Mychal Judge

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Mychal Judge, OFM
Mychal Judge.jpg
Mychal Judge
Personal details
Birth nameRobert Emmett Judge
Born(1933-05-11)May 11, 1933
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
DiedSeptember 11, 2001(2001-09-11) (aged 68)
World Trade Center, Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
Cause of deathCollapse of the World Trade Center
DenominationRoman Catholic
OccupationChaplain to the New York City Fire Department
EducationSt. Bonaventure University, Holy Name College Seminary
Feast daySeptember 11 (OCCA)
Venerated inOrthodox-Catholic Church of America
Title as SaintSaint Mychal Judge or Saint Mychal the Martyr
CanonizedJuly 27, 2002
by Orthodox-Catholic Church of America[1]
AttributesBrown Robes
ShrinesSt. Mychal the Martyr Parish at 3564 Clays Mill Rd. Lexington, Kentucky
Firefighter career
DepartmentNew York City Fire Department
Service years1992 - 2001

Mychal Fallon Judge, O.F.M. (born Robert Emmett Judge; May 11, 1933 – September 11, 2001), was an American Franciscan friar and Catholic priest who served as a chaplain to the New York City Fire Department. While serving in that capacity he was killed, becoming the first certified fatality of the September 11, 2001, attacks.[2]

Early life[edit]

Mychal Judge was born Robert Emmett Judge on May 11, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of immigrants from County Leitrim, Ireland, and the firstborn of a pair of fraternal twins. His twin sister Dympna was born two days later. Judge was baptized in St. Paul's Church in Brooklyn on June 4. They and their older sister Erin grew up during the Great Depression.[3]

From the ages of three to six, he watched his father suffer and die of mastoiditis, a slow and painful illness of the skull and inner ear. To earn income following his father's death, Judge shined shoes at New York Penn Station and would visit St. Francis of Assisi Church, located across the street. Seeing the Franciscan friars there, he later said, "I realized that I didn't care for material things. ...I knew then that I wanted to be a friar."[4]


After spending his freshman year at the St. Francis Preparatory School in Brooklyn, where he studied under the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, in 1948, at the age of 15, Judge began the formation process to enter the Order of Friars Minor. He transferred to St. Joseph's Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, New York, the minor seminary of the Holy Name province of the Order. After graduation, he enrolled at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, New York. In 1954 he was admitted to the novitiate of the Province in Paterson, New Jersey. After completing that year of formation, he received the religious habit and professed his first vows as a member of the Order.[5] At that time, he was given the religious name of Fallon Michael. He later dropped 'Fallon' and changed 'Michael' to Mychal.[6] According to Queer There and Everywhere by Sarah Prager, Mychal changed his name to "differentiate himself from all the other 'Father Michaels.'"[7] He resumed his college studies at St. Bonaventure University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1957.[8] He professed his solemn vows as a full member of the Order in 1958.[5] Following this, he did his theological studies at Holy Name College Seminary in Washington, D.C. Upon completing these studies in 1961, he was ordained a priest.[9]

After his ordination, Judge was assigned to the Shrine of St. Anthony in Boston, Massachusetts. Following his assignment there, he served in various parishes served by the Franciscans: St. Joseph Parish in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Sacred Heart Parish in Rochelle Park, New Jersey, Holy Cross Parish in the Bronx and St. Joseph Parish in West Milford, New Jersey. For three years he served as assistant to the President of Siena College, operated by the Franciscans in Loudonville, New York. In 1986 he was assigned to St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan, where he had first come to know the friars. He lived and worked there until his death.[10]

Around 1971, Judge developed alcoholism, although he never showed obvious signs. In 1978, with the support of Alcoholics Anonymous, he became sober and continued to share his personal story of alcoholism to help others facing addiction.[11]

In 1992, Judge was appointed a chaplain to the New York City Fire Department. As chaplain, he offered encouragement and prayers at fires, rescues, and hospitals, and counseled firemen and their families, often working 16-hour days. "His whole ministry was about love. Mychal loved the fire department and they loved him."[12] Judge was a member of AFSCME Local 299 (District Council 37).[13]

