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Notre Dame gay alumni, Phil Donahue honor Fr. Mychal Judge

New York

As dozens of gay Notre Dame alumni gathered here for a reunion weekend, the Republican mayor of New York City recognized them, a gesture that has not yet been made by school officials.

The greetings and best wishes from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg were read at a gathering of the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of the University of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College, as the group presented a posthumous award to Fr. Mychal Judge, the Franciscan chaplain who died accompanying firefighters into the lobby of the north tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

More than 100 people, including nearly 50 lesbian and gay alumni of the two schools, attended the Sept. 28 event. The Gay and Lesbian Alumni group, which was formed in 1993, has over 750 members. University officials have not recognized it as an official alumni group.

The Thomas A. Dooley Award that was bestowed on Judge is given to persons “who, through their faith-based backgrounds centered in gospel values, have demonstrated personal courage, compassion and commitment to advance the human rights and civil rights of lesbian and gay Americans.”

The annual award is named for a gay graduate of Notre Dame who achieved fame in the 1950s as a physician who established charitable hospitals to assist the needy of Vietnam and Laos. Dooley died of cancer at the age of 34 in 1961.

Phil Donahue, a Notre Dame alumnus, 2000 Dooley Award recipient and MSNBC-TV host, presented this year’s award. Accepting for Judge was Brendan Fay, member of New York’s Lavender and Green Alliance of gay and lesbian Irish-Americans, and a close friend of Judge.

Donahue said, “It’s clear that by any brief review of his life, Fr. Judge exemplified the very best of male religious. He was a worker priest who, like Tom Dooley, had to die before we could celebrate the totality of his humanness.”

In his acceptance, Fay said, “Mychal Judge chose to follow a path of honesty and openness in life, both as a Catholic priest and a gay man. His ministry of compassion and his quest for peace and reconciliation will be an inspiration for generations to come.”

Fay recalled Judge’s decision to participate in an all-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day celebration. “He joined us in Franciscan habit, prayed with us, blessed many along the way, including some who came to jeer,” Fay said.

After his death on 9/11, Judge became a gay-rights hero. President Bush invoked his name in signing the Mychal Judge Act, which grants death benefits to the beneficiaries, including same-sex partners, of public safety workers killed in the line of duty.

The Notre Dame alumni group also bestows a $1,000 gift. This year’s donation went to the Ali Forney House, a homeless shelter for gay youth.

Related Web site

Gay and Lesbian Alumni of the University of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College

National Catholic Reporter, October 18, 2002