This week we remember those who answer the call to protect and serve.
Rev. Robert J. Rippy, Chaplain to the Arlington County Police Department
Fr. Rippy is the pastor of Saint Thomas More Cathedral, in Arlington. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Arlington by Bishop John R. Keating in 1984.
How did you come to be the Chaplain to the Arlington County Police Department?
Father Rippy: When I was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Crystal City, the parochial vicar at the time, Fr. Rahn, was serving as chaplain for the Police Department. When he was transferred to Christendom College in Front Royal, one of the sergeants asked if I would consider being the chaplain and [after receiving permission from Bishop Loverde], I said “yes,” and the rest is history.
How long have you served as Chaplain?
FR: Since August 2011. I began two weeks before 9/11.
On September 11 and the days and weeks following, how were you able to assist in your new role as chaplain?
FR: Like many other priests, I offered my services to provide the Sacraments or counsel anyone in need. Police officers, firefighters and first-responders in particular witnessed a lot of traumatic scenes. So, I was there to listen or be available to them while they were processing those events.
How does your role as a priest look during a ride-along with police?
Fr. Rippy: I typically do my ride-along on Friday nights, if I don’t have other commitments at my parish. Anytime we stop to eat during a shift, we will always pray before our meal. After a couple of times riding with the same officer, they usually start to open up about their faith, family and other struggles. I’ve met officers who, at the time, were not practicing their Catholic faith, and through our discussions and prayer have come back into the Church, giving me the opportunity to witness marriages and baptize their children – two just this month!
Do you have any spiritual readings you recommend for those who serve as police officers, firefighters or first-responders?
FR: I usually encourage them to visit their parish priest, read the Bible, and for those who I find haven’t been to confession in a while, I hand out the examination of conscience. For those fallen-away Catholics that I meet, I will give them a copy of the Handbook for Today’s Catholic and encourage them to get enrolled in RCIA, even as a refresher course.
What can we do to support our police, firefighters and first-responders?
FR: If you see them in a restaurant or sitting in their car, thank them for their service. Pray for their safety and protection and teach your children to have appreciation and respect for all those who serve and protect. In addition, all are welcome to attend the 12th Annual Blue Mass to be held this fall.
What is the Blue Mass and who attends?
FR: The Blue Mass is celebrated by Bishop Paul S. Loverde to honor and pray for law enforcement and public safety officers. All are invited to come and to remember police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel who have fallen in the line of duty and to pray for all public safety officers. This year’s Blue Mass will be held on Saturday, October 3. Stay tuned for more details. All in our diocese, especially police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel, are encouraged to attend.
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