By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
When the skies poured rain just as the Rev. John Dinello
sprinkled holy water on the new memorial to three police officers
slain two years ago, he told the crowd that it appeared that "God
has already given his blessing."
Hundreds of people -- including many police officers and
government officials -- packed St. Joseph Catholic Church in
Bloomfield for the Mass and dedication ceremony. Although the
statue of St. Michael the Archangel -- patron of police officers --
appears to stand on church property, the tiny memorial garden is a
separate nonprofit corporation. The land was donated by both the
city and the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Officers Paul J. Sciullo II, Stephen J. Mayhle and Eric G. Kelly
were killed by a gunman in Stanton Heights on April 4, 2009. The
memorial is intended to honor them and all first responders.
Father Dinello spoke of his own profound belief in angels.
Michael is considered the highest of all angels and the protector
of all who serve as guardians on earth, he said.
St. Michael called the three officers "to join his guard in
heaven," Father Dinello said. "Their service to the community will
never die, will never be forgotten and will continue to live on in
the community. ... They watch over us from heaven."
The service included a new hymn, composed in the officers'
honor, and sung to the tune Thaxted, best known as "I Vow to Thee,
My Country." The new lyrics include, "For all who strive here daily
to serve the common good/ For ev'ry first responder in ev'ry
neighborhood/ We pray you, God of heaven, to keep them safe and
true/ that all their ceaseless labors be recognized by you/ Sing
praise to God, you faithful, whose love has drawn us clear/ whose
favor lasts a lifetime, whose grace defeats all fear."
After Mass everyone gathered in front of the church, with the
street blocked off. The Fallen Heroes Memorial depicts a strong but
sorrowful St. Michael, standing atop a pedestal in which
photographs of the three officers are embedded. Behind that image
is a huge police shield bearing the numbers 4/4/09, the date of the
officers' deaths. A rainbow of tulips bloomed in the small garden
James Simon, the sculptor, spoke briefly. "I hope this memorial
celebrates and affirms their lives and brings something beautiful
and positive to this painful memory," he said.
Greg Sciullo, a cousin of Officer Sciullo, spoke on behalf of
all three officers' families. The outpouring of donations and
concern has shown that the officers "have not and will not be
forgotten," he said, through tears.
Officer Sciullo was a member of Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph
Parish. Officers Mayhle and Kelly were Protestant.
The site wasn't chosen for religious reasons but because it is
prominent on the main traffic corridor through that part of
Pittsburgh, Father Dinello said. A makeshift memorial appeared
there immediately after the killings.
"This memorial garden doesn't belong to St. Joseph Church or to
the city. It belongs to the people of the city who were so
instrumental in making it happen," Father Dinello said.
A desperately needed $20,000 came in over the past two weeks,
after city Councilman Bill Peduto made a plea for funds. Many
others contributed earlier. Father Dinello introduced Joe Rodgers,
a freshman at Central Catholic High School, who shoveled sidewalks
all winter and donated all of his earnings to the fund.
The rainstorm had subsided as Michael Huss, Pittsburgh director
of public safety, spoke of the three fallen officers saying, "We
know they are up there and serving us as we speak."
The sun burst out as the Pittsburgh Police Pipes & Drums
struck up "Amazing Grace."