The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run…
Fr. Stanley Rother
Archbishop Charles Salatka stated: “Father Rother was a man of great courage who has witnessed to the Gospel in his blood He is a martyr.“
This son of Oklahoma is not yet well-known to people out side of the villages in Guatemala where he ministered to the Tzutuhil people and to those of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City who are promoting his cause for sainthood. But his story is one of faith and love and devotion to the flock he served.
Fr. Rother came from a farming family in Okarche, Oklahoma. This farming experience served him well in his missionary work. Through his knowledge of farming, he won the admiration and trust of the Tzutuhil.
Mission life could be very difficult, but Father Rother seemed to blossom in its daily struggles and challenges . He celebrated as many as five Masses on Sunday in four different places, performed up to 1,000 baptisms a year, and at the height of the war’s terror, he went himself to retrieve bodies of those tortured and murdered so he could perform a Christian burial for them. (An act that could be viewed as public defiance of the military’s presence) He was loved by the Tzutuhil people who appreciated his generosity, faith, and love of their colorful culture.
Fr. Rother returned home to Oklahoma when it was discovered his name had appeared on one of the “lists”; this meant he was being looked for. However, once home to Oklahoma, he longed to return to his flock. In the spring of 1981 Rother did return even though he was still in danger.
In a Christmas 1980 letter to the people of the Oklahoma City archdiocese and the Tulsa, Okla., diocese, Fr. Rother wrote: “A nice compliment was given to me recently when a supposed leader of the church and town was complaining that ‘Father is defending the people’. He wants me deported. This is one of the reasons I have for staying in the face of physical harm. The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger. Pray for us that we might be a sign of the love of Christ for our people, that our presence among them will fortify them to endure these sufferings in preparation for the kingdom.”
In the early hours of July 28, 1981, Rother was attacked in the rectory by three masked men, shot and killed. Fr. Rother’s body was flown home for burial in Okarche. The Tzutuhil received permission to keep Rother’s heart and blood and buried in the floor of the parish church in Santiago Atitlan.
–Taken from Wichita Family Conference material, August 2014
In October 2007, the official Cause for Beatification of Father Rother was begun by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. On June 23, 2015 a Vatican commission voted to formally recognize Servant of God Fr. Stanley Rother a martyr. If beatified, he will become the first Catholic martyr from the United States. He also would become the first priest born in the United States to receive this recognition.
–Last 2 sentences taken from Archbishop Coakley letter dated June 25, 2015