PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Kendrick Castillo is a “saint for our times,” said Archbishop Borys Gudziak at a recent gathering to honor the 18-year-old hero who was killed while charging a shooter at his suburban Denver high school in May.
Archbishop Gudziak, the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, invited Castillo’s parents, John and Maria Castillo, to speak at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8 for the Ukrainian bishops’ sobor (synod). The talk was attended by parishioners, bishops and Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk.
“He gave his life for his friends, and there is no greater love than that,” Gudziak told a gathering of bishops and parishioners at the Philadelphia Archeparchial Sobor. “And that’s what we Christians are called to do, give our life for the other.”
Archbishop Gudziak was inspired by the Castillos when he learned their story at the Knights of Columbus’ 137th Supreme Convention in August. At the convention, Kendrick was welcomed posthumously as a member into the Order, and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson presented the Caritas Medal to the Castillos. The medal is the Order’s second-highest award.
John Castillo is a member of Knights of Columbus Southwest Denver Council 4844, and Kendrick Castillo planned on joining the Knights shortly after graduating from high school.
Archbishop Gudziak said that Castillo is a martyr who “swam against the current of violence, social degradation, nihilism, cynicism and vulgarity.”
John Castillo described Kendrick as a “catalyst of love” who understood the importance of community — which he illustrated by volunteering with his father at Knights of Columbus events — and personalizing relationships between his friends and family. Yet, Kendrick’s devotion to God was “number one.”
“Kendrick was one who would go out of his way -- nothing was more important than helping someone else, even if something that he had to do would have to suffer,” Castillo said. “He did what we should all be doing in our faith. We gather here as a community to learn the lessons of love, but when we leave the doors, it should never stop and Kendrick figured that out.”
At the end of the testimony, Archbishop Gudziak led the attendees in an incantation of “Eternal Memory,” a Byzantine tradition of praying for the dead.
This was the first time the Castillos were invited by a diocese to talk about Kendrick’s life. John and Maria found the speaking engagement not only cathartic, but also a way of helping those, especially younger men, who are feeling lost and marginalized in today’s culture.
“If Kendrick can be the new light to bring people out of darkness to let them know that there’s hope and to live their lives differently, get involved, reach out to the marginalized and the outliers in society, the oppressed, I think that’s a good thing,” John Castillo said. “We need someone like that, and he was that person.”
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