Mary Ferrazzano of Westwood knows what it’s like to stay up late at night while waiting for a son to come home when he’s a police officer.
“A lot of dangerous situations arise in law enforcement,” she said. “You must have faith that God will watch them and keep them safe. It is the best you can do.”
Ferrazzano, a member of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Glen Rock, gathered with other worshipers on Sunday morning to thank law enforcement, pray for their safety and recall those who lost their lives in the third service annual appreciation of the church’s law enforcement agencies.
The mother of three and grandmother of four could not disclose her son’s department due to police policy, she said.
The event – which was celebrated live and also streamed online to worshipers at home – offered a rare display of honor and appreciation for the police at a time when they are often the targets of hostility in all the countries.
Current events, such as the murder of George Floyd by a police officer or the handling of Black Lives Matter protests, have often sparked protests against the police. But the church service did not touch current events or politics. The aim was to thank the local police for doing a thankless job with grace and dignity.
The event took place on January 9, which was designated in 2015 as National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, a day for citizens to thank officers across the country.
The service began with a bagpiper, followed by an honor guard of police officers who marched down the aisle of the church as the congregation stood in silence.
Among the small crowd who had braved icy roads and fears of COVID were uniformed police officers, flanked by their loved ones.
“We want to thank you. We see you. We honor you. We thank you,” Pastor Jay Unzaga began.
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More than 500 U.S. law enforcement officials died in the line of duty in 2021, he said, adding that the pandemic was responsible for the vast majority of deaths.
The pandemic that has sickened and killed thousands of Americans has also brought out their worst behaviors, he said. No one knows this better than the men and women who wear the blue uniform and risk their lives every day running to those who need help.
“We want to thank you. We want to tell you that you are beloved. We want to give you blessings for God to protect you, your families and the people you serve,” he said.
The event was designed by Linda Scarpa, whose two sons work in law enforcement. When she joined the church several years ago, she suggested the idea of a law enforcement service in Ferrazzano, who immediately liked her and offered to help lead it to Good.
“I think the police should be honored,” Scarpa said. “They are working so hard and in the height of COVID they have been working 24/7 for us. I hope other churches will pick up on this. It is important to recognize our first responders.”
Other than an annual law enforcement mass in Newark, Scarpa said, she hasn’t heard of many church services honoring living police officers.
Rich Skinner, the Washington Township Police Chief, who was seated on a front bench, applauded the event. “It’s a wonderful idea to recognize law enforcement. We are popular locally in the small towns of Bergen County. We also feel national negativity, but in our small towns we also receive a lot of support from our residents. ”
Church member Janet Tenore said she was happy to see new participants in the pews. “It was wonderful,” she said of the service. “When the honor guard entered it was so emotional. I hope more churches start to do so. Our police deserve to be thanked.”
Deena Yellin covers religion for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to his work covering how the spiritual intersects with our daily lives, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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