Kelly Ann Lynch,
like so many others in Father Mychal Judge's vast
congregation without walls, was devastated by word of the
fire chaplain's death in the shadows of the World
''Those first few
weeks, it was hard to see anything good,'' said the
Pennsylvania mother of four. ''It just felt so dark and so
sad and so empty.''
until the darkness gave way to a bright idea.
Lynch--whose father once served as an altar boy
for Judge--became consumed with turning the
martyred priest's life into a children's book, keeping his
message of love alive for future generations.
He Said Yes: The Story of Father Mychal Judge,
a biography timed to arrive with the sixth anniversary of
9/11, is an illustrated 32-page walk in the Franciscan
priest's sandals. M. Scott Oatman did the artwork.
''He left behind
a legacy for all of us,'' Lynch said recently over
breakfast at a New Jersey hotel, a short hop from the East
Rutherford parish where her family first met Judge.
''I took the most important parts of his story and
tried to simplify it. His story was meant to be
starts with Judge's birth in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he had a
job shining shoes to help his widowed mother make ends meet.
It follows him into the seminary, through his
ordination, to parishes in Massachusetts, New Jersey,
and finally Manhattan.
Lynch, in a
simple, straightforward style, details how Judge picked up
congregants for his far-flung flock at every stop: suburban
families and the homeless; AIDS patients and
alcoholics; firefighters and a paralyzed police
officer; the loved ones of those killed aboard TWA Flight
The tale ends on
September 11, 2001, when Judge became the first official
victim of the terrorist attack that killed 2,750 people in
the twin towers. His dying soon gave life to Lynch's
Those touched by
the peripatetic priest during his 68 years greeted word
of the Paulist Press publication with warm reviews.
sweet--a lovely idea,'' said actor and author Malachy
McCourt. ''Anything that perpetuates the goodness of
this man is fine with me.''
Brendan Fay, a
gay activist and Judge friend, recalled how easily
''Father Mike'' bonded with children.
''He wrote notes
and letters to children at their baptism,'' Fay
recalled. ''A few who saved them now treasure them with the
affection of relics.... Kids who never knew Father
Judge can now read his story.''
Lynch's ties with
Judge predate her birth. He counseled her family in
good times and in crisis--the sudden death of her
grandfather, the death of a 2-month-old sibling, her
own daughter's lifesaving liver transplant.
''He made you
feel that you were the one special person in his life,''
said the 39-year-old Lynch. ''What we've come to realize,
six years later, is that he did that for everybody. He
was a constant presence.''
Besides her book,
Lynch runs the nonprofit Mychal's Message, which
provides aid to the dispossessed. Proceeds from He Said
Yes will also benefit the homeless.
getting the book in print was a long process. Plans fell
through with one publisher, and talks with an agent moved
slowly. She was on the verge of self-publishing, just
to get the book out, when one of Father Mike's fellow
Franciscans steered her to Paulist Press.
clicked. And, as Lynch hoped, the book, which came out
Tuesday, was released in time for the anniversary of the
of a dry Irish wit, would have enjoyed the book's title,
Fay said. The Franciscan father's instinctive ''yes'' made
him indispensable to many, but it was also wearing him
out--much like his phone answering machines,
which routinely broke down from overuse every six
''It was his
gift, and it connected him to thousands,'' Fay said of the
late yes-man. ''But it also wore him out. The title would
make Mychal laugh.'' (Larry McShane, AP)