In Remembrance: Father Mychal Judge, Saint of 9/11

From GLAAD: On September 22, 2011, the Fire Museum will honor the 343 firefighters who died on September 11, 2001. Among those honored is Father Mychal Judge, whose helmet and coat, donated by his sister and Engine 1/Ladder 24 on West 31st Street, will be dedicated to the museum. Father Judge was the first official casualty on September 11. He refused to leave the North Tower when it was evacuated because he did not want to abandon the firefighters still trapped in the building.

Father Judge embodied all the most positive aspects of his Catholic faith. He ministered to those people who were often forgotten; in the 1980s, that included young gay men who were sick or dying from AIDS. When Dignity, an organization for LGBT Catholics, needed space for their AIDS ministry, Father Judge opened the doors of St. Francis of Assisi Church.

His actions often put him at odds with the Catholic hierarchy, but he was dedicated to his work and to the Franciscan Order. In response to criticism, he once said, “If I’ve ever done anything to embarrass or hurt the church I love so much, you can burn me at the stake in front of St. Patrick’s.”

Father Mychal Judge was my husband’s priest when Michael was growing up in New Jersey. Michael speaks very fondly of Father Judge and how popular and loved he was in his church. The day Michael learned of Father Judge’s passing was a very sad day for Michael.

This year also sees the tenth annual Walk of Remembrance in honor of Father Judge, which will take place on September fourth. The walk, first started in 2002, is hosted by the Franciscan Order and is expected to attract at least 600 people. It starts at St. Francis of Assisi Church on 31st Street with Rosary and Mass; the route passes fire houses and police precincts, where participants will gather and pray, before ending at Ground Zero.