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Judge, Father Mychal (1933-2001)  
 
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Father Mychal Judge devoted his life to the care and service of others, including those marginalized by society. He ministered to AIDS patients and was a chaplain for Dignity, an organization of gay and lesbian Roman Catholics. He was also a chaplain for the Fire Department of New York City and died in the line of duty at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Father Mychal Judge's parents, Michael Judge and Mary Fallon, were both from County Leitrim, Ireland, but only met and fell in love on board the ship that was bringing them to a new life in the United States in the 1920s. They married and settled in Brooklyn, where Mr. Judge ran a neighborhood grocery store.

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Mychal Judge, their second child and only son, was born on May 11, 1933, two days before the arrival of his twin sister, Dympna. Judge was given the name Robert Emmett at baptism. He would adopt a new one upon entering the Franciscan order.

When Judge was only a small child, his father fell gravely ill and was hospitalized for three years. Since children were not allowed as hospital visitors, Judge and his sisters were limited to exchanging waves with their father when he could come to the window of his room.

The senior Judge died when his son was six. Throughout his life, Mychal Judge regretted that he had "never called anyone 'Dad'" or gotten to know his father.

The death of Judge's father left the family in difficult financial straits. Early on, Judge began contributing to their income by running errands, doing odd jobs, and bicycling to Manhattan to set up shoe-shine stands at busy venues like Penn Station, Grand Central Station, and the Flatiron Building.

Judge's shoe-shine stand at Penn Station was near the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, whose leather-sandaled friars were not among his customers but who befriended him. Through this association Judge recognized his religious vocation and his strong attraction to the Franciscan order.

Judge began his studies for the priesthood in 1954 at St. Joseph's Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, New York, where he nearly washed out when "a standard personality test suggested that he was an unsuitable candidate for the priesthood." His guardian in the order managed to prevail over the assessor, and so Judge continued his progress toward ordination.

Upon entering the order, Judge was required to take a new name, signifying his new way of life. He chose Fallon Michael to honor both of his parents. After the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), members of religious orders were allowed to resume their baptismal names, but Judge did not do so, opting to continue to share the name of his father, although later altering the spelling.

Judge studied philosophy at St. Francis College in Rye Beach, New Hampshire from 1955 until 1957, after which he completed a four-year theology program at Holy Name College in Washington, D. C. Father Francis Muller, one of his professors at Holy Name, recalled Judge as a good student but not "brilliant academically. He didn't know canon law by heart like some of them."

Analyzing and imposing all the strictures of the canon was not the priestly role for which Judge was cut out. Recalling his ordination on February 25, 1961, he said, "I knew I would say Mass and preach, that I would baptize, bury the dead, and perform weddings. The rest was all in the hands of God. I could never have dreamt of all the parish years I would enjoy." His mission would be to serve, console, encourage, and sustain everyone who came within the purview of his ministry, and he always made it his business to include as many people as possible, particularly those marginalized by society.

Judge served as a parish priest at St. Joseph's in East Rutherford, New Jersey (1962-1966) and at Sacred Heart in Rochelle Park, New Jersey (1967-1969) before returning to his community at St. Francis Church in Manhattan, where he spent a year as director of the Third Order, an organization of lay Catholics who typically do not take holy orders but commit themselves to following the Franciscan Rule.

Judge subsequently went back to St. Joseph's, where in 1974 he used his interpersonal skills to extraordinary effect. Responding to a hostage situation in which a man held a gun to the head of his wife, who was holding their baby, Judge, encumbered by his long brown habit, worked his way up a ladder to speak to the husband through a second-floor window. His efforts were successful, but, with typical modesty, he downplayed his role in the happy conclusion: "I don't know what happened, but he put the gun down, and the wife's and the baby's lives were saved."

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