It hasn’t been a very good year to be a police officer. Ferguson! The Eric Garner Grand Jury decision! The assassinations of Detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos! They have been just some of the hurdles that law enforcement officials have had to jump this year.
That’s why it was important that this year’s Communion-breakfast of the Brooklyn-Queens Holy Name Society of the NYPD was well-attended.
Sgt. Ed Conroy, president of the Holy Name, reported more than 1,100 tickets were sold, forcing the catering hall to open the room upstairs to handle the overflow crowd.
The theme of the day clearly was appreciation and support for the men and women in blue.
“There’s no reason you shouldn’t get the respect you deserve,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. “I and all the priests in the diocese support you.
“We need to support you by our prayers and by every other way we can.”
“This year has been a tough year,” admitted Msgr. Robert Romano, deputy chief of chaplains for the NYPD. “We come here today to have breakfast as one big family.
“It’s important to realize that we are a family. It’s important to realize that police officers are human beings. They are not the enemy. They are out there to do the best for people they don’t even know.”
Chief of Department James O’Neill pointed out that the past 25 years has seen real positive change in New York City.
“The people here in front of me today are the people who made this city. You took this job because you want to help people. We are people of faith. There is no better group of people in the world.”
A family of faith was another theme of the day’s activities, which began with the 9 a.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop DiMarzio and police chaplains at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Queens Village.
Following the liturgy, the Finest lined up outside the church before parading down Springfield Blvd. behind their Emerald Society’s bagpipes and drums to Antun’s, the local catering hall that has been hosting the event for years.
As breakfast was served, several speakers came to the podium to encourage participants to keep the faith.
Scholarship money was presented to the sons and daughters of the rank and file who plan to attend a Catholic high school.
And then began what turned out to be the longest part of the program, a tribute to the Cops of the Year, heroes who had lost their lives or had been injured in the line of duty during the past 12 months. Some still bore the scars of battle.
The newest category of honorees was first responders who have succumbed to illnesses brought on by the toxic aftereffects of their efforts following the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
Special mention was made of the recently deceased James Meehan, the former chief of transit, and retired Lieut. Matt Byrnes, whose son, Ed, was murdered in the line of duty in 1988.
Members of the Liu and Ramos families were special guests of honor, both at Mass and at breakfast. At each, they were given sustained applause in recognition of their sacrifice.
The men and women of the NYPD don’t forget their own. They care for each other long after the headlines have disappeared, like any good family would.