Father Kenneth Walker, FSSP, (Fraternal Society of St. Peter) died on June 11, at the age of 28, from gunshot wounds inflicted by a homeless man who then proceeded to seriously assault a second priest, Father Joseph Terra, pastor. This tragic string of events occurred in the rectory of the Mater Misericordiae Mission in Phoenix.
Father Terra was beaten so severely that he was admitted to the hospital in serious condition. However, just five days later he appeared at the Requiem Mass for Father Walker, though in a wheelchair and heavily bandaged.
Both of these Catholic priests were well-known in their community for their stalwart defense of preborn children, their involvement with ministry and prayer—including 40 Days for Life events in their city—and for speaking eloquently and often about respect for the dignity of the human person.
Stop Planned Parenthood’s national director, Rita Diller, interviewed Jose Calzadilla, a 40 Days for Life leader in Phoenix, who stated,
Fr. Walker and Fr. Terra were out there for 40 Days for Life at the Phoenix and Glendale locations of Family Planning Associates (Phoenix) and Planned Parenthood (Glendale) every week. Fr. Walker helped lead the Good Friday rosary at the Glendale Planned Parenthood this past spring. They attended pro-life luncheons and rallies. Their support for the unborn came across as a natural part of their lived faith and priesthood. As a member of the pro-life community in the diocese, you just KNEW of or saw their support. No question.
The superior general of the Fraternal Society of St. Peter, the Very Rev. John Berg, wrote very moving words about Father Walker, including these: “In an age where we seem so centered upon ‘clerical stars’ and are constantly searching for the ‘newest approach to evangelization,’ the life of our confrere gave witness to one of the greatest priestly virtues, a quiet and consistent strength, which is a mark of the Good Shepherd who watches vigilantly over His flock in season and out of season.”
Further, Father Berg wrote, “There was an innocence to Fr. Walker which is rarely found in this valley of tears. . . . His reason for becoming a priest was already beautifully formulated in his application to the seminary.” Father Walker wrote:
God, in His infinite love, desires all men to be saved and so achieve their true end. Along with the Church, then, I am deeply grieved by these errors concerning the nature and dignity of man accepted by so many people in the world, which deviate them from their supernatural end. In full view of the situation in the world, then, the only vocation that I could be satisfied with, as a work, would be one that would be dedicated to bringing people to salvation in whatever way God wills for me to do so.
These profound words written by Father Walker before he was accepted for entry into the seminary say a great deal about what it means to love Christ so much that witnessing about Him is central to everything we do in life.
Even in his death, Father Walker’s words should carry profound meaning for those of us lay Catholics serving God to the best of our humble ability. And, of course, they should touch the heart of every Catholic priest.
Father Walker will be missed, but as we pray for the joyous repose of his soul and the complete healing of Father Terra we take solace in these words spoken by one of Father Walker’s college professors, John Paul Meenan: “Father Kenneth, you will be missed, but our consolation, to paraphrase Saint Therese, is that you will do much greater good in heaven.”
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.