AT THE MASS (EMILY BENSON PHOTO)
AT THE MASS (EMILY BENSON PHOTO)
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The 32nd annual memorial Mass for deceased members of the law enforcement community was offered May 8 at St. Mary’s parish in Albany by Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger. Police officers, law enforcement representatives and relatives from across New York State came to honor their fallen colleagues and loved ones.

The Albany Police Department especially felt the absence of Rev. James Lefebvre, who served as their chaplain for 55 years. He passed away March 6 at the age of 83. Father Lefebvre helped to organize the memorial Mass every year.

At the beginning of the Mass, Rev. John Provost, pastor of St. Mary’s, said that “if anything goes wrong today, it’s because Father Lefebvre wasn’t here to tell us.”

“It was a great loss to the Police Department,” said Fred Aliberti, a retired Albany Police sergeant. Sgt. Aliberti took over planning the memorial Mass after Father Lefebvre’s passing, saying that, while it is hard, it’s important that the Mass is offered each year.

At the Mass, Chief Robert Sears of the Albany Police Department read the Roll of Honor — a registry of officers fallen during the line of duty — for New York State and Albany Police. A member of each officer’s family was then invited to place a white rose on the altar in honor of their sacrifice. A memorial wreath was presented by law enforcement and placed at the altar, as well.

“It’s sad to hear the names,” said Albany police officer Keith Johnson. “It’s hard to explain the feeling. It’s humbling. I’ve been in Albany for five years in law enforcement, and every day you never know” what could happen.

The Mass was followed by the unveiling of a sign outside St. Mary’s Church signifying Lodge Street as “Father James Lefebvre Way.” Father Lefebvre’s family helped unveil the sign and said the dedication was “an honor.”

“His number-one family was the police officers,” said Michelle Nicklas, the chaplain’s niece.

Bishop Scharfenberger spoke at the unveiling, saying he had heard “wonderful stories” about Father Lefebvre and that, each time someone came to the chaplain for confession, he would thank them for confessing their sins.

Now, “I would like to say to [Father Lefebvre], thank you,” said the Bishop. “Thank you for letting God love us through you.”

“There are a lot of heavy hearts here today,” said Mark Stella, a retired Colonie police officer. “He was instrumental to the organization,” a friend not just to the Albany Police Department, but to all officers in the Capital Region. Father Lefebvre also served for decades as chaplain for the FBI and the Northeast Chiefs of Police Association.

“It feels a little empty because, if Father Lefebvre were here, he’d be running around, telling cops what to do,” said Kevin Green, a retired Schenectady police officer. “He was considered one of the guys. He cared about every cop out there.”

After the Mass, the law enforcement members proceeded to the New York State Police Officers’ Memorial at Empire State Plaza, where 51 new names were added to the list of those who have died in the line of duty.