Haec commixtio et consecratio Corporis at Sanguinis Domini nostri Jesu Christi fiat accipientibus nobis in vitam aeternam. Amen.
May this commingling and consecrating of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ avail us who receive it unto life everlasting. Amen. — From the Tridentine Mass
There is a moment in every Catholic Mass when the priest consecrates the bread and wine.
At that precise instant, Catholics believe, the elements become not only symbols of the Last Supper but the actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.
In theological terms, the moment is called transubstantiation. To Catholics, it is the holiest of moments as Christ’s presence in heaven becomes one with his presence on Earth, erasing all time and space. It is a moment of reverence and awe, one of the “mysteries of faith.”
This moment, Father Kenneth Walker once told his sister, was his favorite part of being a priest: “When I say the words,” he would tell her, “that make the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord.”
Walker found that one thing made that
moment even more reverent. Speaking the words in Latin, the tongue of the early church, imbued the mystery of faith with the majesty of ancient language.
Hoc est enim Corpus Meum … For this is My Body …
Walker’s colleague, Father Joseph Terra, also was in awe of the Latin Mass. He had told others he found it humbling that a sinner like him would be granted the grace to lead the rite.
Together, the two men would pray the Mass every day in a simple church near downtown Phoenix. It bears a Latin name, Mater Misericordiae, meaning “Mother of Mercy,” and had been created specifically to be a home for the Latin Mass.
That ancient serenity was pierced by the stark violence of the modern world on Wednesday. Late that evening, police say, an intruder broke into the rectory, or priests’ quarters, of the church.
Walker, the son of a carpenter, an earnest 28-year-old newcomer to the priesthood, would die of his injuries. Terra, a woodworking craftsman, a blunt but soft-spoken former truck driver, would live.
Hic est enim Calix Sanguinis Mei … For this is the Chalice of My Blood …
The two had not worked together for long, but they were unified in their devotion to the oldest traditions of the church.
As members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, both men embraced what they saw as the purest way to express the sacraments, in the language of the early church, Latin, and performed with the priest facing the altar, not the congregants — his only job being to glorify God.
Haec quotiescumque feceritis, in mei memoriam facietis … As often as ye shall do these things, ye shall do them in remembrance of me.
The liturgy the two men celebrated is five centuries old. In the face of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the church codified the liturgy during the Council of Trent. It became known as the Tridentine Mass, after the Latin name for the Italian city.
The Mass was unchanged for 400 more years, until half a century ago, when Pope John XXIII and his successor, Pope Paul VI, literally turned the liturgy around.
No longer was the priest to face away from the congregation. Instead, he would face the people and speak not in Latin, but in their own tongue.
The new Mass, or Novus Ordo Missae in Latin, was part of a set of sweeping reforms in the 1960s by what became known as the Second Vatican Council that were meant to bring the church closer to the people, and the people closer to God.
To many, particularly in the New World, the change was embraced and celebrated.
But to others it sapped the beauty, reverence and mystery of the Mass. Some refused to accept the changes and continued the old traditions. Those churches were considered not to be in full harmony with the Vatican.
In 1988, about a quarter of a century after Vatican II was formed, the new pope, John Paul II, at the urging of conservative Cardinal John Ratzinger, who would later succeed John Paul as Pope Benedict XVI, allowed a limited return to the Tridentine Mass, but only with a bishop’s approval.
(In 2007, Pope Benedict issued what amounted to an executive order allowing any priest to celebrate the Tridentine Mass in any parish.)
Pope John Paul also approved the creation of a new priesthood order, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, named for the Apostle Peter, who is considered the first pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
Unlike other priestly orders, this one would be dedicated to maintaining the tradition of the Latin Mass.
It would draw men like Terra, 56, who became a parish priest under Vatican II and longed for a return to tradition. And it would draw men like Walker, 28, who grew up in the new Traditional Latin Mass, and knew from childhood that he would be called to the priesthood.
Joseph Terra came from a family of nine children who grew up in the orchard-blossom farm country of California’s Central Valley. His father, Frank, who emigrated from Portugal, was a dairy farmer who became a firefighter. He worked in fire for 30 years, retiring as the chief of the Mokelumne Rural Fire District, serving the mountain area east of Lodi, Calif. Terra’s father died in 1995. His mother, Elin, died in 2013.
