Funeral services take place Friday for John Delendick, the long-serving FDNY chaplain, at Co-Cathedral...

Funeral services take place Friday for John Delendick, the long-serving FDNY chaplain, at Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn. Credit: Ed Quinn

At a Brooklyn cathedral on Friday, firefighters in dress blues mourned John Delendick, the long-serving FDNY chaplain who comforted them on the department’s cruelest days after 9/11 and, in happier times, celebrated their promotions and weddings.

“He taught us how to live and how to let go,” Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in the Co-Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Prospect Heights. “He grew accustomed to his phone ringing in the middle of the night” and to donning the firefighter’s heavy bunker gear, she said. “He blended in with our members and was a favorite among them.”

Msgr. Delendick, 74, served 28 years as department chaplain and 46 years as a Catholic priest. He died Thanksgiving Day of pancreatic cancer related to his own time at the World Trade Center pile.

Arriving shortly after the second plane hit, he survived the towers’ collapse and became the department’s senior chaplain that day when other department chaplains were lost, Kavanagh said.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, another department chaplain, said in his remarks that they’d worked side by side. “The bodies would come out and he would turn to me and say, ‘You bless them in Hebrew, I’ll bless them in English.’”

Delendick returned many times to lead prayer at the site, and in the following decades, as hundreds of firefighters died from exposure to the toxic stew of dust and chemicals there, he celebrated their funeral Masses — knowing, his friends said, that he too might one day succumb.

He recounted his experience in a 2020 interview with Archways, the magazine of the Archdiocese of New York: “I thought we were finished after the last funeral from 9/11, and then it keeps coming up all over again. Soon the post-9/11 deaths are going to catch up to the number from the day itself.” The department passed that milestone — 343 dead — this year.

In remarks during the service, Msgr. Richard J. Ahlemeyer, a seminary classmate, recalled a Queens-born and raised man who became a “proud priest of Brooklyn,” leading several parishes before his final posting at Shrine Church of St. Jude in Canarsie. Delendick, he said, had loved preaching and church rituals like Eucharist, but was a man of the world: he watched the Giants, drank Maker’s Mark and ate good food, greeting the staff at restaurants like Bamonte’s, an Italian fixture in Williamsburg, like old friends.

“In a restaurant, firehouse or rectory table, all who met John went away better and happier,” he said.

Delendick, in that 2020 interview, said he felt lucky to do his job. “The fire department for me is the best job in the City of New York … The greatest blessing is to be associated with this group of people who live out values of generosity, compassion and commitment.”

Outside the cathedral on Friday under the drizzling sky, firefighters stood ramrod straight and held a last, long salute. They then carried Delendick’s casket to the chaplain’s truck, Car 36A, for the ride to St. John Cemetery in Middle Village.

At a Brooklyn cathedral on Friday, firefighters in dress blues mourned John Delendick, the long-serving FDNY chaplain who comforted them on the department’s cruelest days after 9/11 and, in happier times, celebrated their promotions and weddings.

“He taught us how to live and how to let go,” Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in the Co-Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Prospect Heights. “He grew accustomed to his phone ringing in the middle of the night” and to donning the firefighter’s heavy bunker gear, she said. “He blended in with our members and was a favorite among them.”

Msgr. Delendick, 74, served 28 years as department chaplain and 46 years as a Catholic priest. He died Thanksgiving Day of pancreatic cancer related to his own time at the World Trade Center pile.

Arriving shortly after the second plane hit, he survived the towers’ collapse and became the department’s senior chaplain that day when other department chaplains were lost, Kavanagh said.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, another department chaplain, said in his remarks that they’d worked side by side. “The bodies would come out and he would turn to me and say, ‘You bless them in Hebrew, I’ll bless them in English.’”

Delendick returned many times to lead prayer at the site, and in the following decades, as hundreds of firefighters died from exposure to the toxic stew of dust and chemicals there, he celebrated their funeral Masses — knowing, his friends said, that he too might one day succumb.

FDNY chaplain Msgr. John Delendick died Thanksgiving Day of 9/11-related pancreatic...

FDNY chaplain Msgr. John Delendick died Thanksgiving Day of 9/11-related pancreatic cancer. He is shown here on Sept. 16, 2017. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

He recounted his experience in a 2020 interview with Archways, the magazine of the Archdiocese of New York: “I thought we were finished after the last funeral from 9/11, and then it keeps coming up all over again. Soon the post-9/11 deaths are going to catch up to the number from the day itself.” The department passed that milestone — 343 dead — this year.

In remarks during the service, Msgr. Richard J. Ahlemeyer, a seminary classmate, recalled a Queens-born and raised man who became a “proud priest of Brooklyn,” leading several parishes before his final posting at Shrine Church of St. Jude in Canarsie. Delendick, he said, had loved preaching and church rituals like Eucharist, but was a man of the world: he watched the Giants, drank Maker’s Mark and ate good food, greeting the staff at restaurants like Bamonte’s, an Italian fixture in Williamsburg, like old friends.

“In a restaurant, firehouse or rectory table, all who met John went away better and happier,” he said.

Delendick, in that 2020 interview, said he felt lucky to do his job. “The fire department for me is the best job in the City of New York … The greatest blessing is to be associated with this group of people who live out values of generosity, compassion and commitment.”

Outside the cathedral on Friday under the drizzling sky, firefighters stood ramrod straight and held a last, long salute. They then carried Delendick’s casket to the chaplain’s truck, Car 36A, for the ride to St. John Cemetery in Middle Village.

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