A Tribute to Father Mychal Judge

New York's Irish pack a chapel to recall beloved FDNY chaplain, friend Mychal Judge may be happily 'working the door' at St.Peter's Gate, and heaven would be the fuller for it. But for those many lives he touched on earth, there is an aching sense of loss.

By Gerry Regan
WGT Staff Writer

The front page of the program honoring Father Mychal Judge
NEW YORK, Oct. 11 -- It was, literally, an uplifting image, one that drew laughter from many of the hundreds at a memorial service for Franciscan Friar Mychal Judge, slain in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

One of the speakers suggested that "Father Mike," as most of the more than a dozen who spoke called him, may in fact have been "working the door" at heaven in the minutes and hours after his death. In this scenario, Father Judge, holding St. Peter's ear, put in a good word for each of the thousands that sought entry after the terrorists struck.

"He's OK!" "Yea, I know her," "Good man, there," Judge would nudge the celestial bouncer till the horde somehow all entered into paradise. The image drew smiles from those who experienced Judge's legendary ability to affirm others. But these laughs, as heartening as they were, only temporarily assuaged the grief of those many friends he left behind.

The pain of Judge's loss cut across this city's mosaic, on display here in the Irish-style "Month's Mind" service in Good Shepherd Chapel in General Theological Seminary.

Among those offering witness was a recovered alcoholic, a retired city firefighter who turned his life around after a talk with Judge; a woman whose brother died of AIDS, who found Judge the only cleric willing to officiate at a memorial service for him; a woman whose daughter died in the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800, when Judge spent 12 hours a day consoling the families of those killed; a fellow Franciscan; and activist Brendan Fay, the organizer of the Queens St. Patrick's Day Parade. Author and raconteur Malachy McCourt served as master of ceremonies.