By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
PHILADELPHIA – Police Officer John Pawlowski, 25, killed in the line of duty Feb. 13, was memorialized at his home parish, St. Anselm on Dunks Ferry Road, on the evening of Feb. 16. His funeral Mass, celebrated by Cardinal Rigali, is scheduled to be held at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul Feb. 20. That Mass will include all of the honors and dignity Church and City can bestow on a fallen hero.
This was a Mass for family, friends and people who shared community with Pawlowski, who was shot to death near Broad Street and Olney Avenue, reportedly by a career criminal. These were the people who knew the slain officer, went to school with him and knew his family. Every seat was filled a half hour before the appointed hour. With a throng well over a thousand, many simply crowded around the doors outside, coming inside only to receive the Eucharist.
They came to comfort his wife, Kimberly, five months pregnant with their first child and looking too young to be a mother, let alone a widow. Also his grandmother, Stella Pawlowski, who might have supposed her grandson would help bury her, not she him. They came too, to comfort his father, John Pawlowski; his brothers, Robert, Christopher and Vincent; and sister, Lauren and the extended family.
“This is obviously a difficult and trying time for our families,” Robert Pawlowski, himself a police corporal, said in a brief statement after the Mass. “We all ask for your good thoughts, your prayers for Johnny, for Kimmy and for their future child.”
Officer Pawlowski was surrounded by prayer at Einstein Hospital after the shooting on Friday. Eight priests were with him, as was Cardinal Justin Rigali; Jesuit Father Philip Florio anointed the dying officer. While he was at the hospital, Cardinal Rigali blessed Officer Pawlowski’s unborn baby.
The family’s pastor, Father Thomas Dunleavy, was the principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass at St. Anselm and preached on the Gospel story of Jesus healing the leper.
“The power at work in Jesus that heals and restores and makes all things well is a power that God enables to be at work in people,” he said.
“That power was at work in Officer Pawlowski’s parents, John and Renee. The way that they raised their son, the values that they fostered within him, the constancy of their efforts to reach out to him: to touch him, to nudge him, to push him in the right direction. In these ways and more the power of God to heal, to restore and to make all things well was at work in Officer Pawlowski’s parents enabling Officer Pawlowski to become the principled man he was,” said Father Dunleavy.
The life of Jesus inspires each of us as citizens and or police officers, “to make all things well in the lives of those that we touch,” he said.
In the prayer petitions at the Mass there was a virtual litany of guardian angels for all of the Philadelphia Police Department members who’ve lost their lives in the past several years – Officers Gary Skerski, Walter Barclay, Charles Cassidy and Isabel Nazario; Sergeants Stephen Liczbinski, Patrick McDonald and Timothy Simpson.
Present for the Mass were many fellow officers, including Commissioner Charles Ramsey and also Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
“He was so young, with a wife and a child on the way, his life had not yet really started,” said Nutter, who noted this was the fifth officer killed during his brief tenure as mayor. “It’s just very painful, we are all very sorrowful and we are praying for him and for Kim and their child, for her parents and the entire family. We need people to pray for that and for more peace and responsible behavior in the community.”
But of course, most of those who attended the Mass at St. Anselm were simply neighbors.
“I thought this was the least we could do,” said Andrea Mullen. “It was important to come. His family has suffered so much, they lost their mother when they were young and she left five children. We are here in solidarity with the family.”
After the funeral Mass on Friday at the Cathedral, the fallen officer will be interred at Resurrection Cemetery, Bensalem.
Cardinal Rigali will be visiting the 35th precinct on Thursday, Feb. 19, at 8:15 a.m. Officers Pawlowski and Cassidy were both stationed at the 35th precinct.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.
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