By Thandiwe Konguavi
Staff Writer

Cpl. Clayton Shambu was confirmed as a member of the Catholic Church last month. 

On May 7, he got another confirmation: His military service is appreciated by the Church.

“With my job and with my line of work, I think getting that blessing … it’s very good for my soul, and I think by having that, it will help me accomplish what I need to do in my everyday tasks at work,” Shambu said of the Blue Sunday Mass at St. Albert Catholic Parish.

Over 700 people attended the annual event honouring all serving and retired first responders, including military personnel, firefighters, police officers, corrections and EMS officers.

“They, by what they do, are a mirror image of the love and the protection of what God wants for his people,” said Archbishop Richard Smith, who celebrated the Blue Sunday Mass.

“There are many, many people in this province that admire them, that know the importance of what they do, and it’s really good also for the Church to have the opportunity to express our esteem and respect and not just to thank them, but to thank God for them, and to pray God keeps them safe as they keep us safe.”

This year’s Blue Sunday coincided with the week of the one-year anniversary of the Fort McMurray fire, which destroyed more than 2,500 homes, businesses, and work camps. Over 2,000 firefighters from across Alberta, Canada, and around the world descended on the city last May to help fight the blaze.

“When everybody else is running away, they’re the ones that go out,” said Daniel Chauvet, president of the St. Albert chapter of the Knights of Columbus, which organized the Blue Sunday Mass. 

“They save our homes, they save our children. They save the lives of our loved ones, and that’s why it’s so important to really acknowledge them.” 

That honour hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“It’s overwhelming, the thanks and the appreciation that was shown for the first responders,” said RCMP Const. Patricia Desmond, a member of St. Albert Parish. 

“There are a few people that don’t recognize me or realize I’m from this parish. I guess we look very different in uniform.”

Prayers were also said for several first responders who lost their lives in the line of duty. 

“It’s such a sad situation but it is the risk that these folks take and we need to say thank you,” said Gerry Buccini, who helped organize the first St. Albert Blue Sunday Mass in 2006.

The tradition of a Blue Sunday Mass, a nod to the colour of the uniform of some first responders, began in 1934 in Washington, D.C.

(This article was corrected on May 10, 2017)