Oklahoma celebrates Father Stanley Rother
OKARCHE, Okla. (KTUL) —
It seems only fitting that at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, where the windows are adorned with a multitude of saints, a hometown hero may soon be displayed amongst them.
"He celebrated his first mass on this altar here," said Pastor John Swaminathan.
In the corner of the church there's already a mini-museum with all things Father Rother.
"The artifacts, you know, he's got his pipe," he said.
A priest in Guatemala for over a decade, he became a marked man for his work with the poor. In 1981, three armed men raided his church.
"They ended up shooting him twice, once in the temple of the head, and killed him," said Deacon Max Schwarz.
It was just last year that Father Rother was officially declared a martyr.
"I've been in touch with the Rothers down here all through the years," said Lee Rother, a third cousin from Minnesota.
"The most painful thing that they experienced was a few years later, they went to Guatemala and they sat in the room where he was murdered. That must have been very, very painful to his parents," he said.
After his death, his parishioners wanted to bury him there, but his family wanted him home. They came to a compromise, with his heart enshrined in a church in Guatemala, but the rest of him?
"They sent his body here and it was interred out at Holy Trinity cemetery, about three miles south of here," said Schwarz.
And there on the front gate are instructions on how to find his grave. But when you do, there's another sign indicating that this is now his former resting place.
"As part of the canonization process, what they have to do is they have to prove that this man really existed," said Schwarz.
Now that they have, Saturday's mass will declare him blessed, and Catholics will be on the lookout for miracles to attribute to him which could green light his sainthood.
"It's just a tremendous thing, all the Rothers are so thrilled," said Rother.