The following comes from a June 12 report on AZ Central.
To read the Feb. 21 California Catholic Daily story on Mater Miseridordiae, click here.
Phoenix police collected physical evidence from the Catholic church where one priest was killed and another critically injured Wednesday night, but investigators are desperately seeking more information about the crimes, Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia said at a Thursday news conference.
Garcia was joined by politicians and Catholic leaders who each asked for the public’s continued support of the victims and for information that could help investigators solve the crime.
“We need our community to step forward,” Garcia said. “If you saw anything, please call the Phoenix Police Department.”
Father Kenneth Walker, 28, was shot and killed and Father Joseph Terra was wounded at a Catholic church Wednesday night near the state Capitol, a Phoenix police spokesman said.
Police were responding to a burglary call shortly after 9 p.m. near 16th Avenue and Monroe Street at the Mater Misericordiae (Mother of Mercy) Mission, Sgt. Steve Martos said.
At the news conference, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton voiced his disbelief that someone could commit such a crime inside a church.
“Every American should feel safe in a house of worship,” Stanton said.
Father Fred Adamson, speaking on behalf of the Diocese of Phoenix at the news conference, said the Catholic community places trust in the Lord to bring the family of Walker healing and comfort.
The diocese released a statement early Thursday morning identifying the slain priest as Walker, who is listed as associate pastor at the Mother of Mercy Mission.
Terra, the pastor, was identified as the priest who survived but remained in critical but stable condition, according to the statement.
Father David Sanfilippo, vicar general at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, said that he had spoken to Terra on Thursday morning and that Terra told him it is all in the hands of God.
“We are stunned and deeply saddened to learn of the tragic assault perpetrated last night against Fr. Joseph Terra and Fr. Kenneth Walker, two religious order priests who belong to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter,” the statement said.
Police said Terra, 56, was “physically harmed” but not stabbed or shot.
Terra called 911, police said.
Parishioners from Mother of Mercy Mission attended Mass on Thursday morning at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, where they mourned the loss of their priest. They said that the news of his death and Terra’s injuries shocked the close-knit community, many of whom go to Mass daily at the mission.
Kirsten Duarte, a parishioner at Mother of Mercy Mission, said she knew Walker well.
“He was very kind, very sweet and a little quirky,” Duarte said. “It’s a great loss for the community.”
Parishioners said that they wanted to be at Terra’s side for his recovery, and said that he had always been there for them in times of need.
Many said that both priests had visited their homes for dinner and other occasions, and said they both dedicated their lives to serving the community.
During the Mass, Father Alonso Saenz struggled to find words to describe the loss, and broke down in tears for his fellow priests.
Saenz said the night was very difficult, mostly spent in the hospital. He said that he had given the Apostolic Blessing to Walker when he died, and asked the community for prayers for Walker’s soul and for Terra’s recovery.
Parishioners from St. Catherine of Siena shared in the grief, and said they wanted to show their support for the grieving church members.
“My daughter goes to St. Catherine’s Catholic School, and when I heard what happened, I woke her up to come to Mass and pay our respects,” said Donna Rodriguez, a parishioner at St. Catherine of Siena. “We’re here to show our support for the church. This hit us really hard, it’s a sad day for the Catholic Church.”
David Stender was the Grand Knight in the Knights of Columbus chapter in the area, and said that he and the community will remember Walker by his acts of charity, especially for the homeless.
“He really helped out the community,” Stender said. “He would open up the church to the homeless so they could come in when the weather was bad.”
Stender stressed that for parishioners at Mother of Mercy Mission, life revolved around the church, and many members attended the services every day.
“We really feel like one large family, and they are the leaders of that family,” Stender said.
While Stender said he and his community were devastated at the loss, he hoped he would find comfort remembering the life that Walker lived.
Marsha Livingston worked as the bookkeeper at Mater Misericordiae Mission and her husband knew Walker through the Knights of Columbus. On Thursday morning, she could not wrap her head around the fact that Walker had died, she said.
Livingston saw Walker a few times each week when she was at the church, and she said he was “just a wonderful young man.” Livingston said Walker was very involved with the children at the church and was very loved by those who attended his church.
“He was very dedicated to Christ, his church and to his parishioners,” she said.
Livingston described Walker as being warm and generous. She said the last thing he told her when she saw him Monday, June 9, was “humility is everything.”
“He gets to see Jesus today, and that’s the only good thing about today,” she said.
A car that police were seeking in connection with the attack was found at 17th Avenue and Taylor Street, about four blocks north of the church, Martos said. It was spotted by 12 News reporter Chris Williams, who alerted police.
The car was unoccupied when it was found, and Martos said no suspects have been arrested.
Walker was an ordained priest in the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. He graduated from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, a Catholic seminary located in Ontario, Canada, where he studied from 2003 to 2005. Walker was one of the first graduates to be ordained into priesthood. He was ordained in 2012 in Nebraska, according to information from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy.
A spokesman for Our Lady Seat of Wisdom said the entire school was both shocked and saddened by the news of his death.
Sanfilippo said that the loss has been very difficult for fellow clergy, and said they are grateful for the people of the parish who have reached out in support.
“It is all in the hands of God,” Sanfilippo said. “Even in all of this sadness, we are promised resurrection.”
Sanfilippo said he hopes the people responsible will turn themselves in.
“For those who seek God’s forgiveness, the Lord is merciful,” Sanfilippo said.
Though police initially responded to a burglary call, a spokesman said Thursday morning that investigators do not know the true nature of the encounter.
Luigi Baratta, a member of the Knights of Columbus, came to the building on Thursday as police were investigating and said Walker started the Knights of Columbus chapter at Mother of Mercy Mission and served to aid those in the area.
“It’s a tragedy, he was such a young priest,” Baratta said. “It’s just a tragedy.”
In a statement released by the Arizona Ecumenical Council, church members were asked to remember Walker, Terra and the diocese in their prayers.
“May it please our God to bring healing again to a community torn apart by this violent tragedy,” the statement read.
The mission was established by Bishop Thomas Olmsted in 2005 to provide Latin Mass to the faithful in Arizona.
The mission previously held services at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church. Its current location, west of downtown Phoenix, was dedicated in December 2010.
More from Fox News on June 12:
Associate Pastor Father Kenneth Walker was 28 years-old. He was the middle of eleven children, six boys, and five girls and was born in Poughkeepsie, New York….
Father Walker’s path to the priesthood started in Tennessee where his family owned some land and where they visited to build a log cabin.
The family happened upon a book about the Catholic Mass in a bookstore there, and they were intrigued.
Father Walker began learning latin, and his family moved to rural Pennsylvania near Scranton. He attended church schools and entered the seminary. In 2012 e was ordained as a priest, but Wednesday night his service was cut short.
To read entire Fox News story, click here.