Vincentian priests mourn ‘caring’ bishop

Two Vincentian Anglican priests who were beneficiaries of an American bishop’s goodwill are mourning his passing, saying he was a “great servant of God” and a “caring” shepherd.

The Right Rev. Orris George Walker, Jr., the seventh diocesan bishop of the Episcopal (Anglican) Diocese of Long Island, NY was called to eternal rest on Feb. 28. He was 72.

Vincentian-born priests, Frs. Ulric Jones and Leopold Baynes were among hundreds of mourners who paid their last respect at the funeral service and interment, on Saturday, March 21, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Garden City, Long Is.

Fr. Jones, who worked under Bishop Walker’s leadership, flew from St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the funeral service.

He told Caribbean Life that Bishop Walker was “a man with a most caring heart and a shepherding spirit,” whom he first met on arrival in New York, in July, 1991. Fr. Jones and his family had migrated, at the time, from the Bahamas “to begin a new life.”

“He embraced me and afforded me the opportunity to serve as a priest in the Diocese of Long Island, at historic Grace Church, Jamaica, Queens, and my subsequent election as rector of the Church of St. James the Less, Jamaica, Queens, from where I retired in 2007, after 13 years, and returned home,” Fr. Jones said. “For this, I express my deep appreciation.”

He said Bishop Walker had visited St. Vincent and the Grenadines on several occasions, proving to be “a friend of the Diocese of the Windward Islands by his willingness to assist two of our churches (St. Paul’s Calliaqua and Holy Name, Sandy Bay), which were undergoing much urgent repair.

“His kindness and generosity will be forever be remembered,” said Fr. Jones, adding that Bishop Walker’s dedication to the people of the Diocese of Long Island will “forever stand as a testament to his love for Jesus Christ and his dedication to the ministry of the church.

“To his sorrowing widow, Mrs. Norma Walker, his children and grandchildren, relatives and friends, I convey my profound and sincere condolences with the assurance of our prayers,” Fr. Jones continued. “May he rest in peace, and rise in glory, and may his family and friends know that he is held in the palm of God’s hand!

“His death leaves a hole in the hearts of many and certainly in the Diocese of Long Island,” he said. “We are so very, very sad but give great thanks for having him as a Father-in-God, a friend and colleague.”

Fr. Jones further said Bishop Walker was “a pioneer,” who warmly welcomed Vincentian priests in his diocese.

“He really showed appreciation and gave us opportunity,” Fr. Jones said. “I couldn’t stay in St. Vincent [and the Grenadines]. I had to come to New York. He really opened his heart to me and members of our families.”

Fr. Jones disclosed that Bishop Walker had recommended his only daughter, Sharon, for the position of executive assistant to the then presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the U.S., the Most Rev. Frank Griswold. Sharon is still serving in that capacity – now under the Most Rev. Kathrine Jefferts-Schori.

Fr. Baynes said he first met Bishop Walker in September 1995 when he migrated to New York to study counseling, among other things, at Blanton Peale Theological School.

“There was no hesitation on his part to allow me to become the assistant at the Church of St. Mark (in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn) to work with the Rev. Harold Lewis,” he said. “He was very approachable, kind, and had that compassionate spirit to make one feel at ease in his presence.

“Bishop Walker always said that, because of the West Indians in the diocese of Long Island, the church was doing well and that he loved visiting those churches because of their strong faith in God and tasty curry goat and rice and peas,” Fr. Baynes added.

He said Bishop Walker was also “kind to many churches in the Windward Islands offering financial support for much-needed repairs.

“Like anyone of us, he had his strengths and weakness, but as Dr. Lloyd Lewis said at the memorial service for him at Garden City ‘Ordination is not a vaccination against our demons,’” said Fr. Baynes, adding that it was because of Bishop that he was appointed Rector of Grace Episcopal Church, Corona, Queens, on May 1, 1999, “for which my family and me will always be forever grateful.”

Another Vincentian-born pastor, the Rev. Carver Israel, archdeacon of Brooklyn, was also high in praise for Bishop Walker.

“He was a good, genuine pastor, who loved people and cared for people,” Fr. Israel, Caribbean Life. “He really cared for his clergy. He held no animosity. He had his short comings, like anybody else, but he was a very decent man.”

Bishop Walker was born on Nov. 5, 1942 in Baltimore, MD. In 1984, he earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Drew University in Madison, NJ.

In 1969, he was ordained to the priesthood. As Bishop of Long Island, he served as chairman of the board of managers of Episcopal Health Services and board chairman of the Interfaith Medical Center in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

In addition, Bishop Walker served as president of Episcopal Charities of Long Island and the George Mercer Memorial School of Theology.

He taught Canon Law, and Theology and Contemporary Society at The Mercer School and at the General Theological Seminary.

Bishop Walker also served as president of the Cathedral Chapter of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City.

More from Around NYC