Christ Our Light Parish offers Mass for first responders

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Christ Our Light Parish offers Mass for first responders

Father David Simonetti, pastor of Christ Our Light Parish, formerly St. Florian Parish, in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood, was the main celebrant for a Mass for first responders and those affected by violence titled “Evening of Light” on Sept. 24, 2021. The Mass was to show gratitude for first responders and to remember the fallen and loved ones lost to violence. Music was provided by a quintet from the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Chicago Police Sergeant Thomas Derouin, Officer Mark D'Amato and Sergeant John Piechocki pray during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Simonetti incenses pictures of deceased loved ones. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Kara Bershad, a harpist with the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, plays during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Chicago Police Officer Luis Pelayo receives Communion. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Chicago Police Officer Eric Davis leads the congregation in song. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Simonetti preaches the homily. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Chicago Police Officers from District 004 South Chicago light each other’s candles during the Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Chicago Police Officer Mark D’Amato prays following Communion. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Simonetti poses with the officers and drum corps following Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Chicago police officers and other first responders have the love and support of Christ Our Light Parish, Father David Simonetti, the parish’s pastor, said.

Simonetti celebrated Mass as part of an “Evening of Light” at the parish, 13145 S. Houston Ave., Sept. 24. The liturgy was celebrated in “prayer, gratitude and remembrance for all first responders and for all loved ones affected through violence,” and those who have lost loved ones to violence were invited to bring a picture and candle to place in front of the altar

The Mass was attended by more than a dozen officers from the Chicago Police Department’s 4th District and several members of its faith-based community committee.

Chicago Police Officer Eric Davis, an associate chaplain for the police department and 4th District faith-based liaison, thanked the parish for the Mass and for the support it provides.

The faith-based community committee he works with is out on street corners in the district to pray together every Friday night in the summer, and more and more of the district’s officers are joining them.

“We are praying for our city, praying for our officers, praying against violence,” Davis said. “It’s a blessing to see the community embracing us. I know it gets rough out there, and it seems as though people are against us, and the importance of this is to show that people are with us. It may not be the loudest voice, but it is the strongest voice.”

Simonetti said the parish honors the work of its local police officers, and wanted to do something that would demonstrate that. The Mass included music from a string quintet as well as members of a pipe and drum corps.

“We have to work without ceasing to establish that justice which alone allows for everlasting peace,” Simonetti said.

The Mass comes at a time when Chicago has seen a growing number of killings, recording 608 victims in 2021 as of Sept. 29. That same night, an officer was shot as she approached the scene of gunfire on East 72nd Place.

In his homily, Simonetti said that Jesus alone is the light that will heal the world and help us understand the will of God.

“Darkness, in principle, does not exist,” he said. “It isn’t a thing. For it to be a thing, God would have to create it. Darkness is the absence of what ought to be there, the light.”

Believers, he said, are called to be “his illuminated ones in a period of darkness.”

Simonetti said Christianity is a way of seeing the world, a lens that allows believers to see the truth.

“I can’t see without my glasses,” he explained. “Without them, you all look like a Monet painting of people at church. The light cannot get to the back of my eye properly, so I see things in a distorted way.”

The lenses of his glasses focus the light, just as Jesus does for Christians.

“If you don’t have the light of Christ, it’s off,” Simonetti said. “You can’t see reality.”

The reality, he told the congregation, is that we live in difficult times.

“The Lord didn’t promise you wouldn’t have problems,” Simonetti said. “He promised he’d be with us in difficult times. …  It’s OK to ask why. Even Jesus asked why on the cross. But the real question is what comes now? Does it open us up for God’s ultimate providence?”

Even when the Lord appears to be silent, he is there, Simonetti said.

“Although evil seems to be triumphing, it does not have the final word,” he said. “The final word is Jesus.”


  • anti-violence

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