Holy Innocents Church, Long Beach
1 Thes. 4:13-18; Jn. 11:21-27
Fr. Kenneth Walker was born on September 13, 1985, the sixth of eleven children to Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Walker, in Upstate New York, and was baptized October 13th of the same year. In a used bookstore, the family discovered a book describing the Tridentine Mass entitled, “The Incredible Catholic Mass.” The bookstore owner considered it worthless and gave it to them for free. They were enthralled. They moved to Scranton, PA, in order to be near a traditional Latin Mass parish. Fr. Kenneth took it upon himself to learn Latin. He attended Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, Ontario, Canada, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in Denton, Nebraska. He was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood on May 19, 2012. He was assigned as associate pastor to Mater Misericordiae Parish, Phoenix, where he was killed by an intruder this June 11th.
Last Friday, June 20th, Requiem Mass took place at Sacred Heart Church, Paxico, Kansas. Fr. Kenneth was laid to rest the same day at Calvary Cemetery in nearby St. Mary’s Parish. We offer our condolences to his priestly community, his parishioners, his good parents and family, and all who have been stricken by his tragic loss. We pray for Fr. Joseph Terra, Pastor of Mater Misericordiae Parish, who suffered grave injuries in the attack, and who nevertheless administered absolution and last rites to Fr. Kenneth.
Those who knew Fr. Kenneth are at one that he was a faithful priest. The Very Reverend John Berg, general superior of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, who delivered the homily at Fr. Walker’s first Mass, said of him in his recent letter of condolence: “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 the mark of the Good Shepherd who watches vigilantly over His flock in season and out of season.” And Fr. Kenneth strived after holiness. Fr. Berg went on to say: “There was an innocence to Fr. Walker which is rarely found in this valley of tears.”
He loved the Mass. Fr. Eric Flood, the North American superior of the Priestly Fraternity said of him: “If someone were to ask him if he would still want to be a priest if he knew he would someday be killed, he would probably say yes, even to say Mass just once.”
Two of the most beautiful words in the Mass appear in the words of consecration, “pro vobis,” for you. In a world in which so many people are about me, about me, about me, Jesus comes and says “for you.” He hands over His body, He pours out His blood. The priest must also be a man for others, for you. This, Fr. Kenneth exemplified, and in a poignant way at his death. He was the perpetrator’s priest, and in the course of that day’s ministry, he gave his life, in imitation of Christ, priest and victim.
When a priest is ordained, he is ontologically configured to Christ the Priest, since only Christ can offer Himself in sacrifice. He is, then, an “alter Christus,” another Christ. He conducts his ministry in the name of Christ; he offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the person of Christ. He must, then continually strive for that psychological conversion which makes him more like Christ, as Fr. Kenneth did.
The inspired author of the Old Testament Book of Wisdom asks why a young man dies, and says he reached perfection at a young age: “Having become perfect in a short while, he reached the fullness of a long career; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore, he sped him out of the midst of wickedness.” (4:13-14) Who knows the mind of God? We do not know why Fr. Kenneth died at such a young age, but we know this: he reached a level of perfection configured to Christ in his ordination, in his life and ministry, and in his death.
It is popular in some circles today not to teach children about the Blood of Christ, because this would be too violent for them. And yet they, and we, are surrounded by violence every day. What we and all must know is that in Christ’s outpouring of blood, He has assumed every offense to Himself, and in that great exchange which is His cross and resurrection, has overcome it. He stands in our place, besought, so that we may stand in His place, beloved sons and daughters of the Father. He has transformed all things, including death itself. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” There are some who do wrong, and thinking no one sees, say it doesn’t hurt anybody, but it hurts everyone. There are some who do good, and it is unseen, until the events such as on June 11th take place, and then we realize we have lost a good and holy priest. Fr. Kenneth Walker has made the Church strong.
May Father Kenneth, whose priesthood and ministry brought him daily to the heart of the Paschal Mystery, rest in peace. May the Lord embrace him to Himself in the full joy of the beatific vision. May He raise him on the last day to the resurrection of the just, and may Fr. Kenneth live happily with Him forever in His Kingdom.