Local priest to join Sept. 11 ceremony

RICHARD DYMOND, Herald Staff Writer

SARASOTA - Wherever he goes, the Rev. Gerard Critch seems to touch lives.

From 2000-03, Critch was a parish priest at Bradenton's Sacred Heart Catholic Church, making many friends.

It was during his stay in Bradenton that Critch, 47, traveled to New York City in the aftermath of the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. He was part of a team that ministered to firefighters, steelworkers and investigators whose feet were blistered by the intense heat at Ground Zero.

Critch returns to New York for the second anniversary of the attack and for the release of a compact disc of soothing music, the proceeds of which will be for children orphaned in the attacks.

Critch's own descriptions of being at Ground Zero are more poetry than conversation.

"The days never ended," he says of his two-week stay. "I slept in a pew in St. Paul's Chapel, a block from Ground Zero. I heard no birds. It was unreal, like playing a role in a movie.

"I wore a doctor's lab coat with a priest's collar," Critch recalls. "After my two weeks there, I noticed a huge stain on the left shoulder. It was from the tears of the firefighters. I can never wash that coat."

Critch said he could only handle the enormity of Ground Zero by doing one task at a time.

"I said to myself, 'For each action, I am wiping one tear from the face of God,' " Critch said. "If I hadn't viewed it that way, it would be too much to take."

Critch still is amazed what has risen out of the Sept. 11 dust.

"I think times of crisis can be tremendous moments of grace," Critch said.

After Sept. 11,  Dr. Kathleen Reilly Fallon, 34, who headed Critch's team, decided she had to do something for the nearly 1,000 orphaned babies of the disaster. She and her husband started the Heavenly Productions Foundation and produced "Heavenly Lullabies," a compilation of soothing songs from 21 artists designed to help children find peace at night.

The CD is $18.95 and all but $4 goes to the Twin Towers Orphan Fund, based in Bakersfield, Calif. The fund was established to provide long-term higher education assistance, and mental and physical health care for children who lost one or both parents in the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon or on the four downed airliners.

Critch is on the executive board of the foundation and will bless the CD in New York City 7-9 p.m. Thursday during a CD-release party for "Heavenly Lullabies" at Steinway Hall, 109 West 57th St.

Critch will wear a special green priest vestment featuring little children holding hands.

"The CD is for orphans to have music to sleep to, for them to finally get peace," said Critch, who is now an associate pastor at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Sarasota, where he serves the needy in nursing homes, hospitals and hospices.

"I use the music myself to settle down after a day," Critch said. "The singers are excellent, and there is also original music as well. Children need to build bridges to get to their futures. Music can be a bridge."

Critch doesn't perform on the album although he is well-known for singing prayers in a West Indies style developed after years of living in the West Indies and Jamaica.

World-reknown pianist Frederick Chiu performs on the album as well as pianist George Davidson. Frank Pellegrino, who plays FBI agent Cubitoso on the HBO hit series "The Sopranos," provides his rich baritone on the CD.

Songs include "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," "The Cradle Song" and Braham's "Lullaby."

Critch celebrates 30 years of pastoral service Monday, much of that spent in street ministries all over the world.

"The first time I met Father Critch was when he was at St. John's the Baptist Church in Yonkers, N.Y., and I attended that church," Fallon said Thursday from New York City. "It is difficult to say in words what makes Father G. special. It's more of a feeling. There is a certain sense of peace one gets from him when you are in his company. He is extremely spiritual and just a very prayerful priest."

When Fallon was putting her 9-11 foot care team together, she said Critch was a must.

"He inspires me," Fallon said. "Anything important in my life, I think of him. I even flew him up here to baptize my baby. He is a spiritual guide. By blessing the CD, he is also blessing all the orphans of 9-11."


Article appeared on the bradentonherald.com




Lullabies CD to aid 9/11 orphans

By Sarah Freeman

Dr. Kathleen Reilly Fallon was so affected by what she witnessed on Sept. 11, 2001, that she has devoted the last year to working on a tribute. The musical mother of one has made a compilation CD of lullabies, called "Heavenly Lullabies," which she has dedicated to the children born after the tragedy whose father died on that day and to the nearly 1,000 children who lost a parent. Proceeds from the CD will go to the Twin Towers Orphan Fund.

The 34-year-old foot and ankle surgeon was working at a hospital in Midtown Manhattan when the tragedy struck.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Fallon volunteered to work in St. Paul's Chapel, near Ground Zero, where a foot and ankle center had been set up to care for the firefighters and police injured by the debris.

"We were like a family there," Fallon said.

The experience had a profound affect on the young mother, whose son, James, was just a few months old. She began to think about the women who had lost their partners in the tragedy.

"It just occurred to me that some of them must be pregnant," Fallon said. "I started to think about what I could do to help them."

Fallon decided to record a lullaby CD and set about finding an organization that would ensure that any proceeds went straight to the children who needed it.

"I did all this research and came across the Twin Towers Orphan Fund," she said, referring to the charitable fund set up on Sept. 13, 2001.

