Cerith Gardiner – published on 07/16/22
It seems the much-loved Oblate Father Steven Wetzel is continuing to minister to his officers after his death.
During the recent July Fourth fireworks, a gunfight took place on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. Bullets hit two law enforcement agents, but thankfully they didn’t sustain any serious injuries. This in part was due to the Mass card that one of the officers, a 36-year-old from Philadelphia, had placed in his hat.
The Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw shared in a news conference that it was nothing short of “miraculous” that the police officer survived the shooting.
In fact, the officer had taped inside his hat the funeral Mass card of the beloved police chaplain, Oblate Father Steven Wetzel, who died a few weeks before the incident at the age of 64 after a brief illness. When the bullet pierced Outlaw’s hat, it literally stopped before doing any further damage.
While ministering to the law enforcement agents in Philadelphia, Oblate Father Steven Wetzel turned to the patron saint of police officers — St. Michael the Archangel — and founded the Michael the Archangel Ministry at the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 5, offering pastoral care, crisis ministry and spiritual enrichment opportunities to 14,000 police officers, both active and retired, and their families, according to Catholic Philly.com.
During his time supporting the police, Fr. Wetzel would often go out with officers during their last shifts, offering much-needed support in crisis situations. Sgt. Michael Cerruti, who co-founded the Michael the Archangel Ministry, believes that Fr. Wetzel was continuing to care for his officers from afar:
“There is no doubt in my mind that Father Steve saved that officer’s life,” he explained, while also adding that he also keeps Fr. Wetzel’s Mass card with him at all times, as do many other officers.
Interestingly, the place in the hat where the wounded officer kept his Mass card is a place often reserved for family members. As Sgt. Cerruti shared with Catholic Philly:
“That part of the hat is usually left for pictures of family. The tradition is to keep the person who means the most to you, closest to you. Every time you see a police officer in a non-emergency situation, the officer always has the hat on, connected to the closest people.”
After the recent shooting incident, the Philadelphia police will print 10,000 more Mass cards and have them laminated and distributed to officers for them to feel Fr. Wetzel’s presence and protection when it’s needed most.