Alexandria Father Maximilian Kolbe was killed by Nazis on Aug. 14, 1941. While in Auschwitz, another man was chosen at random to be sent to the bunker to be starved to death. As the man protested, pleading to see his wife and children, Kolbe stepped forward and voluntarily took the man’s place. It was an act of self-sacrifice that would eventually lead to his canonization. During the mass celebrating Alexandria’s first responders on that same day, 76 years later at the St. Rita of Cascia Catholic Church in Arlandria, Father Karol Nedza said it was a rather timely connection.
“Your role, it’s not only a job, it’s a calling,” said Nedza. “Today, we pray for the families of those that serve. God bless all those who serve and the families of those who fell in the line of duty.”
The ceremony was attended by a few dozen police officers, firefighters, and deputies from the sheriff’s department.
“In light of everything going on, specifically in Alexandria, it’s good to be in a place where it feels as though peace is with us,” said Sheriff Dana Lawhorne. “It’s a sense of good over evil.”
Police Chief Michael Brown thanked the church, saying it sent a positive message to the local law enforcement community and gave them an opportunity to come together in quiet prayer and reflection.
The ceremony was hosted by the Knights of Columbus St. Rita of Cascia. Robert Szerszynski, state treasurer for the Virginia State Council of the Knights of Columbus, said the Knights of Columbus were honored to host Alexandria’s first responders.
“It’s like Saint Max Kolbe,” Szersynski echoed the message of Nedza, “There are people willing to die in the place of another. They put their lives on the line, so we honor their service.”