Friars, Friends Mark Anniversary of 2001 Tragedy

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

Vowing never to forget, people along the East Coast, where the Province’s ministries are — as well as around the nation — this week commemorated the 12th anniversary of the attacks on the United States with a variety of events marking the somber occasion. They included prayer services, walks and charity projects.

In New York City, where more than 2,600 people died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, hundreds participated in the annual Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, Walk of Remembrance on Sunday. The walk begins at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street and ends in the financial district, not far from the site of the terrorist attacks. Christopher Keenan, OFM, who replaced Mychal Judge, OFM, the first casualty in New York, as chaplain of the New York City Fire Department, celebrated Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church before the Sept. 8 walk.

This year’s event included a visit inside the construction site of the Freedom Tower. Participants were allowed to stand next to the base of the tallest building in the city, as Chris read the names of emergency responders who died during the attacks. The group blessed the new building before finishing the walk at St. Peter’s Church, where Mychal’s body had been brought after he was killed. The pastor of St. Peter’s Church expressed an interest in constructing a plaque at the church that will honor Mychal’s memory. Photos of Christopher and other participants can be found on the Facebook page called 9/11 Walk of Remembrance.

The church, located across the street from FDNY Battalion 7, Ladder 24, offered its traditional Mass of Remembrance on the morning of Sept. 11. In his homily, Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, thanked the firefighters, police officers and other first responders, and emphasized the need to listen to the voices of good, as the victims of Sept. 11 did. “I commend you and the 21 from this battalion who died that day for listening to the voice of God and for risking their lives.” John is a trained fire chaplain.

It is important to remember the victims and the heroes of Sept. 11, especially with prayer, Christopher said.

“The essence of the Eucharist is about always remembering,” Chris said. “After all, Jesus said, ‘do this in memory of me.’”

In New Jersey, St. Bonaventure Parish in Paterson celebrated a Mass of Remembrance to commemorate those who died during the terrorist attacks. Following the Mass, a prayer service was held at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Totowa, N.J., at Mychal’s grave.

In Western New York, St. Bonaventure University marked the anniversary with a campus prayer service at midday on Sept. 11. Francis Di Spigno, OFM, executive director of university ministries, led the service at the school, which lost three alumni on Sept. 11.

Mychal’s love for helping the poor and marginalized was honored by the group Mychal’s Message, founded in 2002 by Kelly Lynch and her daughter Shannon Hickey to remember their family friend.

“On the morning of Sept. 11, the Lynch and Hickey families served roughly 300 people on the St. Francis Breadline at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City by providing them underwear through their ‘Blessed Bloomers’ outreach to the homeless,” said Cassian Miles, OFM, of Butler, N.J., who is a friend of the Lynch family. “Assisting their parents were Christopher and Erin Mary Lynch, their grandparents Bob and Sharon Hickey of Rutherford, N.J., and two childhood friends. Kelly Lynch, her husband Joe, and their two children have made this six-hour round trip several times each year since Mychal’s tragic death to provide those on the breadline with shoes, clothes and other necessities.”

More information about this continuing outreach to the poor is available on Mychal’s Message website.

In response to many requests, Daniel Horan, OFM, posted on his Dating God blog the prayer he wrote two years ago, “God of Our Memories: A Prayer.” It was published in Franciscan Voices on 9/11, the book published in 2011 that includes essays by seven Franciscans including Daniel and Joseph Nangle, OFM.

— Jocelyn Thomas is communications director for Holy Name Province.