Fr. Kuykendall laid to rest

Father Dwight Birket blesses the body of Father Andrew Kuykendall Monday morning, Aug. 24, in front of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. Father Birket delivered the homily. As slide show of the funeral is available at YouTube.Com/DioeseOfWichita. (Advance photos)


When Andrew Kuykendall finished the eighth grade at Christ the King Catholic School in Wichita, he told Father Leon Kerschen, the vocations director at the time, that he wanted to be a priest and was ready to study at a seminary.

Father Dwight Birket said Father Kerschen explained to the eager youngster that high school seminaries were being phased out and recommended he enroll at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School. He added: “If you’re still interested in four years, come back.”

Father Kerschen forgot about his proposal, Father Birket said, but Andy didn’t. “The day after Bishop Carroll’s graduation he was back and said ‘I still want to be a priest.’”

Father Dwight Birket, a retired priest of the diocese, spoke at Father Kuykendall’s funeral Monday, Aug. 24, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.

Fr. Birket talked about how he met Father Kuykendall at St. Thomas Seminary College in Denver, and how his friend seemed to follow in his assignments.

He followed Fr. Birket as an associate at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Wichita, as a teacher at Bishop Carroll, and as a diocesan youth director.

“There’s one place he didn’t follow me,” Fr. Birket said. “And that was in Venezuela.”

A visit to Venezuela

Father Birket was assigned to the diocesan mission in Barquisimeto in July of 1981. Father Kuykendall was one of a trio from the diocese who visited the mission in January, a visit that turned out to be a cross.

“It’s a great place to go in the middle of winter here because it’s hot (in Venezuela),” Father Birket said.

“After two days he (Fr. Kuykendall) was ready to come home,” he said. “The heat. The unairconditioned house. Churches with tin roofs. The food. He couldn’t wait to go home.”

Father Birket said Father Kuykendall told him that when he landed in Miami after the flight from Caracas, “the first thing he did when he got off the plane was kiss the ground – and then made a run for McDonald’s. Needless to say, he never came back to visit.”

The Gospel message of Jesus as the living bread was why Father Kuykendall wanted to be a priest, he said. “To celebrate and provide the Eucharist to people. He did that faithfully for so many years.”

Ended service at Catholic Care Center

He ended his service to the church as a chaplain at the Catholic Care Center, Father Birket said.

“Most people, if we would have had the sufferings and the struggles he had, would have gone to the bishop and said, Bishop, I need to retire,” Father Birket said. “But he didn’t. He lived to do what Jesus said. And he did them without complaint…and he did them courageously.”

He said the church wants those attending a funeral to face the mystery of death. “But the mystery of death is this isn’t the end.”
What seems to be death, in the end, is a transition to a new life, Fr. Birket said. “And in this new kind of life, there’s no more suffering. There’s no more pain.”

For Father Kuykendall, he added, there’s no more oxygen, no more pills, no more shots, and no more of the other things that he bore so courageously.

Fr. Kuykendall died on Aug. 18

Fr. Andrew H. Kuykendall, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita for 42 years, died Tuesday, Aug. 18, in Wichita. He was 67.
He was buried next to his parents at Resurrection Cemetery in Wichita.

Andrew Herman Kuykendall was born on Oct. 4, 1952, in Wichita to Andy and Irene (Posch) Kuykendall. He attended Christ the King Grade School and graduated from Bishop Carroll Catholic High School. As a seminarian, he studied at St. Thomas Seminary College in Denver, St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia, and St. Mark Priory in South Union, Kentucky.

Father Kuykendall was ordained a priest on May 20, 1978, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita by Bishop David M. Maloney.

His first assignment was as an assistant at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Wichita. He began teaching religion at Bishop Carroll High School in 1981, the same year he was named director of the Catholic Youth Office. In 1985 he also began serving as a chaplain at Mt. St. Mary’s Convent in Wichita.

Father Kuykendall was named the chaplain at Trinity High School in Hutchinson and pastor of St. Agnes in Castleton in August of 1986. Two years later, he was named pastor of St. Teresa Parish in Hutchinson.

He was granted a sabbatical in 1993 to study at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. In 1994 Father was assigned as an assistant at Church of the Blessed Sacrament and a few months later as an assistant at Sacred Heart in Colwich.

Pastored St. Cecilia for many years

Father Kuykendall was named pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in Haysville in January of 1995. In 2007, after serving on several diocesan boards, he was named pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Schulte. In 2015 he was assigned as a chaplain at the Catholic Care Center in Wichita.

He was named to the Priest Retirement and Education Fund Board in 2017 and served on several other diocesan presbyteral councils during his priesthood.

Brenda Hickok remembers luncheon

Brenda Hickok, principal of St. Peter Catholic School in Schulte, said one of her favorite memories of Fr. Kuykendall occurred at a Pastor Appreciation Day luncheon.

“As a faculty, we had a Mexican inspired pot luck lunch and people could come and go throughout the day. He loved seeing everyone!,” she wrote in response to an email. “He sat through the lunch with the biggest smile on his face. He truly loved being around teachers and students and in the school environment.”

Father is an important part of the history of St. Peter Catholic School, she said. “He instilled in all of us a great appreciation for our school and parish, but most especially he instilled this love in our students.”

Paula Duling remembers his love

Paula Duling, St. Peter’s business manager, said Fr. Kuykendall was dedicated to his calling and loved his congregation with all his heart.
Not only did he preside at her wedding with her husband, Nick, 39 years ago, she wrote, Father Kuykendall also baptized their three oldest children.

“I recall getting a happy anniversary call on many of our anniversaries,” she said. “It was always so touching that he remembered our anniversary. But I heard from many couples that he would call them as well. What a gift of kindness that will always be treasured by many.”
Duling said Father Kuykendall was not only her friend he was her pastor and boss for eight years.

“Father loved his vocation and nourishing his people. He had a way of comforting and making a person feel better about themselves.”
Not only did he love and believe in the youth of the parish, they – and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame – were his pride and joy, she said.

“Father’s chuckle and smile will forever be etched in the hearts of many. They were both unforgettable,” she said.