Judge was also well known in the city for ministering to the homeless, the hungry, recovering alcoholics, people with AIDS, the sick, injured, and grieving, immigrants, gays and lesbians, and those alienated by society.[14] Judge once gave the winter coat off his back to a homeless woman in the street, later saying, "She needed it more than me." When he anointed a man who was dying of AIDS, the man asked him, "Do you think God hates me?" Judge picked him up, kissed him, and silently rocked him in his arms.[15] Judge worked with St. Clare's Hospital, which opened the city's first AIDS ward, in order to start an active AIDS ministry. He visited hospitals and AIDS patients and their families, presided over many funerals, and counseled other prominent gay Catholics like Brendan Fay and John McNeill. Judge continued to be an advocate for gay rights throughout the rest of his life, marching in pride parades and attending other gay events.[16]

Even before his death, many considered Judge to be a living saint for his extraordinary works of charity and his deep spirituality. While praying, he would sometimes "become so lost in God, as if lost in a trance, that he'd be shocked to find several hours had passed."[17] Judge's spiritual director, the late Jesuit John J. McNeill, observed that Judge achieved an "extraordinary degree of union with the divine. We knew we were dealing with someone directly in line with God."[18]

September 11 attacks[edit]

MAY 11, 1933 - SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
Take me where you want me to go,
Let me meet who you want me to meet,
Tell me what you want me to say and
Keep me out of your way.

On September 11, 2001, upon learning that the World Trade Center had been hit by the first of two jetliners, Judge rushed to the site. He was met by Rudolph Giuliani, the Mayor of New York City, who asked him to pray for the city and its victims. Judge prayed over bodies lying on the streets, then entered the lobby of the World Trade Center North Tower, where an emergency command post had been organized. There he continued offering aid and prayers for the rescuers, the injured, and the dead.

When the neighboring South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m., debris went flying through the North Tower lobby, killing many inside, including Judge. At the moment he was struck in the head and killed, Judge was repeatedly praying aloud, "Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!", according to Judge's biographer and New York Daily News columnist Michael Daly.[19][20]

Shortly after his death, Judge's body was found and carried out of the North Tower by four firefighters and a policeman shortly before it collapsed at 10:28 a.m. This act was photographed by Reuters photographer Shannon Stapleton, and became one of the most famous photographs taken during the attacks. This event was captured in the documentary film 9/11, shot by Jules and Gedeon Naudet. Shannon Stapleton, a photographer from Reuters, photographed Judge's body being carried out of the rubble by the five men. It became one of the most famous images related to 9/11. The Philadelphia Weekly reported that the photograph is "considered an American Pietà."[21] Judge's body was placed before the altar of St. Peter's Catholic Church before being taken to the medical examiner.[22]

Judge was designated as "Victim 0001" and thereby recognized as the first official victim of the attacks. Although others had been killed before him, including the crews, passengers, and hijackers of the first three planes, and occupants of the towers and the Pentagon, Judge was the first certified fatality because he was the first body to be recovered and taken to the medical examiner.[23]

Judge's body was formally identified by NYPD Detective Steven McDonald, a long-time friend. The New York Medical Examiner found that Judge died of "blunt force trauma to the head".[23]

Personal life[edit]

Following his death, a few of Judge's friends and associates revealed that Judge was gay.[24] According to Fire Department 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 firemen 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."[25]

Judge developed a romantic relationship with a Filipino nurse named Al Alvarado in the last year of his life, which Judge documented in his diaries. The two often did not see each other for months because of Judge's work as a firefighter.[26]

The revelations about his sexual orientation were not without controversy. Dennis Lynch, a lawyer, wrote an article about Judge that appeared on the website Lynch said that Judge was not gay and that any attempt to define him as gay was due to "homosexual activists" who wanted to "attack the Catholic Church" and turn the priest into a "homosexual icon".[27] Others refuted Lynch with evidence that Judge did in fact identify himself as gay, both to others and in his personal journals.[28]

