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Annual Blue Mass held in Steubenville

OFFERING PRAYER — Dozens of first responders and their families filled the pews at St. Peters Church Sunday for the annual Blue Mass. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — Dozens of first responders and their families filled the pews at St. Peters Church Sunday, listening intently as Bishop Jeffrey Monforton reminded them service to others “always comes with a cost.”

“How effective would you be if you constantly lived in your comfort zone, how safe would you be?” asked Monforton, celebrant for this year’s Blue Mass. “Discipleship is willingly accepting, not accidentally accepting, crosses. It comes with considerable cost. Services comes with a cost.

“Your plate will be full with both the easy and the difficult (tasks),” he added. “Discipleship, like your service, can never be taken lightly.”

The Blue Mass, an annual expression of thanks to police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and others on the front line, has been celebrated nine of the past 10 years — only missing one year, 2012, due to the death of Monsignor George Yontz, who had celebrated those first few masses.

Organizers say it’s a time to celebrate the fallen and offer prayers for those still on the job.

First responders “all carry scars, mostly invisible scars,” said Patrolman Eric Hart, who, with his wife Alexandra, organizes the annual celebration.

“Whether we’ve seen someone take their final breath in our arms or we see the aftermatth of abuse, it all stays with us,” he told the congregants. “We never forget. These will be memories forever ingrainted in our hearts and minds, yet we continue to do our job, what we are trained to do and we do it well. Our families are with us every step of the way.”

Hart said first responder families “are our backbone…our strength.”

“You, our families, make sacrifices as well.” he added.

The names of 15 first responders from Jefferson County who “paid the ultimate sacrifice” were read during the service — Deputy Michael Brandle, Jefferson County sheriff’s department; Patrolmen Thomas McGough, Leonard Lamatrice, Scott Roe, Owen Burns, Lafayette Mercer and Leslie John McDonald, Steubenville police; Henry Bauman, Casimir Pawelczyk, Patrick McKay and Michael McGraw, Steubenville Fire Department; Patrolman Ralph Benton Miller Sr., Toronto police; Donald Cotrell, Toronto fire; and Lt. Michael J. Maguschak Sr. and Patrolman William J. Snider, Mingo Junction police.

Those attending were also exhorted to remember those who lost their lives on 9-11.

“We are family and we look out for each other, and we depend on our brothers and sisters who are the first to go in when everyone else is leaving,” Monforton said after the service. “They don’t look for our gratitude but they deserve it.”

Monforton, who has celebrated seven Blue Masses, said it’s a “simple, modest way to show our thanks to them and remember them in our prayers. It comes down to faith and families.”

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