Before joining the priesthood, he worked in the honey business, hauling bees, said Jose Salgado, a priest who has known Terra for 23 years.
Salgado said Terra is built like a boxer and has a tough demeanor. “I wouldn’t want to take him on,” said Salgado, who says the Latin Mass at St. Cecilia Mission Church in Clarkdale.
Salgado said Terra will soon be celebrating 25 years in the priesthood.
“Very deep in his faith,” he said. “A very good priest.”
Both men met while working in the Stockton, Calif., area. Salgado said Terra had been contemplating priestly life for a while. “He’d been thinking about it for many years and finally got around to it,” Salgado said.
In 1994, both men joined the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.
“It’s something that you have in your heart,” Salgado said of the Fraternity. “We have a preference for the old rite and the extraordinary Mass.”
But it was a battle to say the Latin Mass in the Stockton Diocese, Salgado said.
Terra started saying a monthly Latin Mass at the chapel of a Catholic high school in Modesto, Calif.
Although Terra received permission from the bishop, “it was frowned upon,” Salgado said.
Terra would also add orthodox touches to the ordinary Mass, covering the chalice with a veil, for instance, Salgado said. “If you were in any way displaying orthodoxy, they didn’t like you,” Salgado said. “Father Terra went through hell.”
Terra was soon transferred about 45 minutes east to Angels Camp, Calif. Salgado figured it might have had to do with Terra’s orthodoxy, including his wearing of the cassock, a traditional priest’s robe, and miter, a ceremonial hat, around town.
Salgado, who was equally orthodox, was asked by parishioners to step in and say the Mass. Salgado agreed, joining Terra in his fight to keep the rite going. “We became fast friends,” Salgado said.
A bishop soon allowed weekly sayings of the Latin mass, and the crowds grew, Salgado said.
He said that while the movement started with older priests, it has become a young person’s movement.
Terra’s calling would take him to seven other states before he landed in Phoenix.
The last church he served before coming to Phoenix in 2009 was St. Mary of the Assumption in Fort Worth, Texas, where he spent four years.
“The Latin Mass is more contemplative. It’s orderly; it doesn’t constantly change,” Terra said in an interview with a Fort Worth newspaper. “It was used for centuries and meets a need. It didn’t endure all that time for nothing.”
Terra said it was not so much that the priest doesn’t face the public, as much as everyone faces God.
“It’s like in an airplane,” he said. “The pilot is not facing you — he’s facing where you’re going.”
When Terra came to Phoenix, Mater Misericordiae had been established as a mission serving the traditional Latin Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle, near 24th Street and Camelback Road.
When it came time for the mission to stand on its own, Terra considered having the mission buy a church in Scottsdale, but his practical side led him to choose a 1950s-era Baptist church near downtown Phoenix.
Several parishioners balked at the idea, concerned about risks in the neighborhood, a block south of Van Buren Street in the shadow of state government office buildings and parking garages.
Despite the concerns, Terra won the detractors over, and they followed him to the new home of Mater Misericordiae.
Terra found a Sacramento artist, Anja Longenecker, to design the interior of the church. According to a summary of a sermon posted on the church’s website, Terra asked her if she would visit the church to design it. She told him she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We hired an artist who had a pretty free hand in designing it,” he told parishioners in the sermon. But she was respectful of the existing structure. “She bends her will to the need of the church. It’s not just an exercise in self-expression.”
In his sermon, Terra told parishioners, “The building is a musical instrument, and it has wonderful acoustics.”
The church organ is of indeterminate age, Terra continued, but it is “not a spring chicken.”
The church featured a hand-carved wooden altar painted to look like marble. It was estimated to be 120 years old, Terra said. It was discovered rotting in a Michigan barn. That was where the church’s communion rail was also found.
The altar was “quite a bit of a mess when we got it,” he said.
Inside, the style of the church is “Mission Romanesque, something like that,” he said. Outside, he noted, the building is ordinary brick.
While Terra praised the tradespeople who worked on the church, he also rolled up his own sleeves. He did much of the work on the side altar, which matches the main, and one parishioner told of how, when a water main burst, Terra was the one outside digging in the heat and then later attending a church meeting covered in mud and dirt.
The congregation moved in 2010. In parish announcements in the church bulletin shortly after, Terra asked people to populate the church on certain weekday mornings so it could keep its doors open to the public.
The man who celebrated an ancient rite seemed to lament that times had changed outside the Mass, as well.
