Members of the Padraig Pearse Division #1 annually arise early on New Year’s Day to assist with the celebration of Mass honoring fallen first responders at St. Therese Little Flower Catholic Church in Kansas City. Missouri.
The Mass, led by Fr. Ernie Davis, is the revival of a tradition that had fallen aside. A few years ago Fr. Davis asked two volunteers to clean an old chalice he had found in the church basement. The volunteers discovered an inscription on the chalice — “In loving memory of Dennis Whalen, by his wife Anna Whalen.”
Church members learned that Dennis Whalen was a Kansas City police officer fatally shot on New Year’s Eve 1923 while answering a report of stolen property at an 18th Street pawnshop. The parish oral history relates that Anna Whalen had all of the gold and silver jewelry that her husband had given her over the years of their marriage melted into the chalice, which she donated to the church. Until the 1960’s the pastor at St. Therese who knew the Whalen’s annually offered a Mass in memory of Officer Whalen. Once the story of the chalice was known, Fr. Davis revived the tradition of a Mass expanding the intention to all fallen first responders; complete with a full gospel choir on New Year’s Day.
AOH members serve as escorts to the priest, servers and bag pipers, take up the collection, and provide whatever assistance Fr. Davis’ might need. In 2014 the Pearse Division presented a $500 check to law enforcement officers for a memorial bench to be built in honor of KCMO police officer and AOH member John O’Sullivan killed in the line of duty in 1978.