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Public safety, legal and healthcare professionals honored with Masses

Diocesan News
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By Malie Hudson

 Every fall marks a special time of the year when Catholics and people of all faiths are invited to a series of special Masses – Red, Blue and White – to pray and bless those serving in the legal community, public safety and healthcare professions, respectively. 

 This year’s Masses were especially significant in that they occurred in the wake of the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas that claimed 58 lives and injured hundreds more. The Red, Blue and White Masses remembered those who lost their lives that day. 

 To mark the opening of the judicial year, judges, lawyers, paralegals, legal assistants, court reporters and every profession serving in the judicial system gathered to celebrate the annual Red Mass on October 3 at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral in San Bernardino. Father Rafael Partida, Episcopal Vicar for the Riverside Pastoral Region of the Diocese, was the principal celebrant. 

 Following the Mass, two members of the legal community were honored for their service. Honorable Lorenzo Balderrama was presented with the St. Thomas More Award, given to a lawyer or judge who gives hope to those in need, is kind and generous in spirit and is an overall exemplary human being. Deacon F. Michael Jelley was honored with the Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta Award, which is presented to someone in the legal community who displays the same attributes or has made contributions to the legal community. 

 On October 12, members of law enforcement, fire service and the public safety communities gathered to celebrate the Blue Mass at St. Andrew’s Newman Center in Riverside. Father Erik Esparza, JCL, was the principal celebrant and shared that this year’s Mass was personally meaningful to him because his brother recently joined the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy. 

 Annually, a member of the public safety community is chosen to receive the Patrick G. Crowe Memorial Public Servant Award for exceptional service to their department, church and community. This year, John Freese was presented with the award. 

 “When I got the call this week that I’d be receiving the award, I felt very humbled and honored,” said Freese, who serves as Assistant Chief for University of California, Riverside Police Department and is an active member of Magnolia Church in Riverside. 

 On October 22, nearly 100 gathered at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral in San Bernardino to pray and bless those serving in the healthcare community at the White Mass. Bishop Gerald Barnes was the principal celebrant. 

 “We know that the healing ministry or profession that you carry truly comes out of your call to Christian vocation,” said Bishop Barnes. “We have had tremendous witnesses of men and women in your profession in these past months and the response that many of your confreres gave to assist victims of hurricanes in Texas and Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico and earthquake victims in Mexico, and the many hours they spent caring for people that have been hurt and in trauma. 

 “We heard of the same dedication of some of your confreres to the hundreds of victims of the shooting in Las Vegas and how many of them spent hours attending to those that were wounded. And your confreres tending to the victims of the fires in our state and even while they were attending to the victims of the fires, they lost their own lives. So we know the dedication of men and women like you who hear God’s call to the healing ministries and to give themselves completely to them. That’s why we pray for you today, that’s why we celebrate your vocation today and that’s why we show our God how pleased and grateful we are for your response to the healing ministries.” 

 Following the Mass, four members from the community were chosen by a committee to receive awards for their exceptional service. Dr. Laurence Boggeln, M.D. received the St. Luke Award; Sister Josephine Bryan, S.P., RN received the Florence Nightingale Award; Dr. Spence O’Neal, Ph.D. received the Bishop’s Award and Maria Rebecca Garcia received the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Award. 


 Malie Hudson is a freelance writer based in Riverside.