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Beloved deacon passes away at age 67

Deacon Walter Henderson was born on Jan. 22, 1957, in Baltimore, Maryland to Walter Henderson Sr. and Annie Lee Cunningham. After relocating to the Birmingham area, he was baptized and confirmed at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Bessemer.

Deacon Henderson began his formal education at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School before graduating from John Carrol Catholic High School in 1975. He enrolled at Lawson State Community College and received an associate degree in cosmetology in 1979. He later received his Bachelor of Science in social work from the University of Montevallo. 

Before the turn of the century, Deacon Henderson felt a call upon his heart to serve the Church. He answered the call and was ordained a permanent deacon of the Diocese of Birmingham on Dec. 2, 2000, by Bishop David E. Foley. Faithfully, he served the congregations of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Collegeville and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Fairfield.

Throughout the concourse of his life, Deacon Henderson led Bible study and Catholic education programs at Donaldson Correctional Facility. From 2003-2006, he served as the diocesan director of the Office of Black Ministry. After receiving his Clinical Pastoral Education Certificate, he served as chaplain at Birmingham’s Princeton Hospital and Grandview Medical Center for 15 years. He was also a part of the Catholics in Recovery and ROSS. In 2022, he founded the Pray Against Gun Violence Movement, holding prayer services to stop the gun violence in Birmingham. He truly believed that “prayer really changes things.”

On Thursday May 30, 2024, at midnight, he transitioned to his place of sweet repose. He was preceded in death by his parents, Walter, Sr., and Annie Lee Henderson-Cleveland; stepfather, Emmanuel Cleveland, and his brothers, Larry and Maurice Henderson. 

Those left to cherish his memories include his nephew, Antonio Toles; sister, Earline (Ralph) Tyler; and uncle, Joseph (Brenda) Cunningham. In addition to his family, Deacon Henderson’s host of family and friends include the deacons of the Diocese of Birmingham, his beloved St. Mary’s Catholic Church family, his adopted little brother Rev. Kelvin J. Anthony and his care team of Will Davis, Randell Smith, and Alexander Brewer.

Deacon Henderson’s visitation will take place Friday, June 7, from 2-6 p.m. at Roberts Funeral Home located at 1337 Bessemer Rd. in Birmingham. The Rosary and Funeral Mass will be held the next day, June 8, at St. Mary Catholic Parish located at 6101 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. in Fairfield. The Rosary will begin at 12:30 p.m., immediately followed by the Mass of Christian Burial at 1:00 p.m. Interment to follow at Highland Memorial Gardens located at 3115 18th Ave. in Bessemer.

Eternal rest grant upon him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.