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St. Francis Of Assisi Church Essay

1371 words - 6 pages

What makes a common trip to a church a meaningful religious experience? Which part of this trip influences a person to reconsider where he or she stands in life: the church’s location, its architecture, its history, the people who made the church what it is, or is it something that works on an entirely different, more personal level? Each church holds specific meaning and memories to those whose lives were touched by the place or the people connected to the place. In the case of St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street in New York City, it serves as a sanctuary from the loud and busy city around it and a place of remembrance for a heroic priest who captivated a nation.
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Saint Francis dedicated the rest of his life to one of complete poverty with his Order and revolved his life around Christ until his death in 1226. In 1228, he was declared a saint by Pope Gregory IX and became the patron saint of animals and the environment and the patron saint of Italy, a title that he shares with St. Catherine of Siena.
A Hungarian Franciscan priest named Father Zachary Kunz founded St. Francis of Assisi Church in 1844. At the time, he was a pastor at St. John the Baptist Church down the block on 30th Street, until a dispute between the parish’s lay trustees and the bishop forced the bishop to close its doors. Fr. Zachary did not want to rid the community of a parish, so he petitioned to the bishop and was able to open the church in its current location and dedicated it to Saint Francis of Assisi. The church underwent a renovation in 1892 and became the church seen today. The church worked to accommodate all parishioners and began the “Nightworker’s Mass” that allowed workers to still have time to celebrate mass despite their grueling work schedules. St. Francis Church also became the first in the United States to hold a daily mass as late in the afternoon as 12:15 PM. During the Great Depression, the church acted to serve the poor and hungry and continue to do so every day. When World War II struck, the church began serving masses for only members of the armed forces at 3 PM every day. The church remains to be a central place in New York City for a variety of charitable works.
Here is where we are introduced to one of the most significant figures and symbols of the church in recent memory. Father Mychal Judge was assigned to St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City in 1986, where he worked until his death. Father Judge became chaplain of the New York City Fire Department in 1992 and devoted all of his time between his parish and his beloved fire department family. Father Judge was considered by many to be a living saint due to his extensive commitment to various charitable causes, such as helping those struggling with alcoholism, having known from earlier personal experience the perils of such a disease, as well as the poor, sick, hungry, and those suffering from AIDS. He became an ambassador for these causes and used his position in the parish of St. Francis Church to spread his word.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Father Judge was in his room at St. Francis of Assisi Church when a friar informed him of the horrific events occurring downtown. He immediately changed out of his holy habit and into his firefighter’s gear and raced out the door to aid his city at whatever cost, without hesitation. Upon arrival to the site, Mayor Rudolph Guiliani asked him to pray for the...

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