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HONORING THOSE IN PUBLIC SAFETY LEFT: Bishop Rojas blesses a San Bernardino County deputy at the 21st annual Blue Mass. RIGHT: One unique ritual of the Blue Mass includes the ringing of the last alarm to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty.

Father Tomas Guillen, a chaplain to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and former chaplain to the Fontana Police Department, admitted during his homily at the Oct. 18 diocesan Blue Mass that he often prays he will not have to encounter a first responder in his day. He knows the circumstances that usually accompany such an encounter can involve danger, even death.

“We go not because we have all the answers or that we can solve all the world’s problems,” said Fr. Guillen, who is administrator of St. Oscar Romero Parish in Eastvale. “We go to bring the peace and hope of God.”

It was the 21st year that the Diocese has celebrated a Blue Mass to honor police, firefighters and first responders. Bishop Alberto Rojas was the chief celebrant of the Mass, held this year at St. Andrew Newman Center in Riverside.

“We thank you and we pray for you,” Bishop Rojas said at the beginning of the Mass. “You risk your lives for us every day.”

As is customary, the Blue Mass included unique rituals reflective of the realities of those in public safety: the ringing of the last alarm bell to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty, the posting of colors and the blessing of the badges. This year a group of four firefighters who died in the line of duty during the past 12 months were highlighted: San Bernardino County firefighters Arthur Eugene King and Corey Bruce Norton, Riverside firefighter Vincent Rogers and Barstow firefighter David Allen Spink.

The Chief Patrick Crowe Award is given each year at the Blue Mass to a public safety member who exhibits exceptional service to the community, department or Church in some way. This year’s awardee is Deputy Olivia Bozek, a 22-year veteran of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Deputy Bozek has served in the Corrections, Courts and Public Affairs divisions of the Department.

She says her faith continues to play a key role in her work in law enforcement.

“It helps center me and remember that everyone matters, and regardless of what a person may have done that it’s not my job to judge or treat them differently,” said Deputy Bozek, a parishioner at St. Anthony, Upland.  “Law enforcement sees a lot of the bad things people are capable of … my faith helps keep me grounded and levelheaded, and to remember the good.”