By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA – Members of the Philadelphia Police Department received a special delivery on Thursday, Feb. 26.
More than 20,000 cards and letters from Philadelphia Catholic school students were presented to Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey at police headquarters at Eighth and Race Streets, to be distributed to police officers throughout Philadelphia.
Since the spring of 2006, seven Philadelphia police officers have died in the line of duty. All were Catholic.
At the request of Cardinal Justin Rigali, Philadelphia archdiocesan schools paused at 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, to pray for the most recent fatality, Officer John Pawlowski, who died in the line of duty Feb. 13. The Cardinal also asked the students to pray for the Pawlowski family and for the safety of all Philadelphia police officers.
Following the prayers, students wrote letters or created cards to thank the officers for their service to the city and to assure them of their prayers.
Representatives from several of the city’s 67 elementary schools and 11 high schools gathered to watch archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools Mary E. Rochford deliver the special correspondence to Ramsey at the afternoon assembly.
Many of the handmade cards expressed original sentiments: “I am sorry that Philadelphia police officers are getting killed. I would do anything to stop it;” “Thank you for sacrificing your time to protect us even if it is your job;” “You are very brave;” “Without you, Philadelphia would not be safe;” and, “I will keep the Philadelphia Police Department always in my prayers because you try to be good like God.”
The commissioner said he believed the cards and letters would “tremendously” lift the spirits of his officers. “It’s just amazing,” he said of the volume of correspondence.
The significance of students’ card- and letter-writing campaign was underscored as the noontime, non-fatal shooting of another police officer delayed the commissioner’s arrival to the 1 p.m. assembly. Philadelphia Police Detective Albert Ford Jr., 42, a 20-year veteran of the department, was shot while serving a warrant in North Philadelphia. Ford, a husband and father of four, belongs to St. Albert the Great Parish in Huntingdon Valley. [The Montgomery County parish’s boundaries include sectors of Philadelphia.]
In an interview with The Catholic Standard & Times following the assembly, Ramsey acknowledged the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s collaboration with the police department in helping coordinate the officers’ funeral Masses. “The Archdiocese has certainly been very, very good in working with us,” Ramsey said. “I can’t say enough to thank them enough. It’s been a very difficult time for all of us.
“Fortunately, [in] today’s shooting, the officer is going to recover, but this is just not a good situation we’re in right now.”
Dozens of cookies baked by students from John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School in Philadelphia were given to the commissioner and other Philadelphia police personnel at the assembly. The presentation concluded with a prayer for police officers.
“Now is the time when you have to hold on to your faith, whatever that faith might be,” said Ramsey, who is Catholic.
“I think those prayers helped that officer today, and his family,” Ramsey said. “Certainly, they’re helping the families of those officers we lost get through this time, as well as many of the men and women of the department.”
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.