Fr. Stanley Rother and Me

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A few days ago, I learned that the Cause for Sainthood for Fr. Stanley Francis Rother took another major step forward.

A special Theological Commission at the Congregation of the Causes of Saints in Rome voted Tuesday to formally recognize Oklahoma’s Servant of God Father Stanley Rother a martyr. The determination of martyrdom is a critical step in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City’s Cause to have Father Rother beatified, the final stage before canonization as a saint.

Fr. Rother was a missionary priest from Oklahoma, serving in the Oklahoma Catholic Mission in Santiago Atitlan Guatemala when he was martyred in the rectory of the parish church on July 28, 1981. He was killed by right-wing paramilitary forces opposed to the work he was doing to improve the lives of his poorest parishioners.

You can read more about his life and work here and here and here.

While I was campus minister at the St. Philip Neri Newman Center at the University of Tulsa, I was privileged to meet face to face the people that Fr. Rother ministered to.  In ten years, I led more than 150 students on a dozen mission trips to the Lake Atitlan region, and Fr. Rother’s town of Santiago Atitlan.

Home of the T’zutuhil Maya, Santiago Atitlan is where the Catholics of Oklahoma built their mission in the 1950’s.   Known as Micatokla (Mision Catolica de Oklahoma), it was served by Oklahoma missionary priests for more than 40 years.

What do you see in the photos above?  You see the beauty of the land, the beauty of the people, and the joy of the students working and sharing their lives with the T’zutuhil people.

Working shoulder-to-shoulder building homes, assisting the parish school, and praying in the parish church, we immersed ourselves for a short time and learn the story of Fr. Stanley Francis Rother firsthand from those he served.

These experiences changed my life in more ways than I can say. Having met the people he served, seen where he lived and prayed where he died, I feel a special bond with him that I cannot fully describe. He was part of the inspiration that led me to Papua New Guinea.  A photo of Fr. Rother was one of the things that I took with me.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Fr. Rother deserves to be declared a martyr, to be beatified, and to eventually be canonized a saint.  I hope I live long enough to see that happen.

Fr. Stanley Francis Rother

Fr. Stanley Francis Rother

Heavenly Father,

source of all holiness,
in every generation you raise up
men and women heroic in love and service.

You have blessed your Church
with the life of Stanley Rother,
priest, missionary, and martyr.
Through his prayer, his preaching,
his presence, and his pastoral love,
you revealed Your love and Your presence
with us as Shepherd.

rother1

If it be your will,
may he be proclaimed
by the universal church
as martyr and saint,
living now in your presence
and interceding for us all.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.Amen

 

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