Judge was a long-term member of Dignity, a Catholic LGBT activist organization that advocates for change in the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality.[29][30] On October 1, 1986, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an encyclical, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,[31] which declared homosexuality to be a "strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil". In response, many bishops, including John Cardinal O'Connor, banned Dignity from diocesan churches under their control. Judge then welcomed Dignity's AIDS ministry to the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, which is under the control of the Franciscan friars, thereby partially circumventing the cardinal's ban of Dignity.[32]

Judge disagreed with official Roman Catholic teaching regarding homosexuality.[33] Judge often asked, "Is there so much love in the world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love?"[34]


The FDNY Memorial to Judge at Engine 1, Ladder 24 in Manhattan
Judge's name is located on Panel S-18 of the National September 11 Memorial's South Pool, along with those of other first responders.

On September 15, 2001, 3,000 people attended Judge's funeral Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church, which was presided over by Cardinal Edward Egan, the Archbishop of New York. Former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton also attended. President Clinton said that Judge's death was a "special loss. We should lift his life up as an example of what has to prevail. We have to be more like Father Mike than the people who killed him."[35]

Judge was buried in the friars' plot at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Totowa, New Jersey.[36] On October 11, 2001, Brendan Fay organized a "Month's Mind Memorial" in Good Shepherd Chapel, General Theological Seminary, New York. It was an evening of prayer, stories, traditional Irish music, and personal testimonials about Judge.

Three people in the Roman Catholic Church called for the canonization of Judge.[37][29] The Orthodox-Catholic Church of America declared him a saint.[38][39] Two people say they experienced miraculous healings through prayers to Judge. Evidence of miracles is required for canonization in the Catholic Church.[40]

Judge's fire helmet was presented to Pope John Paul II. France awarded him the Légion d'honneur. Some members of the United States Congress nominated him for the Congressional Gold Medal,[41] as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2002, the City of New York renamed the portion of West 31st Street on which the friary where he lived is located as "Father Mychal F. Judge Street", and christened a commuter ferry the Father Mychal Judge in his honor in 2002.[42]

In 2002, the United States Congress passed The Mychal Judge Police and Fire Chaplains Public Safety Officers Benefit Act into law.[43] The law extended federal death benefits to chaplains of police and fire departments, and also marked the first time[44] the federal government extended equal benefits for same-sex couples by allowing the domestic partners of public safety officers killed in the line of duty to collect a federal death benefit. This act was signed into law on June 24, 2002, but would be retroactive only to September 11, 2001.

The New York Press Club instituted The Rev. Mychal Judge Heart of New York Award, which is presented annually for the news story or series that is most complimentary of New York City.[45]

A campaign has been started in East Rutherford, New Jersey, to have a statue of Judge erected in its Memorial Park.[46]

Alvernia University, a private independent college in the Franciscan tradition in Reading, Pennsylvania, named a new residence hall in honor of Judge.[47]

The Father Mychal Judge Memorial in the village of Keshcarrigan, County Leitrim, Ireland, was dedicated in 2005, on donated land which had belonged to Judge's ancestors. People from the village and surrounding area celebrate his life every year on the 9/11 anniversary.[48][49]

In 2006 a documentary film, Saint of 9/11, directed by Glenn Holsten, co-produced by Brendan Fay and narrated by Sir Ian McKellen, was released.

Larry Kirwan, leader of the Irish-American band Black 47, wrote a tribute song entitled "Mychal" in honor of Judge that appeared in the band's 2004 album New York Town.[50]

The Father Mychal Judge Walk of Remembrance takes place every year in New York on the Sunday before the 9/11 anniversary. It begins with a Mass at St. Francis Church on West 31st Street, then proceeds to the site of Ground Zero, retracing Judge's final journey and praying along the way.[51] Every September 11, there is a Mass in memory of Judge in Boston, attended by many who lost family members on 9/11.[52]

At the National 9/11 Memorial, Judge is memorialized at the South Pool, on Panel S-18, where other first responders are located.[53]

In 2014 Judge was inducted into the Legacy Walk, an outdoor public display which celebrates LGBT history and people.[54][55]

In 2015 a statue was dedicated to Judge at St. Joseph's Park in East Rutherford, New Jersey, across the street from St. Joseph's Parish where he served for several years.

