The House of Representatives passed a $410 billion Omnibus Appropriations Bill on Wednesday, February 25 for the 2009 fiscal year, which includes allocation of $285,000 for a Father Mychal Judge Center for Irish Exchange and Understanding at St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York. New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand announced last week the funding for the new Father Mychal Judge Center, named after the fire chaplain who perished ministering the last rights to a dying fireman at the World Trade Center. Judge received his degree from St. Bonaventure University, a Catholic university founded in 1858 and dedicated to educational excellence in the Franciscan tradition. The new program has been in the planning stages since 2007 when the president of St. Bonaventure University, Dr. Margaret Carney, met with the staff of the taoiseach’s (Irish Prime Minister) office to explain the intent of the Father Mychal Judge Center. Part of the Father Mychal Judge Center for Irish Exchange and Understanding Program will afford students the opportunity to visit Ireland for artistic and academic research. Although nothing has been confirmed, St. Bonaventure anticipates collaborations with the Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Institute for the Study of Irish History and Civilization at University College Dublin (UCD), as well as with several friaries and retreat centers in both the north and the south. “This serves as the legacy for Father Mychal Judge’s work,” said Gillibrand, who replaced Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Senate. “Father Mychal Judge will live on through this wonderful exchange student program at St. Bonaventure University,” she added. Said Schumer, “This funding will establish a perfect legacy for Father Mychal Judge that will enshrine his life’s work, which was dedicated to building understanding and love between all people.” The aim of the Father Mychal Judge Program will be to facilitate an exchange of intellectual, academic, civic and artistic resources with partners and institutes in Ireland. The allocated funding would cover the costs associated with scholarships, travel for student exchanges, promotion of the program, and other miscellaneous costs. “Father Mychal Judge was a proud Irishman who was dedicated to building peace and understanding in Ireland,” said Schumer. “He was an incredible man, and I know that he would be so proud that the Father Mychal Judge Center for Irish Exchange and Understanding Program is doing such great work by providing amazing opportunities for both students and faculty at St. Bonaventure University to explore Ireland as it grows into a new century.” Judge, who was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933 to two Irish Catholic immigrants, began studying at seminaries at the age of 15 and eventually received his degree from St. Bonaventure University in New York. On September 11, 2001, Judge, the FDNY’s chaplain, received word that the World Trade Center was on fire and rushed to the site. He entered the lobby of the North Tower where he tended to rescuers, the injured, and those who had already passed. When the South Tower collapsed, debris went rushing into the North Tower lobby, where Judge was struck and killed. Judge is known as the first official victim of the September 11 attacks. The bill, which passed 245-178 in the House last Wednesday, goes to the Senate for vote this week. The funding for the Father Mychal Judge Center for Irish Exchange and Understanding comes out of the $151.8 billion set aside for labor, health and education.
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