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August 22, 2018
by Diane Clay
OKARCHE – More than 600 parishioners and visitors gathered July 28 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Okarche to celebrate the first feast day for Blessed Stanley Rother, a missionary priest from Oklahoma martyred for his faith in Guatemala in 1981. They were joined by thousands more watching online or celebrating Blessed Stanley in their home parishes in Oklahoma, Guatemala, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Maryland and elsewhere.
 
The anniversary Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Paul Coakley, Archbishop Emeritus Eusebius Beltran and Abbot Lawrence Stasyszen as well as several priests, including Fr. Gerard MacAuley, administrator of Holy Trinity, and Fr. Don Wolf, pastor of Saint Eugene and cousin of Blessed Stanley.
 
Seated in the first few rows were Blessed Stanley’s family, including his brother, Tom Rother, and sister, Sister Marita Rother, A.S.C. 
 
“This evening we are not here to celebrate Father Rother’s death. We’re here for something much greater, something much more important. We’re here to celebrate his birth; his birth into heaven,” Archbishop Coakley said during his homily.
 
“The Church chose to raise him up and to honor him as a witness, as a model, as an example for veneration and to show us a real flesh and blood life lived in service to the Gospel and fidelity to Jesus Christ. We give praise and thank God for his life as we seek his intercession.”  
 
Blessed Stanley’s feast day will be celebrated each year throughout the Oklahoma City Province, which includes the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, the Diocese of Tulsa and the Diocese of Little Rock. The Diocese of Sololá in Guatemala also received permission to celebrate the feast day. Eventually, other dioceses in the United States and elsewhere may celebrate the day.
 
On July 28, 1981, Father Rother was murdered in his rectory at the Oklahoma mission in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala.   
 
Blessed Stanley’s body was returned to Oklahoma and is buried in a crypt in the chapel at Resurrection Memorial Cemetery in Oklahoma City. His heart remained in Guatemala and is enshrined at Saint James. Eventually, Blessed Stanley will be buried in a new shrine and church being built at S.E. 89 and Interstate 35 in Oklahoma City.
 
“We are so blessed to be the home parish of Blessed Stanley and his family. To share in this experience and honor such an amazing and humble man has been inspiring,” said Nancy Schudalla, administrative assistant for Holy Trinity. “While we have honored the anniversary of his martyrdom each year, this year’s celebration was special. To see hundreds of parishioners and visitors come together to celebrate with our small community is a testament to the life and witness of Blessed Stanley.”
To learn more about Blessed Stanley and the upcoming shrine, go online to blessedstanleyrother.org.
 
Diane Clay is editor of the Sooner Catholic.