Keeping people safe can be lonely and even thankless work.
But law enforcement officers, firefighters, corrections officers, ambulance crew members, EMTs and all other first responders must never forget that they are greatly loved and are never stand alone.
“God sees the good you are doing,” Father Joseph Corel proclaimed from the pulpit of St. Patrick Chapel in Sedalia. “God knows that He put service in your heart, which is why you chose a career of serving others while still giving your best to your family who so desperately need and love you.”
Fr. Corel, pastor in solidum of St. Vincent de Paul Parish of Pettis County, presided at an ecumenical prayer service for first responders in and around Sedalia.
St. Vincent de Paul parishioners representing the Sacred Heart, St. Patrick and St. John the Evangelist chapels also prepared and served a free meal as a way to thank the first responders.
It was Sept. 10, the day before the 20th anniversary of the deadly 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and rural Pennsylvania.
Themes of gratitude and community pervaded the prayer service.
“Thank you for the important work you doing our community!” said Fr. Corel. “Thank you for excelling as units, as teams, as professionals in your fields.
“You are important to our community and for us to live our lives more peacefully,” he continued. “We are here today to honor, thank and celebrate you.”
He also thanked their families, who make many sacrifices of their own.
He pointed to the camaraderie, teamwork and sense of community that young people acquire while playing team sports and while learning about God.
That’s a lesson worth remembering, he said, especially when shifts are long and situations become volatile.
“Our culture may think we are supposed to be independent and rely on no one for any help, but that leads to absolutely nothing good,” the priest noted. “God created us to be in community, to be for others and to work together.
“Isolation and ‘lone ranger’ mentalities lead to bad places and bad actions,” he added.
St. Paul frequently emphasized in his letters that God’s people are created for community.
“What Paul tells us is that every part of the body is needed,” said Fr. Corel. “Each has its own purpose and needs to excel at what it is supposed to do, or the body suffers. Everybody needs everybody.”
Fr. Corel also addressed what he called the “elephant in the room.”
“Sometimes in the media,” he noted, “there is someone who has strayed or done something that made your profession look bad, and it seems there is wall-to-wall coverage of that incident for what feels like an eternity, while you are out there doing the best you can without recognition.
“All the more reason to do your best to excel in your work, to support and encourage one another and to come to these events where you get the recognition, support, honor and praise that you so rightfully deserve,” he said.
He reminded the first responders of Jesus’s invitation to “come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28).
“Let the Lord have the burdens of the day shift or the night shift,” said Fr. Corel. “Give it to Him and be good to yourselves and your families as you enjoy your time with them.”
He exhorted the first responders to support each other and build each other up.
“Be the best you can be at what you do, bring the best out of each other, give it all to God and Let Him guide and lead you, since ultimately, He is the One Who gave you a servant’s heart, and you are living out the life He has called you to live!” he said.