On Fr. Walker of Phoenix: “He wanted to know what would bring him closer to the Lord”

The Arizona Republic in Phoenix has a long and richly detailed article (with some obvious church-related errors, though) about the two priests attacked at church last week, including these details about Father Walker, who was killed:

Kenneth Walker came from a large family, but of the blended variety. When Walker’s parents divorced, he and his brother decided that one child should go with each parent to provide emotional support.

Older brother TJ went with his mother to protect her, and Kenny, about 6, went with his father to comfort him, said his stepsister, Sasha Keyes.

Walker and his father wanted to move from upstate New York to someplace they’d never been. That turned out to be North Carolina, where Walker’s father met Keyes’ mother, who was recently divorced with eight children.

Keyes was 10 at the time. She said she instantly bonded with Kenny, who was two years younger. Their parents soon married.

The family decided to build a log cabin in the woods on family land owned by Keyes’ mother near Mountain City, Tenn., in the far northwest corner of the state, bordering North Carolina and Virginia.

It was a total family effort.

“Kenny and my brother Travis spent most of the time peeling the logs, white pine,” she said. “My brothers peeled the bark with a hand peeler like they did in the early 1900s.

“For this house, we did everything the hard way.”

With so many children (Walker’s father and Keyes mother would have a child together several years later) it was tough to find a time for solitude, but their parents insisted that each child be able to have a quiet space for reflection.

Kenny took comfort in reading, particularly the Father Brown series by English writer G.K. Chesterton about a priest who solved mysteries Sherlock Holmes-style.

Their love of reading likely came from their mother, Keyes said. And it was from their mother the family was introduced to traditional Latin Mass.

Keyes said a bookstore owner in North Carolina gave her mother a copy of the book “The Incredible Catholic Mass,” which explained the Tridentine Mass.

Keyes, whose mother raised her in the Catholic church, described the experience as “a whole family conversion” to what she described as a more reverent version of the Mass.

That reverence was something the Walker family had been hungering for. They began to seek out churches in the area where they could participate in a traditional Latin Mass.

Kenny was so taken with the experience that he began studying Latin on his own.

“The more he learned, the more he wanted to know what would bring him closer to the Lord,” Keyes said.

Eventually, the family moved to a community near Scranton, Pa., to be closer to a church that regularly held masses in Latin.

“When my family was going through the conversion to a more traditional lifestyle, Kenny and I began to realize we might have a calling,” Keyes said.

There is much more about the background of the two priests and the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Read it all. 

And remember, please, to keep these two men and those who love them in your prayers.


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