Cause Advances for US Priest Martyred in Guatemala

Oklahoma Sending Dossier Off to Rome

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OKLAHOMA CITY, JULY 21, 2010 ( The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City is tying up more than three year’s worth of work (with a ribbon), sealing it with wax and sending it off to Rome: work that has resulted in some 10,000-15,000 pages of evidence that Father Stanley Rother deserves to be declared a saint.

Father Rother (1935-1981) was a priest of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese sent in 1968 to work in a Guatemala mission supported by the Oklahoma local Church since four years before.

He served as pastor of the Santiago Atitlan parish, working with the indigenous Tzutuhil people. He translated the New Testament into their language, and regularly celebrated the liturgy in their tongue.

At age 46, on July 28, 1981, he was killed amid the social unrest in Guatemala under a dictatorship that resulted in many people losing their lives in defense of the faith. He was shot by unknown assailants in the rectory of his church.

My people need me

Father Rother of course knew his life was in danger in Guatemala, but he chose to stay with his people anyway. In total, he served there for more than a dozen years.

In fact, a few months before his murder, Father Rother returned to Oklahoma after having been told he was on a «death list.» He spent time with his family, helping his parents on the family farm. He had a portrait of himself made for them. On Sundays, he would help with Masses.

But after just a few weeks in Oklahoma, he told his archbishop, «My people need me. I can’t stay away from them any longer.» And he returned to Guatemala.

Silencing the Church

He took more precautions than ever before, changing his bedroom in the rectory to a downstairs room with a heavy door.

But the conflict was intense. Just a few days before his murder, a statement from Guatemalan bishops was read at Sunday Masses, in which the prelates publicly denounced a plan to silence the Church. They decried the government’s inaction in investigating the murder of nine priests and hundred of catechists.

Two weeks later, Father Rother was added to that number; he was shot twice in the head.

When his father was told about the priest’s death, he responded: «We are real proud of him. He felt his people needed him and he went back.»


Father Rother’s heart is in a monument in the church of Santiago Atitlan. At the time of his martyrdom, as his body was being prepared to be taken to Oklahoma for burial, the people of Santiago Atitlan asked to keep his heart. His parents and the Oklahoma City archbishop granted their request.

A ceremony Tuesday in the Oklahoma City cathedral officially closed the diocesan phase of the canonization cause.

The cause was handled at the diocesan level in Oklahoma rather than in the Guatemalan Diocese of Solola because the Church there lacked the resources for the process.

Archbishop Eusebius Beltran of Oklahoma City requested a transfer of jurisdiction, the Guatemala episcopal conference agreed, and the Congregation for Saints’ Causes granted the permission.

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