Fallon has been involved in every aspect of producing the CD. She and her husband built a recording studio in their home, they asked friends and colleagues to be involved with the project, and they set up a not-for-profit organization, called Heavenly Lullabies, to help launch it.

Fallon put together an executive board and embarked on the voice training required to ready her vocal chords for a solo recording.

"I needed my voice to be right," she said. "Normally, I sing in a group but this is solo."

She has been passionate about music since the age of 5, when she sang with the St. John the Baptist's choir.

Now, Fallon sings regularly with a folk group and credits music with keeping her sane during the hectic years of medical school.

Fallon's husband, James, supported his wife's idea all the way. In his third year of study at the Juilliard School of Music, James was able to provide the technical know-how for much of the project.

With a background working as a chief technical officer for an aerospace company, his skill in designing electro-optical instruments, altitude determination sensors and control computers for existing satellites was put to good use in building the home recording studio in Armonk.

"I was going to build it anyway, and Kathy's desire to do this project just accelerated the time schedule," said James Fallon, whose studies at Juilliard include piano performance.

Meanwhile, Fallon bought every lullaby CD she could find on the market.

"I think I found around 15 of them," she said. "I wanted to see what the common link was and work out how ours could be different."

She spent the months attending her voice coach, a soprano who appeared in a Riverdance production.

Fallon, whose late father was from Carrowmore Lacken, Co. Mayo, and whose mother is from Glencolmcille, Co. Donegal, was keen to have her Irish heritage represented in the chosen music.

She pored over lists of lullabies and finally settled on 24 pieces, which included the "Gaelic Cradle Song" and "Toora, Loora, Loora."

One piece, the "Guardian Angel Prayer," originally had no accompanying tune, so Fallon composed one.

"A friend gave me a book of children's prayers and I don't know what happened but as soon as I read it, music came into my head," she said.

Other songs on the CD include "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," the "Cradle Song" and Brahms's "Lullaby."

Altogether, there were 19 other artists involved in the enterprise, including Frank Pellegrino, from "The Sopranos," who is a tenor.

The Fallons elicited the help of friends and were delighted that all studio time was donated.

Once the basic costs of putting the CD together have been paid, the rest of the proceeds will go to the Twin Towers Orphans Fund.

The CD, "Heavenly Lullabies," will be launched on Sept. 11, 2003. It can be ordered from www.HeavenlyLullabies.com


Article appeared in The Irish Echo




Second anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks to be marked with church bells and prayer


The second anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center will be marked this year with tolling church bells, prayer services and moments of silence - with children playing a leading role in a memorial ceremony at the site.

Catholic churches in the archdiocese will join other churches in tolling their bells for 30 seconds in observance of the times each tower was struck and fell.

A 5,000-pound bell to be set up outside St. Peter's Church - just a few steps from Ground Zero - will be rung 2,800 times at 10-second intervals, once for each person who died at the twin towers.

Cardinal Egan, who will bless the bell in an 8:30 a.m. ceremony, will be the first one to ring it at 8:46 a.m., the time that the first plane struck the north tower.

The cardinal will then celebrate a Memorial Mass at St. Peter's, which counted many trade center workers as parishioners. A concert by the Seraphim Choir will follow the Mass at 10:30 a.m.

To accommodate the expected large numbers of people wishing to attend Mass in the area, the parish has scheduled an extra Mass for 2:05 p.m. Then at 3 p.m., a Memorial Mass for Port Authority workers killed Sept. 11 will be celebrated at the church.

While the bell at St. Peter's will be tolled throughout the day, other churches in the city have been asked by the Office of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to toll theirs at four points in the morning: at 8:46 and at 9:03, when the planes struck the towers, and at 9:59 and 10:59, when the south and then the north tower fell.

The bell outside St. Peter's is the same one that stood outside St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan and tolled for seven hours on the first anniversary of the attack last year, with passersby invited to manually ring it by pulling a rope that triggered its clapper. The bell-ringing is a program of the Remembrance Project initiated by Brother David Schlatter, O.F.M., director of the Franciscan Center in Wilmington, Del.

The city's commemoration will take place at the World Trade Center site, with children reading the names of the victims and performing music throughout the program. The readings will pause four times for moments of silence, twice to mark the times that the planes hit and twice to mark the times that the towers fell.

"This will be the second time that we as friends, as families, and as one community, will gather to remember a tragic day which has become synonymous with not only great sorrow and loss, but also courage and resilience," Bloomberg said in a statement issued with Gov. George E. Pataki announcing the plans.

"Forever mindful of the grief still felt by families, and our desire to honor the heroes of that day, we plan to mark this anniversary as a day of remembrance and pride, but equally as a day on which we turn toward the future.

"In keeping with that, we will ask our children to lead the ceremony," he said. "It is in them that the spirit of our city lives on."

Families of those who died on Sept. 11 are expected to be represented in large numbers at the site, including many Staten Island families who will travel there on buses arranged by the WTC Outreach Committee of St. Clare's parish.

The outreach, a parish effort, was started immediately after the tragedy with the encouragement of Msgr. Joseph P. Murphy, the pastor, to aid and support families of parishioners who died. It continues to offer help to all Staten Islanders who lost a family member that day.

