Law enforcement and first responders from around the state were honored and blessed this week at what was described as a 'Blue Mass,' where Baton Rouge Bishop Michael Duca prayed for their continued safety.
Father Jeff Bayhi, who helped preside over the mass with Duca, said the bishop used his crosier, a Catholic stylized staff, to symbolize the connection between the church and the work these officers do on a daily basis.
"He used that image to remind law enforcement that his role in the community is to shepherd the people of God, and they have a role in the community also to shepherd: to protect," Bayhi said.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul, State Police Colonel Kevin Reeves, State Fire Marshal Butch Browning, and Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, along with many other leaders in first response and their employees attended the mass.
"It's important for first responders and those in law enforcement to come together in prayer," said Gautreaux, who attended with about 25 of his deputies. "It helps us deal with our loss and reminds us of our call to serve."
After the mass, Bayhi and Duca said a special blessing on the fleet, then individually blessed each unit, sprinkling holy water onto law enforcement vehicles from police cars to firetrucks.
The mass was organized by the Louisiana Sheriff's Association and was held at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church on Main Street in Baton Rouge. This was the third year Catholic leaders held such a mass, a tradition revived after the challenging year law enforcement faced in 2016, Bayhi said. That summer, a lone gunman ambushed Baton Rouge area law enforcement, killing three officers and injuring three.
"They serve us so we pray for their safety and well being," Bayhi said.