Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York City, where 2,977 people lost their lives. Amongst the many heroes was the Brooklyn-born priest, Mychal Judge, who also happened to be the first recorded victim of 9/11.
Judge worked with helping vulnerable people, but also served as chaplain of the New York Fire Department. It was this post that he was performing when he died on the gruesome day while administering last rites in the lobby of the North Tower.
Judge, who was posthumously revealed to be gay, had devoted his life to helping people living with HIV, the homeless and the LGBTQI+ community. Judge’s admirers have urged the church to consider the chaplain for canonisation.
A New Pathway To Sainthood
When Pope Francis in 2017 proclaimed a new pathway to sainthood for those who sacrificed their lives for others, admirers slowly began proposing an initiative for Judge’s canonization due to his bravery and devotion on 9/11 and his history of making a difference for the LGBTQAI+ community.
“Mychal Judge shows us that you can be gay and holy,” said James Martin, a priest who advocates for greater LGBTQAI+ inclusion in the church, to the Daily Mail.
“Father Judge’s selflessness is a reminder of the sanctity that the church often overlooks in LGBTQ people. Heaven is filled with LGBTQ people.”
The final sermon of Leitrim man Fr. Mychal Judge, the first official victim of 9/11.
Recorded on 9/10 pic.twitter.com/3zwfq6tEGX
— We, The Irish Podcast (@wetheirishpod) September 11, 2021
A Legacy Of Kindness & Service
Judge was ordained as a priest in 1961 and in 1986, he became a pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City. Throughout his career, he not only devoted himself to welcoming the LGBTQAI+ community into the Catholic Church but he also worked closely with people living with HIV and AIDS.
“At that time, there was a lot of conflict between the gay community and the Catholic Church”, said Salvatore Sapienza, who worked alongside Judge, to America.
“So our work was challenging in the sense that oftentimes we would walk into a hospital room to visit with someone with AIDS, and we would be asked to leave.”
Judge was also a prominent advocate for the homeless population of New York City. In 1992 he joined the New York Fire Department.
Saint Of 9/11
On September 11, 2001, Judge had rushed to the World Trade Centre after learning that it had been hit by the first of two planes. He prayed over the people dead on the streets and then entered the North Tower lobby, where he continued to pray for the firefighters, first responders, the injured and the dead.
Father Mychal Judge—the first recorded death at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001—is on the pathway to becoming the first openly gay saint in the history of the Catholic Church.
He died as he lived: ministering to the suffering as a firefighter, patriot, priest, and saint. pic.twitter.com/y8fSxnPIVS
— Christopher Hale (@chrisjollyhale) September 11, 2021
When the South Tower collapsed, the North Tower was engulfed in the rubble and debris killing many, including Judge. A famous photograph of Judge’s body carried by four fire fighters and a police-man has become one of the iconic images of the tragedy.
Behind him, he left a legacy that still lives on 20 years after his passing, which could now pave the way to sainthood.