Father Chaplain Mychal Judge, 68, never shut his door at the Midtown Manhattan Franciscan friary, literally or emotionally. Anybody with the slightest need for the contents inside — be it a warm jacket or his attentive ear — was welcome.
Mychal was appointed a chaplain to the New York City Fire Department in 1992. As chaplain, he offered encouragement and prayers at fires, rescues, and hospitals, and counseled firemen and their families.
Mychal was well known in New York City for ministering to the homeless, the hungry, recovering alcoholics, people with AIDS, the sick, injured, grieving and those alienated by the Church and society. For example, Mychal once gave the winter coat off his back to a homeless woman in the street, later saying, "She needed it more than me."
When a boatload of Chinese refugees were shipwrecked in the Rockaways, Mychal was one of the first there, "handing out blankets and coffee and telling them jokes," said Peter Johnson, Mychal's colleague.
He had "movie-star looks and a tremendous ability to speak and sing," said Peter. "And that was tempered by his absolute consistent devotion to being a priest."
Mychal had no use — none — for physical things, said Steven McDonald, Mychal's friend. Give the father a cashmere sweater, he recalled, and it would wind up being worn by a homeless person. Go to him with a troubled soul and he would listen for as long as it took to comfort them.
On September 11th, 2001, upon learning that the World Trade Center had been hit by the first of two jetliners, Mychal rushed to the site. He was met by Rudolph Giuliani, the Mayor of New York City, who asked him to pray for the city and its victims. He prayed over some bodies lying on the streets, then entered the lobby of the North Tower, where an emergency command post had been organized. Mychal watched in horror from the lobby as people who had jumped from the towers landed on the ground outside.
When the South Tower collapsed, debris rapidly cascaded through the North Tower lobby, killing many inside, including Mychal. At the moment he was killed by flying metal, he was repeatedly praying aloud, "Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!"