Memory of Fallen NY Firefighter Chaplain Mychal Judge, O.F.M.,
CINCINNATI—Father Mychal Judge, O.F.M., will probably not be remembered
as the first officially recorded fatality following the attacks
on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11th.
The person that he was, that of a caring Franciscan priest, mentor,
brother and friend, will solidify his memory in the hearts of
all those he touched in the 68 years that he was alive.
Father Mychal’s extraordinary life, his tireless passion for his
work and his tragic death following the terrorist attacks are
all featured in a December article in St. Anthony Messenger,
entitled “No Greater Love: Chaplain Mychal Judge, O.F.M.” Co-authors
John Zawadzinski and Assistant Editor John Bookser Feister examine
the journey of this remarkable man. The
story can be found here at AmericanCatholic.org.
As the son of poor Irish immigrants, Father Mychal knew early
the gravity of suffering when he watched his father die after
a long illness. That experience served him well when he joined
the Franciscans in 1954. Father Mychal made his final profession
in 1958 and was ordained in 1961. Father Mychal’s unwavering love
for people would be the foundation of his ministry, as well as
his trademark. In the early days of AIDS, when many were too scared
to touch those suffering from the disease, Father Mychal showed
his love by holding their hands and kissing their foreheads. During
a hostage situation in Carlstadt, New Jersey, when a distraught
man held his wife and child at gunpoint, Father Mychal served
as an intermediary and conveyed his patience and emotional support
for the perpetrator. The conflict was resolved without injury.
Becoming a fire chaplain in 1992 was a dream-come-true for Father
Mychal. “I always wanted to be a priest or a fireman; now I’m
both,” he once said. His dedication to New York firefighters would
be tested on the 11th of September. According to Cassian
Miles, O.F.M., communications director for the Holy Name Province,
Father Mychal was anointing a firefighter and a woman who had
fallen on top of him. Father Mychal removed his helmet in prayer
and was fatally struck in the back of the head by falling debris.
It comes as no surprise to those who knew Father Mychal that he
died doing what he loved: helping people. His closest friend,
Father Michael Duffy, O.F.M., remembers him as a man who “treated
everyone like family,” and “above all, was a living example
of Jesus Christ. I’m not sure what I’m going to do without
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