This is heartbreaking. The statement from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph:
We were notified this morning when he did not show up for Mass that Fr. Evan Harkins, Pastor at St. James Parish and Parochial Administrator at St. Patrick’s Parish in St. Joseph, had apparently taken his own life.
In the face of this devastatingly tragic news, we ask that you pray for Fr. Harkins, his family, and the parish and school communities that he served as well as all of our priests. We will communicate further as we are able.
The Catholic Key profiled him shortly before his ordination in 2010:
Evan Harkins, the eldest of five children, attended St. James Church in Midtown until his family moved into St. Sabina Parish in Belton when he was eight. He had attended the French Magnet school for kindergarten and first grade as his parents wanted him to learn the language. After the move to Belton, he was homeschooled, originally to catch up in English, but the experience was so good, his parents continued to home school Evan and his younger siblings.
With his parents’ encouragement and support he started at St. Thomas Seminary High School in Hannibal, Mo., as a freshman. “I was fortunate,” he recalled. “My folks told me, ‘We’re happy and will support you whatever you do. If the priesthood is not what God is calling you to do, we’ll still be proud of you.’ There was no pressure.”
The seminary high school was closed at the end of his junior year, and along with a couple of other students, Evan was allowed to graduate early. He then enrolled at Conception Seminary College.
“My thoughts of the priesthood had been healthily growing all this time,” he said. “One of the things that inspired me was the selfless love my parents have for each other. I saw holiness lived out in the things they did — things Mother did at home that Dad never knew about. My parents were receptive to the miraculous grace of marriage. Having known and watched them as I was growing up helped bring thoughts of the priesthood to the forefront for me.”
After graduating from Conception Seminary College, Evan was accepted at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis for his four years of Theology. “I’ve had 11 years of Missouri seminaries,” he said with a grin, “all levels. Is that unusual?”
Rev. Mr. Harkins graduated earlier this month and came home for a few weeks before ordination. He received a dispensation through Bishop Finn to be ordained 2 ½ months before he turns 25, usually the earliest a priest can be ordained. He’s excited and a little nervous. He had some parish work experience during his years as a seminarian, but this will be different. “It’s new,” he said, “but it’s what I’ve been studying for all these years. There’s peace in that. I will still be learning the day-to-day duties and eventually how to make the decisions for a parish.” He expects his years as a Boy Scout will stand him in good stead in pastoral and priestly work and community outreach.
The article concludes with this quote:
A priest brings Christ to others, he said.
“He brings the channels of Christ’s grace to the sacraments: New life through baptism; absolution through the sacrament of Penance, His love for us and His grace through the Eucharist. A priest is a bridge connecting people to God in a sacramental way, and he extends Christ’s love for His Church, in a human way. I see a lot of pain and sadness in the world. You can see in people’s eyes. Satan makes people unsure of who they are. To me being ordained a priest is to be sent out in to the world to give God to people and His gifts of joy and truth. I think that’s awesome; there is nothing beyond that I could want.”
Father Harkins was 34 years old.
Pray for him, his family, all those who loved him. Pray as well for all our priests, including those who are struggling with sorrow, depression, loneliness or despair. Often, because of who they are and who they think people want them to be, they can’t bring themselves to share their pain with others.
CNA offered this helpful reminder:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “voluntary cooperation in suicide is contrary to the moral law,” but adds that “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.”
“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,” the Catechism adds.
Mary, Queen of Clergy, pray for us.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…