‘May his heroic example help us to be courageous witnesses of the Gospel, committing ourselves in favor of human dignity.’
Pope Francis said these words toward the conclusion of his Angelus address yesterday, Sept. 24, 2017, recalling that Stanley Francis Rother, was proclaimed blessed yesterday in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Francis recalled that the missionary priest was killed out of hatred for the faith “for his work of evangelization and human promotion in favor of the poorest in Guatemala.”
Stanley Rother was born on March 27, 1935, in Okarche, Oklahoma, and died on July 28, 1981, in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala.
This Catholic and missionary priest was assassinated by a death squad during the Guatemalan armed conflict. He was beatified as a martyr.
Born to a farm family, Stanley Rother was ordained a priest at the age of 28, on May 25, 1963, for the Catholic Diocese of Tulsa.
In 1968, he arrived in Guatemala, in Santiago Atitlán, where he joined a small team, and began his mission, especially with the Indian population of the Tzutuhil.
The mission improved food and medical care, including the construction of a hospital.
Stanley Rother found himself alone in 1975 as a result of defections and forced returns to the United States. He celebrated five masses in four languages every Sunday, and he celebrated more than 1,000 baptisms a year.
Beginning in the late 1970s, Fr. Rother also devoted himself to the struggle against the injustices committed against the Indians, creating enemies of his work and colleague.
On 23 October 1980, Gaspar Culan, a deacon with whom he worked, was kidnapped and probably murdered, and two other collaborators. And another in 1981.
In January 1981, under the pressure of his parishioners and in agreement with the civil authorities, Stanley Rother left Guatemala to return to Oklahoma. He stayed there for three months. In light of reports that his name would no longer be on the black lists of military factions, he returned to Guatemala for Easter.
On July 28, 1981, Father Rother was assassinated. Three suspects were arrested on August 4 of that year.
The body of Father Rother was transferred to the United States, to Okarche, where he is buried. But, at the request of his former parishioners of Tzutuhil, his heart is kept under the altar of the church where he exercised his priestly ministry.
On October 5, 2007, his cause for beatification and canonization was opened at the diocesan level. And it closed on July 20, 2010, and transferred to Rome to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
December 1, 2016, Pope Francis acknowledged the death “in hatred of the faith” of Father Rather, making him a martyr.
He was proclaimed blessed on September 23, 2017, in Oklahoma, during a Mass presided in the name of Pope Francis by Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
On the NET:
To learn about Blessed Stanley Rother: http://stanleyrother.org/