By Mike Rizzo
The NYPD Brooklyn and Queens Holy Name Society gathered in Queens Village March 10 for its 99th annual Communion Mass and Breakfast to honor hero police officers and its departing longtime president.
After 27 years of leading the 2,700 active and retired police who make up the organization, Sergeant Edward Conroy is retiring from the NYPD in July and that means giving up the presidency of the society.
“It went by in the blink of an eye,” said the 63-year-old Conroy, whom everyone calls Ed.
“We’re Catholic and we show that we practice our faith,” Conroy said. He added that the society’s mission is to encourage members to attend Mass and receive the sacraments. “This is the blue wall we talk about.”
“He has pure love and dedication to the Church, the Society and the NYPD,” said Sgt. Jerry Cooke, who grew up in St. Elizabeth Church, Ozone Park, and has known Conroy for 22 years.
Conroy, a native of St. Francis DeSales parish, Belle Harbor, said he’s proud that nearly 30,000 members of New York’s Finest have attended this event during his tenure. He said he’s also proud of his outreach to younger cops to keep the society vibrant. A recent Theology on Tap event, sponsored by the Holy Name, attracted 85 police officers.
“We’re not just out there as cops,” Conroy said about the image the society presents to the public, “but as family members and we show that our faith is important to us.”
Officer Regina Labruzzo, based in the 62nd Precinct in Bath Beach, saw the Society’s role in a similar light.
“It’s good that people on the outside see that we are people too and we celebrate our faith and keep our religion.”
Officer Danny White, a parishioner at Good Shepherd Church, Marine Park, has been with the NYPD for seven years and a board member of the society for two years.
“He’s a true leader,” the 28-year-old said of Conroy. “Now we need to honor the commitment he’s given to the Society.”
While the rainy weather canceled the traditional half-mile march of society members from Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Queens Village, to Antun’s catering hall, it couldn’t dampen the attendance at Mass.
More than 1,000 officers and NYPD dignitaries attended, including Commissioner James O’Neill. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was the liturgy’s main celebrant and referenced the Gospel reading of Jesus’ temptation in the desert in his homily. He encouraged the officers present to avoid the temptations the world presents and to use their faith on their Lenten journey to Easter.
Conroy spoke to the congregation before the end of Mass and read a poem from the 1977 yearbook of Cathedral College, Douglaston. He was a student there from 1976 to 1980. The poem spoke of the passages of time but emphasized that those who received their calling, whatever it may be, answered it.
As churchgoers then made their way to Antun’s for the breakfast, the rain had intensified.
However, that didn’t stop the bagpipers and drummers of the NYPD Emerald Society, smartly positioned out of the downpour underneath the elevated LIRR tracks near Jamaica Ave., from greeting attendees.
At the breakfast, Conroy said it was not a retirement party but his members had other ideas. Commissioner O’Neill called for a standing ovation for Conroy and the audience responded enthusiastically. Msgr. Robert Romano, chaplain to the society and pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Dyker Heights, and deputy chief of all NYPD chaplains, quipped that the day’s raindrops were tears from heaven since Conroy was retiring.
“This was his opportunity to live out his faith, his police life and his family life,” Msgr. Romano said about Conroy’s dedication to the society. He then presented Conroy with a plaque honoring his years of service.
Honorees also spoke of the importance of faith. NYPD Chief Harry Wedin, named Person of the Year by the Society, said that growing up in Resurrection parish, Gerritsen Beach, and throughout his career on the force, it was the teachings of the Church that helped him to make good decisions.
The breakfast also included the awarding of scholarships in the names of several police officers to high school age students with an encouragement for them to attend Catholic schools. In addition, more than 30 police officers who displayed extraordinary heroism and courage on the job received plaques of their own and the accolades of their co-workers, families and friends.
Throughout the event, Conroy was the master of ceremonies. He alternately made jokes that brought forth raucous laughter from attendees and then reminded the gathering of the sacrifices and dedication of his fellow police officers.
“You can’t replace that,” someone said at one table near the dais in praise of the outgoing president. He was wrong. There will be a new president at the Society’s 100th Communion Mass and Breakfast next year but Ed Conroy’s legacy is unlikely to be forgotten.