Nearly 20 years after the fall of the Twin Towers, New York Catholics are advocating that Mychal Judge, a Catholic chaplain inside the NY Fire Department, should earn sainthood.
Mychal Judge was an American Franciscan friar who served inside the New York City Department. He initially joined the Franciscan Brothers at age 15, then attended seminary and operated in New Jersey and New York for several years. After being ordained in 1961, Judge worked in several churches, including St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan, where he spent his final years. In 1992 he was appointed chaplain for the Fire Department, where he worked with the men and women serving there. Father Judge was also involved in ministering to those downtrodden in society, including the homeless, people with AIDS, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.
Judge's sexual orientation was a matter kept private among only a few of his closest friends. It would later become revealed in the years after Judge's death that he was gay.
On September 11, 2001, Judge was among many of the first responders heading into the burning World Trade Center to assist and pray for the victims. Upon entering, the 68-year-old priest was crushed by debris and is now considered the first confirmed victim of the World Trade Center.
As the twentieth anniversary of September 11 approaches, many priests have advocated that Judge be sainted after his death. The Rev. James Martin told the Associated Press that "Father Judge's selflessness is a reminder of the sanctity that the church often overlooks in LGBTQ people". Others have begun to form advocacy organizations locally to support the sainthood and gather former firefighters and other people that Judge ministered to get behind the call.
The Rev. Luis Escalante, who handles investigations into possible sainthood cases for the Vatican, says that he has consistently received testimonies regarding Judge over the years. Escalante described Judge as "the best icon" of humanity. However, the Franciscan order which Judged served for the entirety of his life was not willing to advocate for such a campaign.