“Not so many years ago, it was customary that a Catholic church be kept open at least during the daylight hours so that the faithful could stop in and visit Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and find a time and place of peace in His house,” he wrote. “That is more rare these days, owing to concerns for security. It is a pity.”
Like Terra, 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.
“At 17, I entered the convent. He had chosen the (Priestly) Fraternity of St. Peter and had decided to go there. … He was told he needed to have some time in the world,” she said, to decide if the vocation was really his calling.
When Kenny finished high school in 2003, he enrolled in Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, a small Catholic university in Ontario.
Two years later, in 2005, he left college, urgent to begin his seven years of seminary training at St. Peter’s, near Omaha, Neb.
Faculty and friends at both institutions described a devout and studious young man, but one who was also able to have fun and enjoy the fellowship of being a student.
While seminary life was rigorous — one year of learning about spiritual life and church law, two years of philosophy and four years of theology — Walker found time to enjoy the communal dining table as well as the soccer field, where he was “extremely competitive,” his sister said.
But while Keyes would leave the convent after two years — with Walker’s blessing — Walker would become even more secure in his calling and even more enthralled with the traditional Latin Mass.
He also loved the idea of confession, “being able to absolve people of their sins, bring them closer to the Lord.”
But he was conscious of how much he needed to learn.
“He loved preaching,” Keyes said. “Just days before he died, he had been talking to a parishioner about how he wanted to perfect his ways of speaking from the podium. He wanted to stop saying ‘um,’ to memorize his sermons so he could make eye contact. He wanted to be the best he could.”
In 2012, Walker finished his seminary training and was ordained. He was elated, Keyes said, when the order assigned him to a mission in Arizona.
In their time at the rectory, parishioners would later say, Terra and Walker embodied the priestly virtues of service and sacrifice. They lived simply. When a parishioner donated a grill to the church’s Knights of Columbus chapter, he said Walker could use it to grill steaks. He remembered Walker replying, “We don’t eat like that.”
On Wednesday, the priests at Mater Misericordiae would have celebrated two weekday Masses, one at 6:30 a.m. and another at 6:30 p.m.
Police still can’t fully describe what happened some time later that evening.
Keyes said authorities in Phoenix told her that her brother had been shot in the chest, apparently before Terra was beaten.
Phoenix police could not confirm that scenario, and have not publicly identified a suspect or a motive for the attack.
Terra, friends said, was recuperating at a Phoenix hospital.
Walker never once mentioned any concerns to his sister about the neighborhood or for his safety.
In the 911 tape released Friday, Terra sounds dazed, and his breathing is labored.
“We’ve been broken into and assaulted,” he tells the operator.
When she asks if he could describe the assailant, he replies that he did not see him.
“Did he have a weapon?” she asks.
“I don’t know if he has or not. My assistant priest here has been beaten,” Terra replies.
The operator clarifies that Terra cannot describe his assailant, then asks again to confirm that Walker is unconscious.
“We could use an ambulance here,” he says.
Another operator asks if Walker is breathing, and when Terra replies that he is not, she begins to tell him how to perform CPR.
As he begins, the police and paramedics arrive.
After Terra yielded to them, authorities say, he performed one last act of mercy for his young colleague and administered the last rites.
Salgado, Terra’s friend, said last rites are typically administered in the language of the dying person. That way they are sure to understand.
But, although he hasn’t asked him during hospital visits, he is sure Terra would have administered the rites to Walker in Latin. And in the old manner.
The anointing is done not just once to the forehead, but again and again to the body to ask God to forgive sins committed by the use of sight, of hearing, of speech, of touch.The prayer is repeated in full each time.
Per istam sanctan unctionem et suam piissimam misericordiam, indulgeat tibi Dominus quidquid per visum, per audtiotum, …per odorátum, …per gustum et locutiónem, per tactum, gressum deliquisti.
Katie Bieri and Corina Vanek contributed to this article.
Kenneth Walker devotions
In the weeks before he died, Father Kenneth Walker recorded two rosaries and devotions that will be broadcast on Radio Family Rosary.
The first, focusing on the Feast of Sacred Heart, will air June 23. The second, in honor of the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, will air the next day.
Both broadcasts begin at 1:30 p.m. on station KIHP, 1310 AM.
A Requiem Mass is planned for Walker at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Catherine of Siena, 6401 S. Central Ave., Phoenix.