It has been one year since the life of Fr. Kenneth Walker, FSSP, was taken from the community he served. The memories and the spirit of the 28-year-old priest, however, are everlasting.
Beloved by parishioners, he was known for his compassion for the poor and his humility.
A year later, Fr. Joseph Terra, FSSP, pastor of the congregation that celebrates the sacraments according to the 1962 Roman Missal, sat in the church courtyard, attired in a long black cassock. He served the Mater MIsericordiae community alongside Fr. Walker.
It was on June 11 that an intruder attempted to break into the Phoenix rectory, according to news and police reports. Armed with an angle iron, a steel bar used in construction, reports show the man struck Fr. Terra repeatedly.
Fr. Walker who served at Mater Misericordiae, was killed during the attack.
Across the nation and as far away as Australia, Masses and prayers for the soul of Fr. Walker and for the recovery of Fr. Terra were offered. Wheelchair-bound, he was able to attend a standing-room-only requiem Mass for Fr. Walker just five days after the incident.
“His two years of being a priest were a blessing to all of us,” Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said at the time.
“He fell asleep in Christ and awaked into the loving arms of his Savior, and with that hope we go forward honoring him and seeking ourselves to be faithful followers of Christ,” he said.
Longtime parishioner Randy Mallaire recalled a conversation he had with Fr. Walker just two weeks before the young priest was killed.
“Everything we do is supposed to be for the glory of God. … If his death was for the glory of God, well, blessed be God.”
“I was telling him about what Cardinal Francis George said about martyrdom,” Randy said. “Fr. Walker told me, ‘If that’s what our Lord wants, let’s embrace it.’”
Tom Walker, father of the murdered priest, said he grieves the loss of his son deeply.
“God knows how much I miss him,” Tom said. “Everything we do is supposed to be for the glory of God. … If his death was for the glory of God, well, blessed be God.”
Three weeks ago, he said, a grandson was born. His parents named him Kenneth John Walker, in honor of the slain priest.
Phoenix police arrested ex-convict Gary Michael Moran four days after the deadly incident. He now sits in jail awaiting trial. Jerry Cobb, public information officer for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. The case is winding its way through the court system and a trial is set for August 2016.
The church beefed up security shortly after the tragic event. A concrete wall surrounding the courtyard is now topped with wrought iron spikes. Increased lighting and grille work were also added.