A Catholic parish in Syracuse, New York plans to do just that in tribute to the man listed as the first official fatality of the 9/11 attacks, Fr. Mychal Judge.
Like most Americans, Brother Edmund Dwyer was stunned by early coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. As he struggled to grasp the scope of the carnage, scrolling type along the bottom of his television screen announced the death of Rev. Mychal Judge, a legendary New York City fire department chaplain.
For Dwyer, a vast tragedy became painfully real.
“He was a saint,” said Dwyer, 90, a retired Brother of the Christian Schools who resides at Christian Brothers Academy in DeWitt, N.Y. He worked closely with Judge during the 1980s, when both men comforted dying AIDS patients in New York City.
Judge was killed by flying debris at the World Trade Center.
“He always wore his Franciscan robes, and he had a smiling face and a beautiful manner,” Dwyer said, recalling how Judge spent hours with young men who felt abandoned.
As a tribute to his friend, Dwyer is serving on a committee at All Saints Church in Syracuse, which intends to honor Judge with a memorial.
The Rev. Fred Daley, pastor at All Saints, intends to ask local firefighters to attend the dedication. While the memorial will honor those killed on Sept. 11, Daley said the way Judge lived his life carries special meaning for the All Saints congregation.
Judge — like Daley — was a Catholic priest who publicly acknowledged that he was a celibate gay man. In June, after months of discussion, parishioners at All Saints voted 256-3 to offer a statement of welcome to gays, lesbians and transgender men and women. Daley said the vote meshes with his beliefs on what it means to be a Christian.
“More and more, I’ve been called in my spiritual life and in my heart to identify with the powerless and with the broken, and I think some of that comes from my own journey as a gay person,” Daley said.
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are inherently wrong. While a new state law has legalized same-sex marriage in New York, the church does not recognize those ceremonies. Yet officials with the Diocese of Syracuse say embracing gay men and women at a parish does not contradict church teaching.
“Our hope is that all parishes are so welcoming, and it’s certainly in line with who we are as Catholics,” said Danielle Cummings, a diocesan spokeswoman.