Mychal F. Judge

Mychal F. Judge, OFM (May 11, 1933September 11, 2001) was a Roman Catholic priest of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York, and the first official recorded victim of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Early years

Judge was born Robert Emmet Judge in Brooklyn, New York the son of poor Irish Catholic immigrants from county Leitrim. At the age of six, he watched his father die of a slow and painful illness. To compensate for his father's inability to work, Judge shined shoes at New York Penn Station. As he got older, he became an alcoholic. In 1978, with the support of Alcoholics Anonymous, he became sober. He continued to share his personal story of alcoholism to help others facing addiction.

Franciscan Order of Friars Minor

At the age of 15, Judge began the formation process to enter the Franciscan community. Upon entering the Order of Friars Minor, he took the religious name of Michael. (He later changed the spelling to Mychal.) In 1957, he graduated from St. Bonaventure University, the Franciscan university near Olean, New York. In 1961, he was ordained a priest and assigned to service at St. Joseph's RC Church in East Rutherford and Sacred Heart in Rochelle Park, both in New Jersey. He then served as assistant to the president at Siena College in Loudonville, New York. Judge was later named pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Carlstadt, New Jersey before being appointed Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York in 1992.

World Trade Center, September 11, 2001

Upon hearing the news that the World Trade Center had been hit by hijacked jetliners, Judge rushed to the site. He was met by the Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, who asked Judge to pray for the city and its victims. Judge then rushed to those lying on the streets to administer last rites. Judge then entered the lobby of the World Trade Center north tower, where an emergency services command post was organized. The south tower collapsed and debris filled the north tower lobby, killing many inside, including Judge.

American Pietà

Five individuals took Judge outside in their arms. Upon entering the outside courtyard, they propped his body in a chair they found to carry him down the outside steps. It was then that Reuters photographer Shannon Stapleton snapped one of the most famous images of the attack, of a police officer, two firefighters and an OEM responder carrying out their fallen spiritual leader.

Some individuals have heralded the photograph as an "American Pietà", [ [ Philadelphia Weekly] .] in reference to the marble sculpture by Michelangelo of the Blessed Virgin Mary cradling the lifeless body of Jesus.

Mourning and honors

Father Judge's body bag was labeled "Victim 0001," recognized as the first official victim of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Former President Bill Clinton was among the 3,000 people who attended his funeral, held on September 15 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan. It was presided over by Archbishop Edward Egan. Clinton said his death was "a special loss. We should live his life as an example of what has to prevail." Judge was buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Totowa, New Jersey. [cite web | url= | publisher=Holy Name Province of the Franciscan Friars | title=Newspaper Looks at Mychal Judge’s Final Resting Place | date=2007-11-07 | accessdate=2008-04-14 with photos.] He was survived by two sisters, Erin McTernan and Dympna Jessich.

A controversial campaign was begun by several American Catholics for the elevation of Judge to sainthood. [ [ Saint Mychal Judge website] ] [ [ Sainthood call for chaplain rises from Sept.11 ashes] ] His helmet was presented to Pope John Paul II. France awarded him the Légion d'honneur. The U.S. Congress nominated him for a Presidential Medal of Freedom. On July 27, 2002, the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America canonized Judge as St. Mychal the Martyr.cite web| url =
title = St. Mychal Judge| accessdate = 2006-09-22| publisher = St. Mychal the Martyr Parish
] cite web| url =| title = St. Mychal Judge
accessdate = 2006-12-04| publisher = Orthodox-Catholic Church of America

In 2006 a film, "The Saint of 9/11", directed by Glenn Holsten and narrated by Sir Ian McKellen, was released, celebrating Father Judge's life. The film includes testimonies of work colleagues and people who met him at different stages of his life. [ [ Saint of 9/11 (film) homepage] ]

There was a public ceremony memorializing Judge on Tuesday, September 11, 2007 at St. Peter's Church on the 6th anniversary of his death. On this date, a nine foot tall statue of Our Lady of America was enthroned in the church in front of all those in attendance. This image of the Blessed Virgin Mary was escorted to the church by FDNY firefighters.