In recognition of his heroic actions and his commitment to the dignity of LGBTQ people, Judge was posthumously awarded the Dooley Award by GALA-ND/SMC, an alumni organization of the University of Notre Dame, a prominent American Catholic university.[56]

In September 2021, Judge was nominated for sainthood in the Catholic Church.[57]


  1. ^ "Fr. Mychal Judge, O.F.M Was Declared a Saint of the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America on July 27, 2002". The Orthodox Catholic Church of America. Archived from the original on June 29, 2010. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  2. ^ Hagerty, Barbara Bradley. "Memories Of Sept. 11's First Recorded Casualty Endure". NPR. NPR. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  3. ^ Ford (2002), p. 44
  4. ^ Daly (2008), pp. 7–19
  5. ^ a b "Deceased Friars: Mychal F. Judge, O.F.M." Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11.
  6. ^ Daly (2008), pp. 30, 31, 46, 81
  7. ^ Prager, Sarah (2017). Queer there and Everywhere. New York City: Harper Collins. pp. 196–203. ISBN 978-0-06-247431-5.
  8. ^ "St. Bonaventure honors victims of 9/11 at prayer service, Mass". St. Bonaventure University. September 9, 2011. Retrieved September 11, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Daly (2008), pp. 23–33
  10. ^ Daly (2008), pp. 37–77
  11. ^ Daly (2008), p. 62
  12. ^ Epps, David (September 2, 2011). "The first victim of 9/11". The Citizen. Archived from the original on July 25, 2021. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  13. ^ "PEP, October 2018: Local 299 rewards top scholars". District Council 37. Retrieved 2020-07-25.
  14. ^ Ford (2002), pp. 107–139
  15. ^ Holsten, Glenn (Director). Saint of 9/11 (2006), Virgil Films & Entertainment.
  16. ^ "Profile: Mychal Judge: Profile". LGBT Religious Archives Network (LGBT-RAN). October 2011. Archived from the original on April 23, 2018. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
  17. ^ Daly (2008), p. 320
  18. ^ Ford (2002), pp. 114–115
  19. ^ (dead link) Archived 2010-11-24 at the Wayback Machine. Daily News (New York). February 11, 2002. "Judge stood alone at a plate glass window overlooking the carnage and devastation. A fire department photographer heard him praying aloud, Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!
  20. ^ Daly (2008), p. 336
  21. ^ Prigge, Matt (May 3, 2006). "Upward Christian Soldier". Philadelphia Weekly.
  22. ^ Daly (2008), p. 343
  23. ^ a b Daly (2008), p. 347
  24. ^ Cassels, Peter (2001-09-27). "Tributes keep flowing for NYC Fire Dept. chaplain Mychal Judge, one of those who died in the World Trade Center attacks". Bay Windows. Archived from the original on 2004-04-26. Retrieved 2004-04-16.
  25. ^ Senior, Jennifer (November 12, 2001). "The Firemen's Friar". New York Magazine. Archived from the original on March 26, 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-14.
  26. ^ Dwyer, Jim (2008-09-09). "Missions of Hate and Love, With 9/11 at the Center". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-22.
  27. ^ Lynch, Dennis (June 26, 2002). "A September 11th Hijacking" Archived 2005-05-05 at the Wayback Machine. Catholic Online.
  28. ^ Daly (2008), pp. 86, 301–302
  29. ^ a b Newman, Andy (2005-09-25). "Admirers of Fallen 9/11 Hero Disdain the Vatican's Likely Plan to Bar Gays as Priests". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-17.
  30. ^ "What is Dignity?" Archived 2007-04-04 at the Wayback Machine DignityUSA.
  31. ^ "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons" Archived 2006-10-07 at the Wayback Machine. DignityUSA.
  32. ^ Ford (2002), pp. 119–120
  33. ^ Ford (2002), p. 182
  34. ^ Ford (2002), p. 124
