This past weekend, the late Father Kenneth Walker, a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, was laid to rest in Mount Calvary cemetery in Kansas.
Preceding his burial, an overflowing church of Father Walker’s family, friends, parishioners and brother priests took part in his funeral Mass, according to Catholic News Agency, offering prayers for his soul and celebrating his life.
Father Walker, 28, died from wounds he received when he was shot on June 11 in the rectory at Mater Misericordiae (Mother of Mercy) Mission in Phoenix, Arizona. He was coming to the aid of his pastor, Father Joseph Terra, who had been brutally attacked.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, of the diocese of Phoenix, spoke about the tragedy and the loss of the young priest, the Catholic Sun reports.
“God is stronger, the love of Christ is much greater than any kind of violence and death is only falling asleep and passing into the hands of God,” Bishop Olmsted said. “We need to keep in mind that we’re people of hope, because death is not the last word, ever.”
Father Walker’s death was especially difficult for fellow priests, both in the Priestly Fraternity and across the United States.
“When one of our brothers suffers, or in this case one is killed or is injured, it’s a very painful time,” Bishop Olmsted said.
This Friday, June 27, is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. On this day, the Church also celebrates World Priest Day, an annual day of prayer for the sanctification of priests, established by Pope St. John Paul II in 2002.
Father Walker’s life — and heartbreaking death — reminds us that our priests and seminarians need our prayers.
In the world, the focus is often on the sins and shortcomings of Catholic priests. Father Walker, and his life of purity and goodwill, has been a beam of light in the world on the beauty and impact of the priesthood.
“Every time that I went to pray during the ‘40 Days for Life’ at the abortion places,” Bishop Olmsted said, Father Walker “was there with Father Terra. They are faithful priests, joyfully serving their people.”
World Priest Day reminds us that priests are human, too, and are always in need of our prayers — for their safety, their holiness and their continued fidelity to the teachings of the Church.
“Our Divine Savior loves us and desires our eternal happiness. Let us not disappoint him or offend him, for he is already so much offended. Nor let us seek perfect happiness in this world with its fleeting joys and empty promises,” Father Walker preached in one of his recent homilies that had been uploaded to YouTube. “Let us rather spend our lives in preparation for the eternal life of heaven where there is no more death or destruction, but the perfect attainment of all joy and peace.”
Let us pray for the repose of the soul of Father Kenneth Walker. And for the protection and holiness of all our priests, that they may be beautiful examples of Christ to the world, leading us to “the perfect attainment of all joy and peace.”
More information about World Priest Day, as well as a prayer for priests written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, can be found at worldpriestday.com.
Hannah M. Brockhaus is an intern for OSV Newsweekly.