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Judge, Father Mychal (1933-2001)  
 
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In 1976 Judge was appointed as assistant to the President of Siena College in Loudonville, New York, where he chose to live in a student dormitory so that he could be available to provide pastoral care to any student at any hour.

While devoting himself to the care of his flock, Judge was fighting his own demons: in 1978 he joined Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Although his drinking had never prevented him from fulfilling his duties, he felt that it was a part of his life that he needed to get under control.

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He subsequently took an even braver step, attending AA meetings for groups consisting mostly of gay people. Though he remained true to his priestly vow of celibacy, he acknowledged his homosexuality and became a member of a priests' support group for Dignity, an organization of glbtq Roman Catholics.

When the AIDS pandemic struck, Judge put in long hours ministering to patients. His friend Father Michael Duffy recalled his compassion for "a man who was in such advanced illness that no one would go near him because of the stench": "Mychal said to me, 'You know, no one touches this man. He must be so lonely.' So he'd go visit him and hold his hand. He told me that even once he bent over and kissed him on the forehead because he felt so bad that no one would come near him."

Judge's biographer Michael Ford wrote that Judge's "ministry . . . helped many gay people, alienated from the church, reconnect with their faith. Father Mychal was a living symbol of the church as it ought to be."

Some Catholic churches were reluctant to celebrate funeral Masses for people who had died of AIDS, but Judge was always willing to do so at the request of a family or lover. Nor did he limit his service to Catholics; he had cards printed and distributed to inform any and all AIDS patients that he was ready to attend them if called upon.

In keeping with the Franciscan ideal of service to the poor, Judge walked the streets, ministering to the homeless, befriending them, and giving them clothing whenever he received some as a gift because the poor had a greater need for it. It was his custom to carry a wad of dollar bills so that he might offer a bit of help to the people he encountered on his rounds.

The friar who knew homeless people in New York by name also moved in more exalted circles. In 1999 he was among 130 American members of the clergy who attended the annual breakfast prayer meeting at the White House with President Bill Clinton, whom he admired for his social policies.

He returned for a similar event early in the administration of Clinton's successor, George W. Bush. Not a particularly political person, Judge does not seem to have made much public comment on the Bush agenda. His political goal--to the extent that he had one--was to appeal to leaders across the spectrum to seek help and support for the poor and disadvantaged.

Judge's friend writer Malachy McCourt recalled, "He was very mischievous with money. He had a vow of poverty, so he would wonder, 'How can I use this in the most efficient and efficacious manner?' He would get money from very conservative organizations that had the Irish habit of saying: 'Here are a few dollars, Father. Use them as you see fit.' Even the right-wingers liked him, but he would give their money to a gay organization as an anonymous contribution. And they wouldn't know."

Many who met Judge commented upon his gift of offering consolation. This was greatly needed in the summer of 1996, when TWA Flight 800 crashed off Long Island, killing all 230 people aboard. On hearing of the disaster, Judge rushed to the hotel where loved ones of the victims were gathering. Each day for the following couple of weeks he spent long hours there, comforting the bereaved. He also organized an ecumenical service of remembrance for the deceased.

Judge's skills as a comforter were also needed in his work as a chaplain for the Fire Department of New York, a position he took on in 1992.

A beloved figure at Engine 1/Ladder 24, where he was considered "one of the family," he was unstinting in visiting hospitals around the city to console injured firefighters and to provide loving support for their family and friends.

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