SLIDESHOW: Catholic 9/11 Heroes

As I point out at the Gregorian Institute’s blog … September 11, 2001 showed that one religion is much stronger than anyone thought. That religion is Catholicism. Here are some of the heroes who transformed 9/11 into a story about the power of Catholic identity:

Tom Burnett was a hero of United Airlines Flight 97, which passengers helped take down in Pennsylvania. A daily-Mass goer, father and businessman, he was best summed up in Tim Drake’s “To Pray, to Act, to Fight: A Hero’s Life.”

Find more heroes below.

Father Peter Philominraj, stationed at Our Lady of Victory near the WTC, was finishing Mass as the first plane struck. He immediately organized Eucharistic Adoration, then went outside to anoint the sick and hear confessions.

Father Mychal Judge‘s love for the Church and for souls was greater than his struggles for sobriety and chastity. He gave general absolution to firemen, then died with them.

John O’Neill, head of WTC security (and subject of a Frontline documentary), can stand for all the rescue workers who died. Of the 2,606 who died in New York, 16% were only there to help. Many of these were Irish and Italian; their deaths were marked by Mass cards like this one.

Let Gen. Timothy Maude stand for the victims. There were many touching stories of faith amid the victims of 9/11. Gen. Maude, a Knight and Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, died when the plane hit his Pentagon office.

Judith Toppin wrote an account of her rescue on 9/11. Called “Angels Walk Among Us,” her e-mail went viral. Last spring, her rescuer, Paul Carris was ordained a deacon, finishing a journey he began that day. I wrote about it last Ascension Sunday.

Some heroes were made in the days that followed 9/11. Tim Drake’s powerful “Love Was Lifting up the Rubble” describes Father Geno Sylva‘s experience blessing body parts at Ground Zero and ministering to families.

Jason Read, l, as the New York Times noted, was a first responder who converted to Catholicism at Ground Zero (possibly because he saw Father Geno Sylva blessing body parts … seeing a priest doing that is central to his conversion story) and went on to be an Olympic gold medalist.

Last category of hero: the survivor. It takes a faith like Will Jimeno‘s to force an Oliver Stone movie to notice the power of the faith. “What kept me going was my faith in God that my mother instilled in me as a Catholic,” Jimeno says.

More here.

Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., where he teaches in the Journalism and Mass Communications department and edits the college’s Catholic identity speech digest, The Gregorian.

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9 thoughts on “SLIDESHOW: Catholic 9/11 Heroes

  1. mary kay laird says:

    Why make a distinction about Catholic heroes? It’s about America. I love being Catholic but this isn’t about that.

  2. Russell Ballagh says:

    From Holy Cross HS Flushing, NY
    Please remember in your prayers all the victims of 9/11 and the family and friends of those who died, especially these brave Knights from our Holy Cross community
    Rev. Francis E. Grogan, C.S.C.
    Carl Asaro ’79
    Dominick Berardi ’94
    Thomas Casoria ’90
    Lt. John Crisci ’71
    David DeFeo ’82
    Joseph Eacobacci ’92
    Ryan Fitzgerald ’93
    Edward F. Geraghty ’74
    Stephen G. Hoffman ’82
    Louis Inghilterra ’73
    William Krukowski ’83
    Charles Lucania ’84
    Manuel Mojica ’82
    Michael D. Mullan ’85
    Richard Palazzolo ’80
    Sergio G. Villanueva ’86

    Father Grogan, our beloved alumni, and all first responders will be honored at our All School Mass of Thanksgiving on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. All are welcome to attend.

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