. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels (Thursday, September 29) so that we could achieve greater participation. It was apparent our first responders felt recognized and thanked for the service they perform here in the local area and for the military, for the service which they offer in defense of our liberties.”
The significance of the Mass and dinner was particularly meaningful for Msgr. Cuddy. Prior to his assignment to St. Michael Parish, Msgr. Cuddy also served as a captain in the United States Navy (retired) and held the position of Head Chaplain for the United States Coast Guard, including many assignments around the world.
The following images are (c) Linda White, 2016 all rights reserved – Click to view larger images
Monsignor Cuddy continued, ”There is no draft today so the men and women serving do so because of their commitment and patriotism, and they do it at great personal sacrifice given the demands necessary to ensure the protection of liberties and the fruits of freedom, which Americans enjoy. The service personnel and their families serve globally, move continuously. For the person of faith, the one element that binds them as they travel the globe is their faith and the opportunity to live and express it. Their faith connects them, faith gives them comfort and support.Faith is the reassurance that God is there for them both in time of difficulty and the moments of joy.”
First responders Maj. Robert P. Goeke, USAF; Bedford Police Chief Robert Bongiorno;and Firefighter Sam Panzeri took an active role in the Mass with readings and the presentation of the gifts at communion time. Three altar servers, Jesse Collins, Jack Connell and David Jurewicz assisted Msgr. Cuddy. Both Jesse and Jack are from first responder families stationed at Hanscom AFB and normally attend Mass on the base where Msgr. Cuddy also provides coverage. Jack shared, “I was the lucky altar server to ring the bells. You know they are quite heavy, and I was responsible for three of them.” It was easy to observe he handled the job like a pro.
Following the Mass, piper Joanne Glover was stationed on the walkway leading from the church to the gathering space for the family dinner, and Bedford resident Sgt. Timothy J. Barry, Sr. of the Lexington Police Department was stationed at the parish hall door.
The parish hall was filled to capacity with nearly 200 in attendance, and the atmosphere was clearly celebratory and lively with families of all ages. Committee chairs Lynne Hickox, Mary Lee Pequeno, and Arlene Weeks with a team of parish volunteers (Jane Puffer, Rob Reyling, Rosemary Brutico, Walter Frank, Lisa Granada, Tim Barry, Polly Herz, Kevin Esler, and Jane Patterson) coordinated the effort for the first responders, their families and the St. Michael community. Confirmation students ably assisted the buffet service and also served as greeters for those attending Mass.
Bedford Police Chief Robert Bongiorno reflected, “On behalf of the women and men of the Bedford Police Department, it was meaningful to be recognized by the St. Michael’s community. As first responders, our heroes in uniform risk their lives every day. In light of events this year across the country, it is even more special to be recognized for the services we provide to Bedford. On a personal note, I was overwhelmed by the turnout at the special Mass, the gratitude and appreciation of Monsignor Cuddy and by the entire St. Michael’s parish. The night ended with a wonderful family style dinner with so many warm, caring and thankful community members! It was a night my family will not soon forget!!!”
Fire Chief David Grunes added, “Bedford firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics who attended with their families were grateful for the opportunity for their families to experience the support the Bedford community provides to the department. We are very appreciative of all the work done by the folks at St. Michael’s to sponsor this event.”
The Knights of Columbus provided both kitchen help and preparation of the very popular Italian sausage and peppers. Additional food donations were received from The Chateau Restaurant and LaCascia’s Bakery and Deli. New England Nurseries donated fall plants and parish members contributed a wide assortment of desserts elections.
Monsignor Cuddy summarized and reflected, “One of the many blessings of the evening in addition to recognizing the men and women who serve, was our opportunity to also acknowledge their families. For without their support, encouragement and joy these first responders would be hard pressed to do their job effectively. I will also take away a warm memory of seeing Chief Bongiorno interact and chase after his twin sons throughout the evening! Sincere appreciation and thanks to all who made the evening possible. The hospitality was great, the atmosphere was cheerful and delightful, the effort by the Committee made things seamless and effortless. Everyone from the youngest to the oldest had an exceptional time!”