The first “Blue mass” in the United States was celebrated in Baltimore, Maryland by Catholic priest, Thomas Dade.
Father Dade initiated the Catholic Police and Fireman’s Society, and on September 29,1934, 1,100 policeman and fireman clad in blue marched into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Baltimore to celebrate that first mass to bless and honor Baltimore’s fallen policemen and firemen.
And on Thursday, September 29,2011, the first Blue Mass in Hillsborough county will be celebrated at the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart in downtown Tampa.
The Blue Mass has taken on new significance and weight since 9/11 and grown in size and scope to bless not only fallen and living local law enforcement, and firefighters, but first responders and other local and state and federal law enforcement agencies, and all of the victims of the agonies of 9/11.
And what better place for a Blue Mass, with te unique, and beautiful and historic Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart in downtown Tampa, the oldest church in the city a church steeped in tradition and history, a magnificent and grand Romanesque structure whose resident Franciscan fathers are devoted to the mission of ministering to Catholic families.
Sacred Heart was founded in 1860 by the Jesuit order and named St. Louis parish, and mass was celebrated in a humble wooden church named, of course, St. Louis Church and was located on the same site where the much larger and showy Sacred Heart Cathedral dwells today at the corner of Florida Avenue and Twiggs Street.
In 1898, the church was refurbished -a three year project – rather metamorphised into Sacred Heart, a real cathedral, and dedicated as Sacred Heart Catholic Church and parish in 1805, under the stewardship of the Franciscans who had ceded conrol of the parish to them in order to take on other duties.
The Franciscans are known for their work with and for the poor and the parish took it on the chin for that a few years back when, in order to provide food and shelter for some of the homeless community in Tampa, they invited several people to sleep on the steps of the church and provided food for them.
Several swelled into nearly 100 people who slept on the steps, and created a lot of mischief and left a lot of candy wrappers and other wrappers and bottles and such every morning, until the situation reached critical, er, mass and the reluctant fathers and brothers of Sacred Heart had to cede control of their church steps to the local police.
The Sacred Heart Parish and community survived the minor scandal, and still has a lively and robust congregation who depend on the brothers and fathers of Sacred Heart and each other to bring faith into their lives.
The Blue Mass will be celebrated at the Sacred Heart Church at 5:30PM, Thursday, September 29.
Ample parking right across the street on Florida Avenue
509 N. Florida Avenue 813-229-1595 http://www.sacredheartfla.org