On Fri., Feb. 17, I was privileged to be part of the Mass for the Dedication of the Church and Altar at the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine in Oklahoma City, OK.
Blessed Stanley was born in Okarche, OK, about 45 minutes northwest of Oklahoma City. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 25, 1963, and murdered at the age of 46 in the rectory of his parish in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, on July 28, 1981. He is the first recognized martyr from the United States and the first priest born in the US to be beatified (Sept. 23, 2017).
Raised on a farm, Bl. Stanley was well suited to the people of his rural parishes in Guatemala, where he helped to build an irrigation system, created a farmer’s Co-op, taught new farming techniques, and even helped to build a hospital and a radio station. Long before Pope Francis coined the phrase, Bl. Stanley had the “smell of the sheep.”
During the long Civil war in Guatemala, he sought justice for his people, as many of his parishioners were kidnapped and killed. Eventually the violence came to him, as his name appeared on a death list. He did return to Oklahoma but did not stay long. He believed that he should be with his people, and he is known for his famous words, “The shepherd does not run at the first sign of danger.”
He returned to his mission church in Guatemala just before Holy Week of 1981, and within a couple of months, on the early morning of July 28th, 1981, three gunmen entered the rectory, fought with Blessed Stanley, and murdered him. His body was returned to Oklahoma and is now interred in the Chapel at the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine, while his heart remained in Guatemala and is encased in a small shrine inside Saint James the Apostle Catholic Church, where he served.
“Blessed Stanley Rother is such an attractive role model, a faithful witness and powerful intercessor in our midst,” said Abp. Paul S. Coakley, the Archbishop of Oklahoma City, at the blessing and dedication of the shrine. “I pray his witness will inspire many young men to be open to God’s call to the priesthood and prompt all people of faith to realize their baptismal promise and call to holiness.”
Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine Church is the largest Catholic Church in Oklahoma, seating 2,000. The Chapel, where his body is entombed, seats 162. The parish complex also has a Pilgrim Center\Museum and a designated area, “Tepeyac Hill,” 50-feet high, which highlights a 12-foot statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a 6-foot statue of St. Juan Diego, recalling the occasion when Mary appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Christianity.
As evidenced by the title “Blessed,” a verified miracle is still required for Bl. Stanley to become a saint. And, in the 400 year history in his Guatemalan parishes, there were no vocations to the priesthood. However, since his death, the seminaries are full. As our own diocese strives to reach our goal of “25 by 25,” let us ask the intercession of Bl. Stanley Rother.
I was privileged to offer my morning Holy Hour in the Blessed Stanley Chapel, where his body is interred. I kissed the altar where his body is enshrined and I lit a candle for the intentions of the people of the Diocese of Springfield— Cape Girardeau. May Bl. Stanley bless our diocese with an abundance of holy vocations to the priesthood and religious life to serve the people of southern Missouri. And so we pray: Blessed Stanley Rother, pray for us!
Published in the March 03, 2023 issue of The Mirror.