By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – In recognition of his extraordinary commitment and dedication to serving others and the community, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey has been named the 2009 recipient of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul’s Keys & Sword Award.

“To be recognized this way by the Church is really something that means a lot to me,” Ramsey said. “Not only is it a very prestigious award, but it means a lot to me because I am a Catholic.”

Ramsey and his wife Sylvia regularly attend Mass at the Cathedral.

The Keys & Sword Award is taken from the symbols of the patron saints of the Cathedral – Peter and Paul – and acknowledges one whose actions reflect the Gospel values of faith, selfless service, personal sacrifice, respect and valor.

Following the 11 a.m. Mass Sunday, June 28, at the Cathedral, Ramsey will receive the award at a luncheon at the Sheraton City Center Hotel at 17th and Race Streets in Philadelphia.

Bishop-designate of Saginaw, Mich., Joseph R. Cistone will serve as principal celebrant at the Mass.

Ramsey – who served as chief of police in Washington, D.C., from April 1998 until his brief retirement in December 2006 – began his career in 1968 as an 18-year-old Chicago police cadet.

Ramsey, now 59, leads the country’s fourth largest police department.

A crime emergency was declared by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on Jan. 7, 2008 – Ramsey’s first day as police commissioner here.

Throughout the past year, five Philadelphia police officers have died in the line of duty. All were Catholic.

“Having the level of faith that I do have has really helped me come through this,” said Ramsey.

The commissioner also acknowledged the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s collaboration with the police department in helping coordinate the officers’ funeral Masses at the Cathedral.

“To have the Cardinal celebrate Mass personally and make himself available says a lot about the feeling that the Archdiocese has toward the men and women in our department,” said the commissioner.

Acknowledging the pain of burying young officers who have died in the prime of their lives, Ramsey said that without his faith, it would be almost impossible to deal with the grief and the impact on the officers’ families and colleagues.

“You have to pray,” he said.

He also acknowledged the valor of the fallen officers. “Sacrifice is sometimes necessary in order for us to have a better society, a better world,” Ramsey said.

Msgr. Michael T. McCulken, the Cathedral rector, described the commissioner as a man of great compassion, care and outreach.

Since his appointment as Cathedral rector in 2006, Msgr. McCulken has delivered the invocation and benediction at the majority of the plaque blessing ceremonies of the city’s fallen police officers and firefighters.

“Monsignor McCulken has really become a friend,” Commissioner Ramsey said. “Anything we ask him to do, he’s right there.”

Proceeds from the event will be placed in the “Keys & Sword Fund” which was established in 2008 to foster the Cathedral’s sacred music and visitors programs and to strengthen understanding of the artistic and historical significance of the Cathedral to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the city of Philadelphia.

“The Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Archdiocese,” Msgr. McCulken said. “It has a special place in the lives of Catholics, but also in the lives of non-Catholics,” he said, in that it is a place of worship but also a place of historical significance in the city.

The fact that he is the second recipient of the award is “an honor in and of itself,” Ramsey said.

The inaugural honoree was Msgr. James J. Howard, pastor emeritus of the Cathedral. He served as rector for 27 years, from 1973 to 2000, the longest tenure of any rector in the Cathedral’s history.

Tickets to the Keys & Sword Award ceremony are available to the general public. Those who attend will have the opportunity to personally acknowledge and affirm the commissioner through the values the award honors, said Msgr. McCulken.

For more information or to reserve tickets, visit the Cathedral web site or call (215) 587-4511.

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or