MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Kendrick Castillo, an 18 year-old who died in May while helping disarm a school shooter in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, was honored by the Knights of Columbus on Tuesday night with the Caritas Medal.
“And as we go through life, just remember, be like Kendrick. Be selfless,” John Castillo, father of Kendrick Castillo, said upon accepting the Caritas Medal on behalf of his son at the annual Knights of Columbus State Dinner on Tuesday.
“I wish could say I taught Kendrick those things. There’s a few things I did teach him,” Castillo said about his son’s reputation for service. “But in all actuality, he was the angel who saved my life, who taught me how to live. I will never forget him.”
Kendrick Castillo was an 18 year-old student at STEM High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, killed on May 7 while rushing a gunman who was attempting mass murder at the school. Kendrick was just a week away from graduation, his father said. He was the only person killed in the attack at the school; eight others were injured.
As a student armed with a rifle entered Kendrick’s classroom, intending to execute students and teachers, Kendrick leaped from his seat and pinned the gunman against the wall. Two other students rushed the gunman to disarm him, but not before Kendrick was fatally shot in the chest.
“As we miss Kendrick here on earth, I know that he’s with his true Father in heaven,” Castillo said in a moving testimony before cardinals, bishops, priests, and Knights from around the world. “He was my best friend for 18 years, and the love of his mother’s life.”
For his heroism, Castillo received the Caritas Medal at the 137th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota from August 6-8. The Knights of Columbus is a worldwide charitable organization with more than 16,000 councils in over a dozen countries, and more than 1.9 million members worldwide.
The Caritas Medal is the second-highest award of the organization; a medal with an image of the Good Shepherd, it award was established in 2013 “to recognize those who most profoundly embrace our order’s principles of charity in their service and their sacrifice for others,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson stated on Tuesday.
“Kendrick Castillo lived and died by this principle,” he said. “There are those who say that we don’t have heroes anymore. Tonight’s recipient of our Caritas Award proves that we do have heroes.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus unanimously moved to grant Kendrick full membership in the organization posthumously, to a standing ovation.
Anderson honored Castillo in his address to the convention, attended by Knights councils from the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, South Korea, France, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland, Panama, the British island of St. Lucia and the Bahamas.
Kendrick wanted to be a Knight, his father John—a member of Southwest Denver Council 4844—said. The two combined for 2,600 hours of volunteer service with the organization, Anderson said.
John Castillo recounted how Kendrick served funeral Masses and assisted as an usher at an early age, mentored friends and supported them through struggles with school or family life, and assisted the elderly at Mass.
“It doesn’t surprise us that Kendrick would do what he did. He was a selfless individual who cared about other people. He was raised that way,” Castillo said, crediting local members of the Knights of Columbus for Kendrick’s formation. “Our community raised a young man and did good.”
Society is in need of “a stronger sense of family,” Castillo said, exhorting parents to “always remember to support their children. Be all in. Do everything that you can for your kids. Love them and support them in their endeavors, teach them about their faith.”
And, he added, a sense of “innocence” needs to be recovered and protected. “We don’t have to lose our innocence—we choose to,” he said. “We know what’s right.”
Following Castillo’s testimony, Anderson honored Kendrick’s parents. “You suggest to us to be more like Kendrick. And really, I think all of us should like to be more like you and Maria,” he said to John.
Tuesday night’s keynote speaker at the States Dinner, Cardinal Christopher Collins of Toronto, also praised the “sacrificial love of Kendrick.”
“It is through people that God speaks to us, through their virtue,” he said. “Sometimes brought to a heroic moment, sometimes day-by-day.”
“And that inspires us, guides us, shows us the way. And that’s why the Church takes time and effort and attention to hold up the example of saintly people, people who show us the path, the call to God, help us on our journey,” he said.