Black 47 recorded a song titled Mychal in honor of Judge on their album New York Town

A campaign has been started in Carlstadt, New Jersey to have a statue of Judge erected in its Memorial Park. [cite news| title=Sculpted from memories: Statue may be final Judge-ment | first=Jeff last=Fucci | publisher=Leader (New Jersey) | url= | date=2008-03-28 | accessdate=2008-04-14]

In 2005 Alvernia College, a private independent college in the Franciscan tradition in Reading, Pennsylvania, named a new residence hall in honor of Judge. [cite web |url= | title=Alvernia College: Undergraduate Housing | accessdate=2008-04-30 |format= |work= |quote=Judge Hall, our newest residence hall built in 2005, is named in honor of the late Fr. Mychal Judge, a Franciscan priest who died while ministering to injured firefighters at the World Trade Center site on September 11, 2001. ]

The village of Keshcarrigan in County Leitrim Ireland, from where Father Judge’s father emigrated to America in 1926, dedicated a memorial and a peace garden to his memory, on the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.


Following his death a few of his friends and associates revealed that Father Judge was gay — as a matter of orientation rather than practice, as he was a celibate priest.citation |title=Our Heroes |periodical=The Advocate |url= |date=October 23, 2001 |first=Mubarak |last=Dahir |accessdate=2007-10-24 ] According to fire commissioner Thomas Von Essen: "I actually knew about his homosexuality when I was in the Uniformed Firefighters Association. I kept the secret, but then he told me when I became commissioner five years ago. He and I often laughed about it, because we knew how difficult it would have been for the other firefighters to accept it as easily as I had. I just thought he was a phenomenal, warm, sincere man, and the fact that he was gay just had nothing to do with anything." [cite journal|journal=New York Magazine |title=The Firemen's Friar |url= |date=November 12,2001|last=Senior |first=Jennifer|accessdate=2006-09-14]

The revelations about Father Judge's sexual orientation were not without controversy, however. According to Dennis Lynch, a lawyer who wrote an article about Judge that appeared on the website, the priest was not gay and that any attempt to define Judge as gay was due to "homosexual activists" who wanted to "attack the Catholic Church" and turn the priest into "a homosexual icon". [ [ A September 11th Hijacking] ] Others refuted Lynch’s claims. [ [ A Gay Saint in fact] ]

Judge was a long-term member of Dignity [cite news|url= | title=Admirers of Fallen 9/11 Hero Disdain the Vatican's Likely Plan to Bar Gays as Priests | publisher=New York Times| date=2005-09-25 | last=Newman | first=Andy | accessdate=2008-04-17] , a Catholic LGBT activist organization that advocates for change in the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality. [ [ What is Dignity?] ]

Since October 1, 1986, when the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an encyclical, "On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons", [ [ Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons] ] which declared homosexuality to be a "strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil", many bishops, including Cardinal O'Connor, banned Dignity from Catholic properties. At that time, Judge welcomed Dignity's AIDS ministry to the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Although there has been a call within the Roman Catholic Church to have Judge canonized, there is no indication that this process is being seriously considered by the Church hierarchy. [cite news|url= | title=Admirers of Fallen 9/11 Hero Disdain the Vatican's Likely Plan to Bar Gays as Priests | publisher=New York Times| date=2005-09-25 | last=Newman | first=Andy | accessdate=2008-04-17]

Several Christian groups, most notably the Orthodox Catholic Church of America, have already declared him a saint, although none of these are affiliated with or approved by the Vatican or the Orthodox Church. [Cite web | url=|title=Saints of the Orthodox Catholic Church of America]


Further reading


External links

* [ Fire Chaplain Becomes Larger than Life]
* [ The Happiest Man on Earth: Eulogy of Fr. Mychal Judge]

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