Movement to Canonize Fr. Mychal Judge Takes Off, But More Help Is Needed

A little over two weeks ago, New Ways Ministry put out a call to start the canonization process for Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, the New York City Fire Department chaplain who died while ministering in the World Trade Center on 9/11, and who also was a dear friend to many LGBT Catholics and others who struggled with the church and life’s challenges.

So far the response has been very positive.  Twenty-six people who knew Fr. Judge personally have contacted New Ways Ministry, and we have forwarded their contact information to the priest who is a postulator for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican.

We still need your help though to spread the word.  Instructions below let you know how you can assist this cause.

Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM

Our initial announcement spread over the internet with at least 1500 people sharing our blog post link on Facebook.  Two newspaper articles have appeared on two sides of the U.S. continent, one a general audience newspaper and one a gay publication.

New Jersey’s Bergen Record reported on a shrine to Fr. Judge that was built across from the East Rutherford parish where he served.  The leader of the movement to build the shrine was Reverend Donald Pitches, pastor of First Presbyterian Church,, Carlstadt, who said of Fr. Judge:

“I was always a great admirer of Fr. Mychal Judge’s ministries. If they can make him a saint, why not? I recognize the feelings, if not outright opposition, from some people. Some say he never did anything more than any other friar was expected to do. I still think he’s worth this recognition. I’m not fully cognizant of the process for canonization, but others are recognized maybe for less. Mychal Judge was known for his selfless sacrifice and service.”

New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo told the Record that Fr. Judge had many dimensions to his pastoral outreach:

“He’s revered by many as a saint, especially in the LBGT community. I thought we should start a movement to get him canonized. One [label] doesn’t cancel out another. He’s the saint of 9/11 but he’s also helped the gay community, homeless people, those with addictions. There were many facets of his ministry.”

The Record  also produced a short slide show about the canonization process which you can view by clicking here.

On the other side of the U.S.A, The Bay Area Reporter, San Francisco’s LGBT newspaper, wrote about the canonization movement, and spoke with Salvatore Sapienza, who worked with Fr. Judge in an HIV/AIDS ministry in New York City.  Sapienz remembered:

“The Catholic Church was not responding to the crisis at all, and many people in the gay community saw the Catholic Church as the enemy. . . .Nobody in the church was really doing anything until Mychal had the idea to start something.”

Sapienza also remembered Fr. Judge’s personal qualities:

” ‘He really was a saintly figure in so many ways. Unfortunately, we think of saints as being people who were pious holy rollers, and Mychal was a very real person. He was the New York City fire chaplain, so he was hanging out with these blue-collar firefighters from the boroughs, and he could laugh with them and tell jokes with them.’

“Sapienza added that Judge ‘saw the light in everybody. He saw the goodness in all people and met them where they were.’ “

 

Here is what you can do:

  1. Share this blog post (or simply the request for information about Fr. Judge) with your social media, email, and personal contacts.  Ask them to share this information with others by the same means.  We need this to go viral to find people who knew Fr. Judge, who feel they have experienced his intercession in a possible miracle, or simply want to support and help the preliminaries of his Cause.   Even if you have already shared the previous post, please continue to do so.  The request for personal testimony is available in Spanish by clicking here and in Italian by clicking here.
  2. Refer anyone who has first-hand information about Fr. Judge to contact New Ways Ministry by email (info@NewWaysMinistry.org), phone (301-277-5674), or postal mail (4012 29th Street, Mount Rainier, Maryland 20712).
  3. Persons who have testimony about Fr. Judge need only make an initial contact.  They do not need to explain the nature of their interaction or experience with him in the initial contact.   Follow-up material will be sent to them to elicit the type of information that is needed.
  4. Ask other organizations to which you belong who also might know people who encountered Fr. Judge to share this information.
  5. Pray for the canonization of Fr. Judge.

Thank you for your support in sharing this information to help canonize this holy and courageous friar!

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 2, 2017

For more information on the life of Fr. Mychal Judge, click here.

To read Bondings 2.0 blog posts that mention Fr. Mychal Judge, click here.

To view a website dedicated to canonizing Fr. Mychal Judge, click here.

