Father Mychal F. Judge, OFM was a busy Franciscan priest who dedicated his life to serving God's people. He is known for his work with the homeless, recovering addicts, AIDS patients, and his work as chaplain to the New York City Fire Department.
On September 11, 2001, Father Mychal rushed from the friary at Saint Francis of Assisi Church to the scene of the World Trade Center attacks.
After administering last rites to a firefighter, Father Mychal was hit by debris and killed. He became the first officially recorded fatality following the attack.
During his life, Father Mychal spent much of his time ministering to the homeless on the Breadline at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City. This is one of the many places where he found God - in the hurting, the broken, the suffering, and the poor.
His dedication to homeless men, women and children has become a calling to us that manifests itself as Mychal's Message.
Father Mychal F. Judge, OFM, chaplain to the New York City Fire Department, died Tuesday, September 11, 2001 in a hail of falling debris near the World Trade Center. He became the first officially recorded fatality following the attack. Father Mychal was 68.
Born in Brooklyn, NY on May 11, 1933, Robert Emmett Judge was the son of two Irish immigrants from County Leitrim. As a young boy, he watched his father die after a long illness. To help his mother and two sisters make ends meet, he shined shoes in Manhattan, ran errands and did odd jobs, before being called to his Franciscan vocation at age 16. He then entered St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary, Callicoon, NY, and graduated in 1954 after completing the first two years of college.
He was received into the Franciscan Order on August 12, 1954 and the following year, on August 13, professed his first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as stated in the Rule of Life of St. Francis of Assisi. He professed final vows on August 20, 1958.
He was ordained to the priesthood on February 25, 1961 at the Franciscan Monastery – Mt. St. Sepulchre, Washington, DC. He spent a year of pastoral formation at St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, Mass., before his first assignment 1962-66 as an assistant at St. Joseph’s Church, East Rutherford, NJ. He also served as an assistant at Sacred Heart Church, Rochelle Park, NJ from 1967-69. In 1969 he came to St. Francis of Assisi Church, New York City, as local moderator for the Secular Franciscan fraternities.
In 1970, he returned to St. Joseph’s Church, East Rutherford, NJ, as coordinator of the parochial team ministry of Franciscan friars. After six years, he was appointed in 1976 as assistant to the president at Siena College in Loudonville, NY, serving until 1979. He then became pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in West Milford, NJ. In 1985 he undertook a one-year theological sabbatical at the Franciscan house of studies in Canterbury, England.
Upon returning in the summer of 1986, he was appointed an associate pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church, New York City. At the friary there, finding many “Michaels” on the staff, he decided to change the spelling of his name to Mychal. Only a few days after arriving at St. Francis, he responded to a call to celebrate Mass in the hospital room of New York police officer Steven McDonald, who had been critically wounded during an investigation of a youth in Central Park. Father Mychal and the McDonald family soon became devoted friends. Among their good-will travels, Father Mychal accompanied Detective McDonald on visits to Northern Ireland in 1998, 1999 and 2000 to encourage reconciliation.
In 1992, upon the death of Fr. Julian Deeken, OFM, a Franciscan friar who had served as one of the Catholic chaplains for the New York Fire Department, Father Mychal accepted an invitation to serve temporarily in his place. Fr. Mychal was named chaplain officially in 1994 to serve the boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island.
When TWA Flight 800 exploded shortly after takeoff from New York in July 1996 and fell into the Atlantic off Long Island, Father Mychal helped counsel the families and friends of the victims every day for three weeks and worked to arrange a permanent memorial at the site. He had since returned every summer to offer a memorial service and comfort the families.
Over the years, Father Mychal won the hearts of the firefighters and their families by his charismatic Irish personality and warm Franciscan outreach to them in all their needs – baptisms, weddings, funerals, hospital visits – wherever and whenever he was sought. He was also active in a diverse ministry to various groups throughout the Metropolitan area.
More than 2,800 people attended the Mass of Christian Burial for Father Mychal on Saturday, September 15 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan. Father Mychal was buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Totowa, NJ. He is survived by two sisters, Erin McTernan and Dympna Jessich.
To learn more about the work of the Franciscans:
To learn more about the life, work, and memory of Fr. Mychal:
Greater Love: Chaplain Mychal Judge, O.F.M. From
Father Mychal Judge: Franciscan Hero on 911 by Jack Wintz, O.F.M.
Where He was Needed. Profile on Legacy.com also includes NY Times Profile.
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