For the past few weeks, I have been mourning the death of a young man I never met. At a Saturday morning Mass, our pastor asked us to pray for Father Kevin Kayda, who had died at the home of his parents two days previously.

The loss of a member of the clergy is always acutely felt, but that sadness grew deeper that afternoon when our pastor said Father Kayda was only 27 and had just been ordained a few months ago. The sorrow was multiplied exponentially when The Catholic Witness, the Diocese of Harrisburg's newspaper, noted in Father Kayda's memorial story that the young priest had committed suicide linked to depression.

From reading the comments by the young priest's fellow seminarians, lifelong friend, young members of his parish and his spiritual mentors, it is obvious that Father Kayda possessed a blend of intelligence, compassion and holiness that was reflected in his love for God and others.

He would have been a blessing for many decades wherever he was stationed, just as he was when he spent a summer as a seminarian at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Mount Carmel.

The ultimate question posed when someone so young and so full of promise dies - "Why? - is answerable only by God. In this case, it is doubly poignant because of the circumstances.

Father Kayda was not alone among people of faith who battled demons. St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), pondered suicide during a particularly dark period of his life.

You get an idea of the kind of man Father Kayda was by the fact that his family chose to make the details of his death public. Their candor about the effects of mental illness will help others bearing up the same cross.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes the Church entrusts the soul of a person such as Father Kayda to the mercy of God. "We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives" (CCC 2283).

The grief experienced by Father Kayda's family, friends and fellow priests now will be replaced with joy when God answers the forever the question - "Why?"

God forgives us because He loves us.


Tears of grief on earth flow into tears of joy in heaven.