Fr. Mychal Judge, O.F.M., Chaplain to the NYC Fire Department, priest, Franciscan friar, and brother to Dympna and Erin.
As a boy Mychal traveled frequently to Manhattan from his home in Brooklyn to shine shoes. While there he loved to visit the friars at St. Francis of Assisi Church on 31st Street. He received the brown Franciscan habit while still a teenager. He learned philosophy at St. Francis College in Rye Beach, N.H., earned a bachelor of arts degree at St. Bonaventure University, studied theology at Holy Name College in Washington, D.C., and was ordained a priest in 1961.
In addition to serving in parishes in New Jersey, Fr. Mychal was the Assistant to the President at Siena College from 1976 through 1979.
In 1992, Fr. Mychal became a Chaplain for the Fire Department of New York. As his twin sister Dympna remarked at the time, "your two boyhood dreams are now realized. You are a Catholic priest and a firefighter. Now you have the best of both worlds."
Mychal Judge, O.F.M., the first casualty logged when the World Trade Center towers collapsed has earned "folk hero" status, not for the way he died, rather for the way he lived his life. His service to his city and its people is legendary.
Fr. Mike, as he was known to the homeless and the privileged alike, served with commitment, passion and an unwavering love for all he touched. As a Chaplain for the FDNY, Mychal was a constant source of inspiration, spiritual guidance and personal comfort. While community and civic leaders sought his guidance and comfort, the role he cherished was his work with those marginalized by society. As the AIDS crisis engulfed New York during the early 80's it was Mychal Judge who stepped in. He formed the St. Francis AIDS Ministry. Fr. Mike gave comfort to those dying from the dreaded disease, and understanding to the parents, families and loved ones of those who died.
When TWA flight 800 crashed off the coast of Long Island in July of 1996 Fr. Mychal's efforts to comfort the survivors were described by the fire department as, "The man of peace in the midst of turmoil, the man of faith when all human answers proved futile."
Fr. Michael Duffy, fellow friar and dear friend summed up Fr. Mike's ministry in the World Trade Center disaster this way: " ... and I meditated on the fact of the thousands that had perished in that terrible holocaust. ..Why was Mychal Judge number one? And I think I know the reason. There are between two and three hundred fighter fighters buried there. Mychal Judge could not have ministered to them all here on earth ... he has passed to the other side of death, to greet, instead of sending them ... As he greets them, he is going to say "Welcome, I want you to meet my Father."
Today, with gratitude for Fr. Mychal Judge's life and service among the Siena community, New York City and beyond, for the way he listened to people and learned from them, Siena College is honored to posthumously bestow the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters upon Fr. Mychal Judge, Order of Friars Minor.