  35. ^ Glenn Holsten (director). Saint of 9/11. Equality Forum. 2006.
  36. ^ "Newspaper Looks at Mychal Judge's Final Resting Place". Holy Name Province of the Franciscan Friars. 2007-11-07. Archived from the original on 2007-11-09. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  37. ^ Shane, Larry (December 25, 2002). "Sainthood call for chaplain rises from Sept.11 ashes". The Seattle Times.
  38. ^ "Fr. Mychal Judge, O.F.M Was Declared a Saint of the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America on July 27, 2002". The Orthodox Catholic Church of America. Archived from the original on June 29, 2010. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  39. ^ "St. Mychal Judge". St. Mychal the Martyr Parish. Archived from the original on 2006-08-10. Retrieved 2006-09-22.
  40. ^ Charisse, Jones (June 19, 2003). "The Making of Saint Mychal". USA Today.
  41. ^ Thomas, Jocelyn (September 15, 2010). "HNP Today newsletter" Archived 2010-12-19 at the Wayback Machine. Vol. 44, No. 19. Franciscan Friars: Holy Name Province.
  42. ^ McQuillan, Alice (February 21, 2002). "Ferry Named For FDNY Priest". New York Daily News. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  43. ^ Bumiller, Elisabeth (June 27, 2002). "Washington Memo; The Most Unusual Story Behind a Gay Rights Victory". The New York Times.
  44. ^ Same-sex Marriage in the United States: Focus on the Facts ISBN 978-0-739-10882-6 p. 107
  45. ^ "The New York Press Club Journalism Awards" Archived 2011-09-06 at the Wayback Machine. New York Press Club. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  46. ^ Fucci, Jeff (2008-03-28). "Sculpted from memories: Statue may be final Judge-ment". Leader (New Jersey). Retrieved 2008-04-14.[permanent dead link]
  47. ^ "Alvernia College: Undergraduate Housing". Archived from the original on March 29, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 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.
  48. ^ TeVogt, Jim. (April 19, 2007). "H0307: Fr. Mychal Judge Memorial Near Keshcarrigan" Archived 2011-10-08 at the Wayback Machine. Geograph Britain and Ireland. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  49. ^ "Keshcarrigan Peace Garden to honour memory of 9/11 priest" Archived 2011-09-29 at the Wayback Machine. Leitrim Observer. August 31, 2005.
  50. ^ Kirwan, Larry. "Black 47 Album Stories". The Reel Book. Archived from the original on 10 July 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  51. ^ Johnson, Nicole (September 11, 2006). "FDNY Chaplain Honored At Annual Remembrance Walk"[permanent dead link]. NY1.
  52. ^ McGonegal, Joe (September 16, 2008). "Seven years of healing" Archived 2009-03-01 at the Wayback Machine. Wicked Local.
  53. ^ "South Pool: Panel N-6 - Mychal F. Judge". National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Archived from the original on July 27, 2013. Retrieved October 29, 2011.
  54. ^ "Legacy Walk honors LGBT 'guardian angels'". 11 October 2014.
  55. ^ "PHOTOS: 7 LGBT Heroes Honored With Plaques in Chicago's Legacy Walk".
  56. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-11-26. Retrieved 2016-12-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  57. ^ Kelly, Mike (September 10, 2021). "9/11's first casualty Mychal Judge is a legend — can he be a saint?". Archived from the original on September 10, 2021. Retrieved September 13, 2021.


Further reading[edit]

  • Lynch, Kelly Ann (2007). He Said Yes: The Story of Father Mychal Judge. Paulist Press (illustrated children's book). ISBN 978-0-8091-6740-1.
  • Sapienza, Salvatore (2011). Mychal's Prayer: Praying with Father Mychal Judge. Tregatti Press. ISBN 978-0-615-47331-4.

External links[edit]