Father Mychal Judge, according to Victor Salvo, founder/executive director of the Legacy Project, remains an "inconvenient truth" for the Catholic Church.
Judge, an openly gay Franciscan friar, was one of the first responders who showed up to the twin towers once disaster struck on Sept. 11, 2001; his friary was close to the site and he was the chaplain to the closest fire department. He was killed by falling debris that day, as he administered last rites. Judge also did extensive work for persons with HIV/AIDS. He was remembered on a 15th-anniversary tribute Sept. 11, 2016, in front of the North Halsted Street plaque paying tribute to him.
Judge is "largely forgotten because is legacy has become extremely obscured," Salvo said shortly before the tribute. "You can't Google him without finding out that he was also a gay man. … We gather together, like when I do the tours, to get people to understand that there is not one aspect of human history without a component that LGBTQ people have not been a part of. There's only one reason that this man, who paid the ultimate price for his ministry, has not become a household nameit was because he was gay."
Judge was out amongst his friends and colleagues, Salvo added. "His being gay was something that he talked about fairly openly with the people who knew him. He did not talk about it publicly with people in a congregational setting, because he was afraid people would be afraid to talk to him, or somehow be put off by it. We take so much for granted in the openness of our dialogue now, but at that time, he was very reticent to do that. He didn't want to put people in an awkward position with the church."
The church still hasn't come to terms with Judge's sexual orientation, Salvo said. During the ceremony, he noted that his organization was not able to to secure a location for the tribute in a Catholic church, nor did any church officials attend. LGBT Catholic organizations Dignity/Chicago and Archdiocesan Gay & Lesbian Outreach ( AGLO ) helped present the ceremony.
Dignity/Chicago Board Member At-Large Marty Grochala said that Judge was someone who was "an exemplary Christian, someone not invested in doctrine or rules but, rather, invested in living a life of Christ on the streets of New York, and recognizing the humanity in everyone he met."
Ramon Rodriguez, president of Dignity/Chicago, added that Judge was "never afraid to speak truth to gospel, to simply be himself. He really made the ultimate sacrifice. We're going to remember him here, but obviously the biggest exultation is happening in heaven."
Rev. Wayne Bradley gave an invocation. Activist Lori Cannon reflected on 9/11 as well. The presentation closed with a performance of the song "Hero," by the Broadway Methodist Choir. Following the ceremony, the documentary film The Saint of 9/11 was screened at Lake View Presbyterian Church.
The Legacy LIVE series is a joint project between The Legacy Project, Northalsted Business Alliance and Center on Halsted.