The Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church offered its blessing Saturday to the first responders within the Santa Clarita Valley who put their lives on the line every day in the name of public safety.
The event incorporated a sermon, mixed with music and prayer and, at the end, the blessing of the badges of first responders. The sermon was delivered by Father Vaughn Winters, who said it was important to show thanks and appreciation of the people to frontline workers.
“In the Gospel today that we’re reading, Jesus says, ‘If you love it, you will do my commandments.’ The first responders, they’re showing their love for the Lord by following Jesus’ command, they are loving what they are doing for others, they are sacrificing and not just doing it with lip service but with their lives in their callings of service that they’ve given,” said Winters. “So for that reason, we thought it was important to have this opportunity for them, to be here and to honor them.”
Winters said the idea for the event came because there were several people in health care, law enforcement, fire and the military who were both a part of their parish and worked for it.
Gino Reale, head usher for the church and a 38-year Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department veteran, said first responders need recognition now more than ever and that, as one himself, the ceremony was especially welcome.
“It’s very gratifying. Like I said, I’ve done 38 years today with the (LASD)… and to see the community come together, we’re really hoping and praying that we get a full house today,” said Reale. “That’ll be the satisfying portion, for me, is having a church full of people.”
Another first responder who’s a part of the parish, Demetrius Mikhail, works as a paramedic for the Los Angeles Fire Department. Mikhail said having to work long hours due to staffing shortages has been hard for those in the LAFD, but that having a spiritual community helps him stay focused and grounded.
“I believe that our job is another way that we can praise our God, Jesus teaches us to love one another, to help one another, and at the end of the day, that’s what we’re doing,” said Mikhail. “So it’s a beautiful thing to see when the community stands behind their first responders. Given that, most of us first responders, we do it and we’re not seeking any recognition. But, there’s a lot we’re putting on the line. So it feels very humbling to know that they care.”
Mikhail is also part of the church’s safety committee, which is made up of first responders who can assist in the event of an emergency at the church.
Color guard for the event was provided by the Knights of Columbus.