It’s Time to Canonize Fr. Mychal Judge: Seeking Personal Testimony

(Para leer in español, clique aquí.

(Per leggere questo in italiano, clicca qui.)

The time has come to begin the initial research to make Franciscan Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, a canonized saint in the Catholic Church.  And we need the help of people like you to spread the word about such a possibility so that we can gather evidence about Fr. Judge’s life and ministry.

Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM

On September 11, 2001, Fr. Judge, who was a chaplain for the New York City Fire Department, rushed into the World Trade Center building with other first responders, after terrorists had flown planes into the skyscraper towers.  As a result of his sacrifice, he died, and is now often referred to as “Victim Number One” of that tragic day which witnessed the deaths of close to 3,000 people, with over 6,000 more injured.

He was also known as an unofficial chaplain in the gay community, providing pastoral care and support wherever and whenever he could.  He ministered, selflessly, too, with HIV/AIDS patients and with people suffering from addictions.

Pope Francis paved the way for Fr. Judge to be considered for canonization this past week when he added a new possible pathway to sainthood:  the heroic giving of one’s life for others.

The pope issued a motu propio on July 11th entitled “Maiorem hac dilectionem.” The Latin title is derived from St. John’s Gospel: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The National Catholic Reporter explained why this development is significant:

“Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, Secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said the addition is meant ‘to promote heroic Christian testimony, (that has been) up to now without a specific process, precisely because it did not completely fit within the case of martyrdom or heroic virtues.’

“For centuries, consideration for the sainthood process required that a Servant of God heroically lived a life of Christian virtues or had been martyred for the faith. The third, less common way, is called an equivalent or equipollent canonization: when there is evidence of strong devotion among the faithful to a holy man or woman, the pope can waive a lengthy formal canonical investigation and can authorize their veneration as saints.

“While these three roads to sainthood remain unchanged, they were not adequate ‘for interpreting all possible cases’ of holiness, the archbishop wrote in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, July 11.

“According to the apostolic letter, any causes for beatification according to the new pathway of “offering of life” would have to meet the following criteria:

  • Free and willing offer of one’s life and a heroic acceptance, out of love, of a certain and early death; the heroic act of charity and the premature death are connected.
  • Evidence of having lived out the Christian virtues — at least in an ordinary, and not necessarily heroic, way — before having offered one’s life to others and until one’s death.
  • Evidence of a reputation for holiness, at least after death.
  • A miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession is needed for beatification.”

Last week, I spoke with Fr. Luis Fernando Escalante, an Argentinian priest living in Rome, who serves as a postulator for the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes.  Fr. Escalante said that Fr. Judge clearly fits this new category of a heroic giver of one’s own life.

In order to propose that Fr. Judge be investigated by the Congregation to be considered for canonization, an immense amount of research first must be done.  What is needed are first-hand accounts from people who knew Fr. Judge personally or who have had any correspondence with him or have other significant documents that will give a clearer, more detailed picture of his life, spirituality, and ministry.  Extremely important is any information regarding a possible miracle attributed to Fr. Judge’s intercession.

Fr. Escalante emphasized that this new category for canonization requires only an ordinary living out of Christian virtues, not an extraordinary effort.  So, any stories that you or your contacts may have about Fr. Judge, even if they are seemingly ordinary, are needed.

Here is what you can do:

  1. Share this blog post (or simply the request for information about Fr. Judge) with your social media, email, and personal contacts.  Ask them to share this information with others by the same means.  We need this to go viral to find people who knew Fr. Judge, who feel they have experienced his intercession in a possible miracle, or simply want to support and help the preliminaries of his Cause.
  2. Refer anyone who has first-hand information about Fr. Judge to contact New Ways Ministry by email (info@NewWaysMinistry.org), phone (301-277-5674), or postal mail (4012 29th Street, Mount Rainier, Maryland 20712).
  3. Persons who have testimony about Fr. Judge need only make an initial contact.  They do not need to explain the nature of their interaction or experience with him in the initial contact.   Follow-up material will be sent to them to elicit the type of information that is needed.
  4. Ask other organizations to which you belong who also might know people who encountered Fr. Judge to share this information.
  5. Pray for the canonization of Fr. Judge.

