Stanley Rother

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Stanley Rother
Servant of God
Stanley Rother.jpg
Priest; Martyr
Born 27 March 1935
Okarche, Oklahoma, United States of America
Died 28 July 1981 (aged 46)
Santiago Atitlan, Sololá-Chimaltenango, Guatemala
Resting place Okarche, Oklahoma
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church

The Servant of God Stanley Francis Rother (March 27, 1935 - July 28, 1981) was a Catholic priest and missionary to Guatemala. He was murdered by a death squad, believed to be made up of right-wing extremists and elements of the Guatemalan Army, on July 28, 1981. On June 23, 2015, the Congregation of the Causes of Saints officially recognized Rother as a martyr, a critical stage before beatification and canonization.[1]

Ordination and early career[edit]

Stanley Francis Rother attended the seminary at Mount St. Mary's University and graduated in 1963. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Oklahoma City - Tulsa (now the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City) on May 25, 1963 by Bishop Victor Reed. Rother served as an associate pastor in various parishes around Oklahoma before being assigned to the mission of Santiago Atitlán in the rural highlands of southwest Guatemala, in 1968.[2]

Mission work in Guatemala[edit]

Rother served in Santiago Atitlán for 13 years. During that time, in addition to his pastoral duties, he translated the New Testament into the Tzutuhil language and began the regular celebration of the liturgy in that same tongue.[2] Rother also founded a small hospital to serve the community, which was located in Panabaj. The "Hospitalito"[3] and the whole neighborhood of Panabaj were buried in the mudslides that followed Hurricane Stan in October 2005. While residing in a temporary building, construction of a permanent facility began on November 10, 2008 (Approx. 15°38'59.40"N 91°13'30.61"W). The "Hospitalito" re-opened during the dedication of the first floor on November 19, 2010 and is still undergoing continued construction.[4]

Death threat and murder[edit]

In early 1981 Rother was warned that his name was on a death list and that he should leave Guatemala.[5][6] He returned to Oklahoma in January 1981,[5] but asked for permission to return. Rother went back to Santiago Atitlán in April.[6] On the morning of July 28, gunmen broke into the rectory of his church and shot him twice in the head after a brief struggle.[6] The killers forced a gardner to lead them to the bedroom of the "red-bearded Oklahoma-born missionary".[7] He was one of 10 priests murdered in Guatemala that year.

Burial and veneration[edit]

Memorial plaque in Santiago Atitlán.

Rother was flown back to Oklahoma City and was buried in his home town of Okarche, Oklahoma. At the request of Tzutuhil parishioners, his heart was buried behind the church altar.[2]

Since his death, Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran and other Catholics in Oklahoma and Guatemala consider Rother to be a martyr for the faith.[8] The archdiocese has petitioned the Catholic Church to designate Rother as "fit for veneration" (a step on the path to sainthood).[8][9]

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