NEW YORK — The 31 Council on Human Rights presented its 31 Lifetime Achievement Award to the late Mychal Judge, OFM, last month at a book signing and reception held in lower Manhattan.
The award was accepted by Mychal McNicholas, a friend of Mychal Judge, at the Nov. 20 gathering at the offices of O’Dwyer & Bernstein, LLP and several blocks from the site of the World Trade Center where Mychal died on Sept. 11. Brian O’Dwyer, a partner at the law firm, and Howard Teich and Randy Mastro are chairs of the 31 Council on Human Rights. Christopher Keenan, OFM, who succeeded Mychal as chaplain of the Fire Department of New York, attended the event.
“The Book of Mychal: The Surprising Life and Heroic Death of Mychal Judge” was available for purchase and signing by the author, Michael Daly. The 370-page book was published in September by St. Martin’s Press. It describes Mychal’s life, his personality, and his varied ministries.
The writer, a columnist for the New York Daily News, had known Mychal since 1994 when they were introduced by firefighter Patrick Brown.
“After Fire Captain John Drennan was badly burned in a fire and hung on for a biblical 40 days,” Daly said, “a number of us became very close during that period, including several who died on 9/11, Paddy Brown of Ladder 3 prominently among them.”
In the preface of the book, Daly says, “I saw at fire scenes and at FDNY rites and ceremonies how much firefighters loved their Padre. Judge was the one to whom they turned after a tragedy to give it form and meaning. He was also was able to get them laughing even at funerals.”
Daly says he remembers “his knees giving out after the North Tower came down and I learned he was among those killed.”
In researching his subject, Daly said he spoke to several hundred people for the book, which was 1,200 pages long before it was edited, said Daly, adding that “Mychal was my first Franciscan friend.”
“Mychal was my spiritual adviser, and he taught me by example to look for what is best in people,” said Daly in the book’s preface. “I have sought to do that here for him with considerable help from his friends and fellow friars, as well as his twin sister Dympna.”
The author, who has written one other book, a novel, said, “My hope in writing this one was that it would be a book Mychal would like.”
The book, on sale at major bookstores, has been favorably reviewed.
Barnes & Noble called it an “intimate and affectionate biography” that describes “an inspirational life of a larger-than-life character.”
Daly said that one reader gave him a very positive comment. “A man whose wife is fighting pancreatic cancer wrote and told me it helped him through it”, he said.
At the recent gathering, Christopher talked with attendees who shared memories of Mychal and interest in the Franciscans.
Also participating in the Nov. 20 gathering were members of Mayor David Dinkins’ 1993 trip to Israel, with a stop in Ireland, which included Mychal and R. Patrick Fitzgerald, OFM, among its entourage.
The flyer promoting the event included a quote by Brian O’Dwyer, who is the son of the late city council President Paul O’Dwyer that appears on page 153 of the book: “All of us together, Catholics, Protestants and Jews, in a way I’ve never seen before or since. I don’t think there’s one of us who were not transformed. And it was all due to Mychal Judge.”
A card showing Mychal’s Prayer was distributed at the book-signing.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.