TOTOWA, N.J. — As the names of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001, were read in New York City, and people around the country participated in their own commemorations, a crowd of friars and friends paid tribute that day at the gravesite of Mychal Judge, OFM, here. Mychal, former chaplain to the New York City Fire Department, is considered to be the first person to die at the World Trade Center attack as he rushed in to help.
In his memory, friars hold a memorial prayer service each year at the friars’ plot of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. This year, the service was organized by Daniel Grigassy, OFM, pastor, Christian Camadella, OFM, and Christopher VanHaight, OFM, of St. Bonaventure Church, Paterson, N.J. The service was co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus of St. James of the Marches, Totowa, N.J., and the Knights of Columbus of St. Bonaventure.
“Every year, there has been a big turnout for this commemoration,” Daniel said. Christopher estimated at least 70 friends and friars attended this year’s event.
New York City
Meanwhile, in New York City, St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street held a memorial Mass at 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 11 for victims, especially members of the New York City Fire Department Battalion 7. New York’s Fire Department chaplain Christopher Keenan, OFM, celebrated the Mass before which pastor Jerome Massimino, OFM, welcomed visitors to the church. Jerome acknowledged David Schlatter, OFM, of Silver Spring, Md., who created and transported the Bells of Remembrance to New York, and representatives of Mychal’s Message, the organization founded in 2002 to honor Mychal’s memory.
“Today we gather to celebrate the gifts of those who have gone before us,” Christopher said. “We remember that life is changed, not ended.”
The three large Bells of Remembrance rang outside the church throughout the morning to commemorate the times that the planes crashed as well of the collapse of the Twin Towers.
Earlier that day, leaders and volunteers with Mychal’s Message — who came from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York — distributed underwear and socks to the homeless on the morning Breadline outside St. Francis of Assisi Church as part of its Blessed Bloomers program.
“Fr. Mychal was a dear family friend,” said Mychal’s Message co-founder Kelly Ann Lynch. “We started Mychal’s Message as a way to carry on both his memory and his loving presence among his friends on the Breadline.”
Lynch said she continues to be amazed at the generous donations of socks, underwear and funds to support this annual effort. “We were particularly blessed this year with the donation of more than 700 undershirts.” Each Blessed Bloomer bundle contained one undershirt, two pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks, two mints and a prayer card with Mychal’s prayer. The group also distributed bananas and hard-boiled eggs on the breadline.
Mychal’s Message will continue accepting monetary donations and donations of new underwear and socks through the end of September for distribution to the local poor and homeless in the Lancaster and Philadelphia areas, where Lynch lives.
Earlier in the week, New Yorkers participated in the annual Walk of Remembrance, which began outside the Midtown church. Christopher celebrated the pre-walk Mass on Sept. 6 that began with a rosary at 9 a.m.
In Boston, David Convertino, OFM, led a memorial service in front of St. Anthony Shrine on Arch Street at 8:30 a.m. He invited participants into the first floor church where names of the victims were read. Photos of the New England victims were displayed at the shrine. One of the two planes that hit the World Trade Center departed from Boston.
In Western New York, St. Bonaventure University and community members commemorated Sept. 11 on campus, honoring the three SBU alumni killed in the attacks: Mychal Judge, a 1957 graduate, Robert Perazza, 1994 and 1996 graduate, and Amy O’Doherty, who graduated in 2000. F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, SBU vice president for Franciscan mission, took part in the ceremony, along with more than 200 students, faculty and community members.
Students of Santa Fe Catholic High School in Lakeland, Fla., where Paul Santoro, OFM, serves as campus minister, commemorated Sept. 11 with a prayer of remembrance and peace. The school chapel was open throughout the day for private prayer and adoration. Throughout the eight-period day, 58 students and three teachers made their way to the chapel, Paul said.
“The day began with a special prayer broadcast through the school’s production studio,” he said. “The main prayer was St. Francis’ peace prayer. Throughout the morning, the school bells were rung at the precise times of the attacks and collapse of the towers. Students and staff were invited to offer silent prayer followed by a prayer over the speaker system.”
He added that it appeared students and faculty appreciated the time for prayer. One faculty member noted, “The prayers were great. They facilitated some good discussion in my classes.”
— Compiled by Jocelyn Thomas and Wendy Healy