First US-born Martyr, Fr. Stanley Rother, to be Beatified

First US-born Martyr, Fr. Stanley Rother, to be Beatified

Anna Hermes, Writer's Quill Editor

The beatification of Fr. Stanley Rother, the first martyr to be born in the United States, is scheduled to take place on September 23 in Oklahoma City.

It is a momentous occasion, not only for Fr. Rother’s family, but also for the state of Oklahoma, the United States, Guatemala, and the whole Roman Catholic Church.

“The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.” -Fr. Stanley Rother

Fr. Rother was born on March 27, 1935 in Okarche, OK. The oldest of four, he grew up on a farm, staying in Okarche until he entered the seminary. Fr. Rother struggled in the seminary, especially with his studies in Latin. He failed classes and even failed out of a seminary.

He finally finished his studies at Mount St. Mary’s seminary in Maryland. It was during his seminarian studies that Pope St. John XXIII asked the Catholic Churches in North America to send missionaries to Central America. Fr. Rother was to be one of these missionaries.

In response to the Pope’s call, Oklahoma started a mission in Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala, and it was there that Fr. Rother was sent. Ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in 1963, Fr. Rother served as an associate pastor for five years before heading to Santiago Atitlan.

There, he served the people for 13 years. Fr. Rother soon received the name “Padre Francisco” and was well-loved by the people.

He not only provided the sacraments for them, but lived with and among them, sharing their labors, joys, sorrows, and their lives.

Despite his struggles with Latin, Fr. Rother quite amazingly and quickly picked up Spanish, as well as the native language, Tz’utujul.

He also started the first Catholic radio station and built a school, hospital and a farmers’ co-op.

It was during Fr. Rother’s mission in Guatemala that the Guatemalan civil war worsened and spread to Santiago Atitlan.

Fr. Rother saw firsthand it’s terrible effects, saw his parishioners disappear and be brutally killed and saw the pain, suffering and devastation the war was causing.

Although he desired to stay with his people, he returned to Oklahoma in 1981 for a few months after his name was put on a death list and it was obvious his life was in imminent danger.

However, not wanting be separated from his parishioners for long, he returned in time to celebrate Holy Week with them.

He was murdered in his rectory on July 28, 1981 by three masked Ladinos. His body was buried in Oklahoma, but his heart remains in Santiago Atitlan with the people he loved and served.

Blessed Stanley Rother, pray for us!