Venerable Stanley Rother

001maycqsaintStanley Rother was born in 1935 in Oklahoma and grew up on a farm with his parents and sister. Stanley was an active member of his parish and went to Catholic school. God was put at the center of their family life, so when Stanley graduated high school and told his parents he wanted to become a priest, it was welcome news and no surprise. He went to study in the seminary in San Antonio and could not help out enough – as a sacristan, groundskeeper, plumber, and gardener. He could do just about anything but he did not excel or dedicate enough time to his studies, so after a few years, he was advised to look for another life path. Stanley returned home and met with the Bishop who encouraged him and said that he would find another seminary for him to attend. Shortly after, Stanley was accepted to Mount Saint Mary’s in Maryland. He was ordained a priest in 1963. Fr Rother returned to Oklahoma and was a parish priest for 5 years in different parishes across the state. In 1968, he heard about the need for a priest to go to Guatemala to work with the Indians and he volunteered to go. Fr Rother had always gravitated toward the poor. He spent time on his arrival to learn Spanish and the tribal dialect so that he could be close to the people. Fr Rother worked to translate the gospels into the dialect so that the people could read the Word of God. He worked with the people to show them how to read and write. He supported the radio station located on the mission property which transmitted daily lessons in language and mathematics. With his hands he showed his love: building houses and a nearby hospital, repairing the Church building,  burying the dead, blessing babies and marriages, helping the sick poor to get better. Within the last year of his life, things changed abruptly. Troops occupied nearby towns and openly persecuted all those who participated in organized religion, especially the Catholic faith. The radio station was smashed down and the director killed. His catechists and parishioners disappeared and were found dead. Fr Stanley was kidnapped briefly in January 1981 in Guatemala City and told to leave the country or he would be executed. He went to the American Embassy briefly for refuge and was sent back to Oklahoma. He stayed with his parents, helping them on the farm and assisting at the nearby parish. He visited friends and families across the US for a few months. But the time came when he approached the bishop and asked him if he could return to Guatemala. He said “My people need me and I cannot stay away.”  So Fr Rother returned to Guatemala in April 1981.  Troops were stationed near the village and monitoring him with spies to make sure his sermons did not preach about revolution. He was murdered in his home on July 28, 1981 when he was only 46 years old. He was recognized as a martyr by Pope Francis in 2015 and is in the process of canonization.