Father Kayda Remembered for Dedication to Faith, People of God
By Jen Reed
The Catholic Witness
The joyful sight of Father Kevin Kayda celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of St. Patrick in Carlisle is one that Father William Forrey will always remember.
“I will never forget the expression on his face, and the joy and sense of peace that he had. He was beaming,” Father Forrey, pastor of St. Patrick’s, said of the June 2 Mass.
Parishioners of the Carlisle parish rejoiced as well.
“When a priest is ordained, there is a great sense of pride that from this faith community emerged a religious vocation. In all of the parishioners at St. Patrick Parish, there was a great sense of pride as they watched their Kevin Kayda become Father Kevin Kayda,” Father Forrey said.
Some four months after that first Mass, that joy was replaced with grief as family members, parishioners, clergy, religious and seminarians filled St. Patrick Church for the funeral Mass for Father Kayda, who died Oct. 3 in Car-lisle from suicide linked to depression. He was 27.
“He comes from a family that so very much loved him, passed on their love of God to him,” Father Forrey told The Catholic Witness. “From an early age, he knew he wanted to be a priest, and he achieved that goal. Even though that priesthood was short, he leaves behind an example of one who was willing to give his entire life to God.”
Kevin Lee Kayda II was born on Nov. 13, 1985, in Lancaster to Kevin and Laura McMillan Kayda.
He graduated from Carlisle High School in 2004. He received degrees from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.
He served as a deacon at St. Andrew Parish in Waynesboro, and was ordained a priest on June 1, 2013, by Bishop William Waltersheid, Auxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh, at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg. As a priest, Father Kayda served as parochial vicar at St. John the Baptist Parish in New Freedom.
A Mass of Remembrance was celebrated Oct. 7 at St. Patrick Church in Carlisle by Father Brian Wayne, parochial vicar at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Hershey.
Father Thomas Haan, a priest of the Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana and one of Father Kayda’s classmates, in his homily encouraged mourners to pick up and hold onto the fragments that Father Kayda left behind – all the memories, teachings and perspectives he gave.
“We all had encounters with him, and he impacted us deeply. That’s why we’re here,” Father Haan said. “Our fragments probably coalesce into something we can all agree with: he was an intelligent young man, wise beyond his years. We can gather the fragments and see that he was a lover of Jesus Christ. He was a lover of Christ’s mother, a lover of Christ’s Church.”
Father Haan said he chose that evening’s Gospel Reading (John 6:1-15) of the multiplication of the loaves because it reminded him of a powerful homily that then-Deacon Kayda had once given on the Scripture passage.
“In that homily, I was able to witness through his words his love for Jesus Christ, his deep faith in Jesus Christ,” Father Haan said. “He spoke of the power of Jesus Christ, and that we should have deep faith in what the Gospels present.”
Patrick McVitty said Father Kayda had been his best friend ever since the two met 23 years ago at St. Patrick School.
Eulogizing his friend at the conclusion of the Mass of Remembrance, he spoke about the time they spent in arcades and at local sporting events growing up, of Father Kayda’s character, and of his desire to become a priest.
“Kevin was the perfect combination of his parents. He had his father’s easygoing but quiet demeanor and was a person who was easy to trust. [He had] his mother’s sharp wit and eagerness for knowledge,” he said.
“Kevin didn’t have enemies. I don’t think he knew the meaning of the word,” Mr. McVitty told the congregation, which filled the church to capacity that evening.
“His work should be continued: his selflessness, devotion, compassion and understanding brought to the hearts and minds of all,” he said.
In his four months as parochial vicar at St. John the Baptist Parish in New Freedom, Father Kayda left a lasting impression, especially among the youth.
Members of the southern York County parish filled two buses to attend the funeral Mass in Car-lisle Oct. 8. Among them were a number of teens ready to get involved in a pilot program for youth ministry that Father Kayda was helping to facilitate.
“He was very supportive of the youth in the parish,” concurred Julien and Lucas Sherman, ages 14 and 13, respectively. They spoke of Father Kayda at the parish carnival, on the rides and in the dunk tank.
Michael Koval, 14, said he was impressed by Father Kayda’s easygoing nature. The teen decided to undertake altar server training to serve at Masses with Father Joshua Brommer, pastor, and Father Kayda.
“At the trainings, Father Kayda really helped me to learn how things were to supposed to go. He did it in a fun way,” Michael recalled. “He said, ‘Come over here and stand on this splotch of wax that Father Brommer probably already dropped.’ His humor took the pressure off.”
“Whenever I serve at Masses, I will always re-member him,” Michael said.
Yulia Houseal, also 14, remembers Father Kayda’s support in attending one of her band concerts and soccer games, and in helping her to under-stand Scripture passages during youth group meetings.
“When I saw him in the crowd at the concert and the game, it motivated me to do my best,” she said. “To me, his presence showed that he took his role as a Father seriously, and that he loved us,” she said.
Bishop Waltersheid, a former pastor of St. Pat-rick Parish in Carlisle who ordained Father Kayda to the priesthood in June, celebrated the funeral Mass. Like Father Forrey, he too recalled the day that Father Kayda celebrated his first Mass at his home parish. The new priest had invited Bishop Waltersheid to be the homilist that day.
“As I watched him come up the aisle the day of his first Mass and bow down to kiss the altar, it reminded me that every priest finds his identity at the altar, as Father Kevin did with his whole heart,” Bishop Waltersheid recalled.
“Over these past months, again and again, Father Kevin walked to the altar, reverenced the altar with a kiss and entered into that unfathomable mystery of God’s love, the love that does trans-port us from this life of suffering and pain to the eternal glory of Heaven,” he said.
Acknowledging that death – especially the death of a young man like Father Kayda – often prompts us to ask “Why?” Father Lawrence McNeil said in his homily during the funeral Mass that there are no answers.
“All there is, is the Promise, the Promise made real in today’s Second Reading: Nothing can separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Jesus Christ,” said Father McNeil, who was Father Kayda’s spiritual director.
“So we gather today to celebrate, to rejoice, be-cause he didn’t die last Thursday. He died those years ago when his parents brought him into the Church and he died with Christ and rose with Christ in the Sacrament of Baptism. He began a journey – a journey with joy and sorrow, a journey with difficulties and crises and wondrous celebration. A journey that reached its fullness,” he said.
“We gather to celebrate, to rejoice in the life who has transformed us,” Father McNeil said. “Each and every one has been touched by him, perhaps to remind us that it is not how long we’re around that is important; it’s what we do with the time we have.”
Burial was in St. Patrick Parish Cemetery, Car-lisle.
In addition to his parents Kevin and Laura, Father Kayda is survived by his sisters, Stephanie Kayda and Michelle Kayda, by his maternal grandmother, Jean McMillan, and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
Letters of condolence may be sent to his par-ents, Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Kayda, 512 West Old York Road, Carlisle, PA 17015.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Andrew J. Fontanella Parish Activity Center Building Fund, 152 East Pomfret Street, Carlisle, PA 17013, or National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 2149 North Second Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110.
Do not miss the great article about Fr. Kevin Kayda in the newest edition of the Catholic Witness.
The original article can be viewed online here