"It's for the 29 parishioners we lost, but open to all," said Dennis McKeon, chairman of the committee.

"St. Clare's is like their second home now," he said of the families.

A Memorial Mass for victims from St. Clare's is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 5, at 7:30 p.m.

Parishes throughout the archdiocese were expected to schedule Memorial Masses and prayer services on or around Sept. 11.

An ecumenical memorial service was planned for Sunday, Sept. 7, at the West 104th Street Community Garden in Manhattan, with Father Jerome J. Massimino, O.F.M., pastor of Holy of Name of Jesus parish, to read the Prayer for Peace of St. Francis of Assisi.

An "Eve of Solemn Remembrance" was to be held Wednesday, Sept. 10, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Peter's Church on Staten Island. The event, sponsored by the University of Notre Dame Alumni Club of Staten Island, will begin with a concelebrated Mass led by Msgr. James Dorney, pastor of St. Peter's and vicar of Staten Island.

Following the Mass will be Benediction, then a candlelight procession from the church to a view on the grounds of St. Peter's overlooking New York Harbor and the site of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. The church will remain open for nocturnal adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until midnight, and at that time the service will conclude with a reading of the names of all of the victims from Staten Island.

A concert will be held the same evening at St. Peter's on Barclay Street, the lower Manhattan parish across from Ground Zero, at 7:30 p.m., sponsored by a group called "9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows."

"It's an organization that doesn't want to see Sept. 11 used for political purposes," said Father Kevin V. Madigan, St. Peter's pastor.

The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement will commemorate the second anniversary on Sunday, Sept. 14, at Graymoor in Garrison with a Mass at 11 a.m. in Pilgrim Hall followed by a procession led by the Pipes and Drums of the Westchester Police Emerald Society to the World Trade Center Cross in the St. Jude Pond and Prayer Garden on the grounds. The cross, erected by Ironworkers Local 40, is made of steel girders with a concrete base using ashes and steel from the World Trade Center site.

At St. Francis of Assisi Church at 135 W. 31st St. in Manhattan - the parish of Father Mychal Judge, O.F.M., the fire department chaplain killed while ministering at the World Trade Center - a children's art exhibit called "Faith, Hope and Love" runs through Sept. 13 and is dedicated to the second anniversary of Sept. 11.

A memorial concert will be given at St. John and St. Mary, 15 St. John's Place in Chappaqua, by the vocal ensemble Sing We Enchanted on Sunday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. Works performed will include those of Morley, Palestrina, Vittoria and Thomson.

A new CD called "Heavenly Lullabies" dedicated to the 63 babies born to widowed mothers of Sept. 11 and the nearly 1,000 children who lost one or both parents has been released. Produced by Dr. Kathleen Reilly Fallon, a parishioner at St. John the Baptist in Yonkers who treated injured police and firefighters after the attack and later did volunteer work at a center serving rescue workers, it's available online at www.HeavenlyLullabies.org for $18.95, with net proceeds to be donated to the Twin Towers Orphans Fund.

Looking toward the future, St. Peter's parish in Manhattan will take time on Sept. 11 to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the reopening of its chapel, St. Joseph's. Located in Battery Park City to serve residents there, the chapel was used for months in the aftermath of the attack as a command post and a rest and feeding station for the police officers, firefighters and rescue workers at Ground Zero.

It suffered severe wear-and-tear damage and was completely overhauled. It reopened for Masses last Sept. 11, and on that date this year the parish will launch a fund-raising drive to cover new artworks planned as part of the overhaul. A Web site, www.sjchapel.org, is expected to be launched that day as well for interested donors.

Still, the parish - St. Peter's and the chapel - has not recovered from the attack. The Battery Park City families who made up the core of the chapel's parishioners have largely moved away, to be replaced by younger, single people. "Our religious education program used to have 78 children. Now it has eight," Father Madigan said.

Sunday Mass attendance at the chapel is coming back, however, he said.

It's a different picture at St. Peter's, which was primarily a weekday parish serving business people in the downtown area. "The weekday crowd is where we're hurting, still," Father Madigan said.

"People would go to Mass, they'd come in during the day and light a candle. Financially, that helped us a great deal; we depended on them," he said.

Of course, there's been much discussion about redeveloping the site, and the entire downtown area, as a commercial and cultural center, but nothing's been finalized. An especially sensitive issue as plans unfold is a design for a memorial to the victims - with families and loved ones understandably wanting major input.

"They'd like to get everything settled with regard to the memorial...It's troubling to a lot of them that it's almost two years" and there's still no agreement, said McKeon of St. Clare's Outreach.

Yet for all that the families have gone through, some have become involved in outreach of their own, he said. There's a movement, for example, to have the month of September declared National Blood Donor Month in memory of those lost on Sept. 11, 2001, and some people have even set up memorial scholarships as a gesture of thanks for help they've received.

"A lot of families now have gotten to a point where they want to try to give back to the people that have been helpful to them," McKeon said.


Article appeared in Catholic New York Online