New York City: The Catholic Memorial at Ground Zero
History of the Catholic Memorial at Ground Zero:
Many people are unaware of this memorial in New York City and the history of St. Peter’s Church that stood in the shadows of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The church itself was built in a time of anti-Catholicism and therefor relegated to the outskirts of the city….how ironic that over time it came to be near the center and have a central role in the tragedy of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. You can read more of its history here.
The parish’s mission chapel, St. Joseph’s Chapel, was located a few blocks away—on the other side (southwest) of the Center. Although the towers and other buildings were destroyed on September 11, 2001, the two churches escaped serious direct damage and are now back in full service.
Both of these churches, of course, were strongly affected by the 9/11 disasters and were directly involved in rescue activities for some weeks and months to follow. A landing gear from one of the planes struck the roof of St. Peter’s.
Father Mychal Judge was a Franciscan and chaplain to the New York Fire Department. Upon hearing of the first plane strike, he rushed to the site. Mayor Rudy Giuliani met him there and asked him to pray for the city. He did so, as well as praying for victims lying on the ground. He then entered the lobby of the North Tower, where he was killed by falling debris. He was the first officially recorded death of the 9/11 attacks. Firefighters carried his body into St. Peter’s Church (see the image below) and reverently placed before the altar.
The pastor of St. Peter’s himself, Father Kevin Madigan, narrowly escaped death when he hurried out toward the flaming towers to see if he could be of help.
And, of course, many of the firemen, police officers and rescue workers and office workers were Catholics.
About the Catholic Memorial at Ground Zero:
After more than 30 artists submitted proposals, John Collier of Dallas was chosen to produce four statues as memorials to groups affected by the tragedy: St. Joseph, patron of construction workers; St. Michael the Archangel, patron of police; St. Florian, patron of firefighters, and St. Mary Magdalene, first witness to the Resurrection and “apostle to the apostles.” The special memorial has been designed to honor the heroes of 9/11 for the acts of love and courage they displayed that day, as well as to convey themes of hope and the Resurrection.
These four sculptured figures are placed along the eastern wall of St. Joseph’s Chapel, the wall closest to Ground Zero. St. Michael is wrestling with the serpent, forcing the serpent [Satan] into a pit. This suggests that, at the end of time, good wins over evil. St. Michael wrestles with the serpent just as police officers must struggle each day with the forces of evil, even as we all must.
Visiting The Catholic Memorial at Ground Zero:
The Lease on the Chapel was vacated in January 2018. The 9/11 Catholic Memorial has been relocated to Saint Peters Church. Although the actual address is 22 Barclay Street, the entrance is on Church Street. It is open Mon-Fri 10:30 am -3:30 pm.
Address: 22 Barclay Street, New York, NY 10007
GPS coordinates: 40° 42′ 41.8572” N, 74° 0′ 59.7996” W
Tel: +1 (212) 233-8355
Click here for the official website of Saint Peter’s Church & St. Joseph’s Chapel
About John Collier:
Raised in the Protestant tradition, John Collier and his wife, Shirley, completed the RCIA process at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Richardson, Texas and came in to the Catholic Church in Easter of 2010. Shirley passed away in early 2015.
“The greatest art in the history of the Western world,” he asserts, “has been commissioned by the Catholic Church.”
Mr. Collier states that he has found a deep joy in fashioning this memorial for a Christian chapel that is very close to Ground Zero.
Click here to learn more about John Collier and his work.