This opportunity depends on YOU!  The only way that we can make Fr. Judge’s canonization a reality is through a mass effort to find people who knew Fr. Judge.  People who have been involved in Catholic LGBT activities are very likely to have met him or perhaps to have prayed to him for a miracle.  That is why we are asking you to share this information.   Of course, those who knew Fr. Judge from other activities–his parish work, his NYC Fire Department chaplaincy, his ministry to HIV/AIDS patients and addicts–are also sought.

An official request for the Cause of Fr. Judge’s canonization can only be submitted after a great deal of this initial research is gathered.  This may take many months, perhaps even a year or more.  Only through a mass effort to build a network of individuals and organizations who are searching for the necessary evidence and information will we be able to get to even the first step of the canonization process.

For the sake of this heroic priest who literally gave his life for others, please spread the word!

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 17, 2017

Related:

For more information on the life of Fr. Mychal Judge, click here.

To read Bondings 2.0 blog posts that mention Fr. Mychal Judge click here.

New Film Explores Life of Pioneering Gay Catholic Theologian John McNeill

Taking a Chance on God, a new documentary on the life of pioneering Catholic gay theologian, John McNeill, will have its New York debut on Saturday, June 16th, 7:00 p.m., at the School of Visual Arts Theatre, 333 West 23rd St., Manhattan, NY.

The film’s screening, sponsored by Dignity/New York, in honor of their 40th anniversary, will feature a panel of distinguished speakers that includes: McNeill himself and his lifelong partner, Charles Chiarelli, Mary Hunt,  James Bernauer SJ,  Bishop Gene Robinson, Kate Clinton, Ginny Apuzzo, Andy Humm, Fr. Dan McCarthy, Fr. Bernard Lynch, Ken Gomolka, Rev. Nancy Wilson.  McNeill is one of the founders of Dignity/New York.  Tickets for the screening are available at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/246908

Brendan Fay and John McNeill

The film’s publicity materials describe the documentary as:

“An inspiring portrait of a pioneer gay priest, Taking a Chance on God follows the extraordinary life of 86-year-old John McNeill from his Buffalo boyhood through his experiences as a POW in Nazi Germany, Vietnam peace promoter, leading gay rights advocate, and loving partner of forty-six years to Charles Chiarelli. McNeill – the author of groundbreaking works of gay spirituality, a founder of the LGBT Catholic group Dignity/New York, and a gay community leader during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s – refused to be silenced by the Vatican on LGBT issues, which resulted in his expulsion from the Jesuit priesthood. Chronicling McNeill’s love for the Catholic Church, the LGBT community, his Jesuit brothers, and his partner, Taking a Chance on God is a powerful story of faith, love and perseverance in the face of oppression and rejection.”

Taking a Chance on God was produced by Brendan Fay, who is also the producer of  The Saint of 9/11, a documentary on Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, the gay NYC fire department chaplain who is died ministering to people in the attack on the World Trade Center.

In an interview with The Miami Herald, Mc Neill describes the film this way:

 “This film is about my partner Charlie and our 46-year love affair. . . . The message is that God loves gay lovers and approves of them. . . . I don’t want any part of the church’s homophobia. . . .I was bringing a message that God brought to me. God’s love is universal and includes both gay and straight people.”

In the same interview, Fay comments on why he made the film:

“John became a hero to me the way Harvey Milk and other pioneers of the gay liberation movement had. . . .John is often a hidden figure. An unknown pioneer. There are not many who are aware of the dramatic impact and significance he had on the movement for change in society and the church in the early ‘70s.”

McNeill is best known for his ground-breaking theological work, The Church and the Homosexual, published in 1976.  In 2008, New Ways Ministry presented him with the Bridge Building Award for his life-long contributions to scholarship and pastoral work with LGBT people. You can read his award acceptance speech, which sums up his mission and ministry, here.

Kingston, N.Y.’s Daily Freeman interviewed McNeill and Chiarelli when then documentary was screened in the Woodstock, N.Y. film festival in September 2011.  In that interview, McNeill sums up his life work this way:

“I wanted to take away the guilt and self-hatred of gay Catholics who believed the church’s position on homosexuality.”

For a full listing of upcoming screenings, visit the documentary’s website, www.takingachanceongod.com.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry