The body of Mychal Judge was tagged with the designation “Victim 0001” — the first official casualty of 9/11. In the famous Shannon Stapleton/Reuters photo, he is being carried out of the lobby of the North Tower, where he had been killed by debris from the collapsing South Tower. He was a Catholic priest of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, assigned to the monastery at the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street in Manhattan. He was also a chaplain with the New York Fire Department (NYFD) and one of the first responders to the attack on the twin towers. He was a recovered alcoholic… and he was gay.”
Although some conservative Catholics deny that Fr Judge was gay, insisting that the claim is nothing but a hoax by gay activists, the truth seems clear. A number of people who knew him personally, attest that he had confided to them that he was. He was also a long term supporter of Dignity USA.
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, there were numerous calls within the Catholic Church for his canonisation as a mark of his heroism on the day and a well-known life of service. This was initially supported by Cardinal Edward Egan, New York’s archbishop at the time. However, once it began to be reported that Fr Judge was gay, Cardinal Egan withdrew his support, and the formal push for canonisation stalled. However, less formally there have been many groups who regard him as a de facto popular saint. There have also been some claims of miracles attributed to his intercession – one of the formal requirements for canonisation.
More recently, after Pope Francis added as a criterion for sainthood, the act of saving someone from certain death, there have been renewed calls for a formal process. At Bondings 2.0, Frank DeBenardo writes:
Fr. Judge is lovingly remembered by many as “The Saint of 9/11.” Now is the time to make that title official by working to canonize him in the church.
New Ways Ministry has been in touch with Fr. Luis Fernando Escalante who works with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Fr. Escalante is gathering testimonies that are part of the first step toward canonization. He needs to hear first-person accounts from people who knew Fr. Judge and whose lives were touched by his ministry.
Dignity member and professional filmmaker Brendan Fay produced a documentary about Fr Judge, called simply, “The Saint of 9/11”.