Kansas family mourns death of Phoenix priest - Tucson News Now

Kansas family mourns death of Phoenix priest

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Two priests were gunned down Wednesday night in their Phoenix, AZ, church. One of the priests did not survive the attack and his family is mourning their loss from their Kansas home.

In Maple Hill, KS, shock would be the word to use in reaction to the death of 28-year-old Father Kenneth Walker, who his family and friends called Kenny.

"When I see him, I see the small boy that I met," said Sasha Keys, Walker's stepsister.

According to family, Walker never wanted anything more than to be a priest. It was his lifelong ambition from his days living in upstate New York, where he was born, to living in North Carolina, Tennessee and several other areas across the country.

His ambition never wavered, nor his faith.

After going through the seminary in Nebraska he traveled around, ultimately placed in Phoenix, where the horrific crime happened.

His family lives in Maple Hill and Walker would preach at St. John Vianney Church when he was in town.

Walker never lived in the town located just west of Topeka, KS, but his family settled there from back east seven years ago to be closer to him, and one of a small number of traditional rite churches when he was in seminary.

The members of the traditional rite church here form a tight-knit community and some even knew Walker before his family moved to the small town.

For Keys, he was the sibling who could do no wrong.

"He was actually quite brilliant. He was very smart and he wasn't like the smartest kid in the world, but he studied to be very smart," she said.

Keys said she's still coming to grips with her stepbrother's death.

"I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe I wouldn't be seeing him again," she said. "It's been very long distances since I've seen him because of his obligations to the priesthood, but I still feel like he's just around the corner and I'm just going to be walking over and giving him a great big hug, you know. I will really miss him."

When asked to describe him, Linda Ofstead told about how he volunteered to put a barn on her family's roof and described his remarkable personality.

"They tell me he was a good confessor. I didn't have that privilege. We knew him before he was Father Walker, when he was just Kenny to us," she said. "(He was) charming, quiet, gentle."

Thursday night at St. John Vianney Church, located on Waterman Crossing Road, a rosary was held in Walker's honor. Even though the town of Maple Hill is tiny, the church was overflowing as about 150 people in the town of just 400 packed into the pews.

Walker had just recently celebrated his second year as a religious order priest with the Fraternity of St. Peter, a small, conservative group that continued the Roman Catholic tradition of Latin mass after most moved to English. He was assistant pastor at the church where he was killed.

Police were called to the Mother of Mercy Mission about 9 p.m. Wednesday where they found Walker shot. He later died at a hospital. Another priest, 56-year-old Father Joseph Terra, was badly injured and is in critical condition.

Police initially called the incident an attempted robbery.

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