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Catholic Priests Attacked at Phoenix Church, One Killed

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Two Catholic priests were attacked Wednesday night at their church in Phoenix.

Father Kenneth Walker, an assistant pastor, was shot and killed, while Father Joseph Terra, a pastor, was hospitalized.

The Diocese of Phoenix released the following statement:

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.

Fr. Walker's life was taken. Fr. Terra remains in critical condition but stable.

The reported attack occurred at Mater Misericordiae Mission in Phoenix.

The police are still gathering information and trying to sort through the details of this senseless act of violence. We ask that people offer prayers for both priests, the religious community, their families and the parish.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

The church is located a couple blocks away from the state capitol.

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has a biography of Walker, who was still in his 20s, on its website:

Fr. Kenneth Walker, FSSP was born in Upstate New York near Poughkeepsie, the middle of 11 children (6 boys and 5 girls). His family moved frequently when he was young. While his father was working construction in Wilmington, N.C, the family decided to build, with their own hands, a log cabin on some land they owned in nearby Tennessee. Their intention was to sell the home, but they changed their minds and moved in. While living there, they visited a used book store and found a book called The Incredible Catholic Mass. It described the Tridentine Mass, which they had never seen nor heard. The book was considered worthless and the storeowner gave it to them for free.

The family was intrigued. The more they learned about the Traditional Mass, the more they wanted it in their daily lives. On his own initiative, Fr. Walker began learning Latin. The family decided to sell their log cabin and move to rural Pennsylvania near Scranton where the Traditional Mass was offered. Fr. Walker eventually became an altar server at the FSSP Apostolate, and after attending Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom Academy in Ontario, entered the seminary.

He was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood in 2012, and currently serves as Assistant Pastor of Mater Misericordiae Mission, the FSSP Apostolate in Phoenix.

Phoenix Police Sergeant Steve Martos says Terra was able to call police during the attack last night, reporting it as a burglary. At the time of this post, Terra hasn't been able to give police more information due to his medical condition.

Police are asking that people call Silent Witness if they have any information about the suspect or suspects.

UPDATE 11:02 a.m.: From Phoenix Police Officer James Holmes:

On June 11, 2014, just after 9 p.m., Phoenix Police Officers were dispatched to the Mother of Mercy Mission Church located near 1600 West Monroe Street. The caller, later determined to be Father Joseph Terra, was located by officers in the rectory portion of the property. The rectory is attached to the church building at this location. Father Terra was found to have sustained severe injury to his body. He was taken to an area hospital in extremely critical condition.

While inside the rectory, officers located Father Walker who had sustained a gunshot wound. He was immediately transported to an area hospital where he later succumbed to the injury he sustained. Officers searched the facility and quickly discovered the garage door was open and a vehicle was missing. Officers learned one of the victim's vehicles was missing and began a search for this vehicle. The vehicle, a 2003 Mazda Tribute, was located approximately four blocks north of the crime scene at approximately 11:15 p.m. A search of the area for any suspect proved fruitless.

Homicide investigators have been on scene throughout the night and this morning. No motive has been determined as of yet. No suspect information has been obtained.

UPDATE 11:07 a.m.: Police Chief Daniel Garcia said he couldn't say much about the investigation, but said, "We do have some strong physical evidence we're going to be able to follow up on."

Sergeant Martos added that Terra had been "severely physically assaulted" and is still hospitalized in critical, but stable condition.

UPDATE June 16: Police have made an arrest in the case. Click here for the latest details.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.
Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

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