Today marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, a day which in so many ways has transformed our world. Those in the Catholic LGBTQ community, and many others, too, remember this day as the day that Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, a gay priest who was the chaplain for the New York City Fire Department, offered his life to minister to victims and first responders at the attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan. Because of his status as a Catholic priest and because his body being carried from the rubble was captured in a photograph which ended up circling the globe, it is safe to say that Fr. Judge is the most well-known of the 2,606 victims that perished at the World Trade Center site.
A documentary film’s title appropriately dubbed Judge The Saint of 9/11. Since his death, his life and ministry became more well-known due to the media’s interest in him. The world learned of his decades in parish and campus ministry, his outreach to people experiencing homelessness, his participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, his pastoral care for the LGBTQ community, his support of New York’s firefighters, and his compassionate service to those with HIV/AIDS. Because both his life and his death were so selfless, it is no wonder that so many people immediately began praying to him as a saint, and his devotion grew across the U.S. and around the globe.
The time has come for the Catholic Church to officially recognize him as a saint by canonizing him. In order to do so, New Ways Ministry is announcing today that it will be seeking individuals and organizations to form an association to do the work and raise the funds to make the canonization happen.
What and who are we seeking? New Ways Ministry would like to find leaders willing to devote time and skills as they come together to support and direct the research needed to have Fr. Judge declared a saint. Let me be clear: for a number of reasons, New Ways Ministry itself will cannot be the organization which does the work and fundraising for the canonization process. The work of such an association is beyond New Ways Ministry’s capacity. Furthermore, Fr. Judge was about so many things other than his gay identity and his ministry to LGBTQ people, so it would not be appropriate for a Catholic LGBTQ group to be the sole sponsor of this project. We are simply seeking individuals and organizations that would like to work in coalition with other like-minded people and groups. We will facilitate such a group coming together, but once it does, the newly-formed group will become the leaders.
Why is New Ways Ministry doing this? A number of reasons have motivated us. In 2017, we were asked by Fr. Luis Escalante, a consultant and researcher for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Cause of Saints, to help him find people who knew Fr. Judge personally. Fr. Escalante wanted to collect their testimony for a sainthood investigation. We did what he asked by publishing a blog post and circulating it widely. Many people responded. Fr. Escalante said that in just this initial phase of research there was enough good material to promote Fr. Judge’s cause.
The problem, however, was that there was no sponsor. Neither the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province nor the Archdiocese of New York (two natural organizations to promote the cause) wanted to sponsor the research. The investigation came to a halt.
Last week, Fr. Escalante contacted New Ways Ministry again to ask if we could help organize an association that would handle the work of promoting Fr. Judge’s sainthood cause. The work of such an association would require many hands, and would most appropriately be done by a coalition of the people and groups whose lives he touched. All who support his cause, whether they knew him personally or not, are welcome to complete a short information form for contact purposes.
If you would like to be part of this effort, please complete our online information form. If you know of someone or some organization that would like to help form the association, please send them this blog post and invite them to submit their names. We seek people from all of Fr. Judge’s ministries; his parish and campus work, his A.A. participation, his outreach to homeless people and those with HIV/AIDS, and, of course, those involved with the N.Y. Fire Department and his other civic activities.
In addition to publishing this blog post, New Ways Ministry will also pro-actively be seeking others connected to Fr. Judge. We ask you, our readers and supporters, to share the news of forming a canonization association with your networks.
On this memorial day, let us ask the intercession of this man who gave so much love to the world: St. Mychal Judge, pray for us!
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 11, 2021
Mychal Judge: ‘Lord, Take Me Where You Want Me to Go’, a biography by New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo, will be published in March 2022. It will be part of Liturgical Press’ “People of God” series which chronicles the lives of 20th and 21st century who have responded to life’s challenges in extraordinary ways. Others in the series include Archbishop Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, Sister Thea Bowman, Father Augustus Tolton, and Martin Sheen.
To pre-order copies of the book, click here. Paperback and Ebook formats are available.
Articles related to canonization of Father Mychal Judge:
Associated Press: Admirers still urging sainthood for chaplain killed on 9/11
Public News Service: Groups Advocate for Sainthood of NY Chaplain Who Died in 9/11 Attacks