Police officers leave on every shift weighed down with equipment and supplies to keep them safe and to help them protect community members, everything from body armor to tourniquets to handcuffs and even guns, said Father Dan Brandt, director of the Chicago Police Department chaplains ministry. Officers must be prepared for anything to happen at any time, just as Christians are called to be ready for Jesus to come again, Brandt said in his homily at an Aug. 6 Mass for police, firefighters and other first responders at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Oak Lawn. “The officers carry all of this equipment to be at the ready,” Brandt said. “We also need to have our spiritual tools to help us be ready.” Those could include things such as Bibles or rosaries to aid in prayer, or regular reception of the sacraments, including reconciliation, he said. The Mass was one of several “Blue Masses” to show support and pray for emergency personnel scheduled for late summer and early autumn, said Brandt, who recently wrote to parishes that have lots of parishioners who are in the police or fire departments and offered to celebrate such Masses. The Chicago Police chaplains ministry includes Brandt and Deacon Bob Montelongo along with Protestant, Jewish and Muslim clergy members. The Mass at St. Catherine of Alexandria fell the day before the first anniversary of the line-of-duty death of Chicago Police Officer Ella French. Other Masses are scheduled around the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks or the Sept. 29 feast day of St. Michael the Archangel, patron saint of police officers. Brandt said he is hoping more parishes host Blue Masses this year to show appreciation for first responders, especially police officers, because many feel beleaguered by public criticism. “We want them to know that the vast majority of law-abiding citizens are grateful for what they do,” said Brandt, who celebrated the Mass with Father Bill McFarlane, the Chicago Fire Department chaplain. Among those who appreciate the work of police officers and firefighters are Larry and Clare Bergnach, members of St. Catherine of Alexandria for more than 50 years and who are involved in its 55 Plus senior club. “These are people who give their lives for us,” Larry Bergnach said. “You don’t see that every day. People count on the police and fire departments, and they are very good to us seniors here in Oak Lawn. The seniors really appreciate them. We personally appreciate them.” Retired Chicago police officer Darrin Bourret, who attended the Mass, said Blue Masses are “very important. It’s a great way to honor our first responders. It offers a time to bring everyone together to say thank you to a lot of first responders. We need it more than ever.” Blue Masses are scheduled at noon Sept. 25 at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Orland Park and at 7 p.m. Sept. 29 at St. John Cantius Parish, 825 N. Carpenter St. For more information, visit chicagopcm.org.