Fr Stanley Rother: the first US-born martyr
Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and alumnus of Mount St. Mary's Seminary who served in Guatemala, making him the first martyr to have been born in the United States.
“Servant of God Fr. Stanley Rother has been approved for beatification!” Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City announced on Facebook Dec. 2. “He is the first US born martyr and priest to receive this official recognition from the Vatican! And of course the first from Oklahoma!”
Pope Francis had met with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Dec. 1, approving decrees for several causes of canonization.
Originally from Oklahoma, Father Rother was ordained a priest in 1963. After only five years in parish work, he went on Mission to Santiago Atitlán, where he exemplified the call to pastoral leadership.
As a pastor, he worked alongside the farming community, eventually learning their native tongue of Tzutihil. He did so despite a deficiency in Latin, which almost got him kicked out of seminary. In a turn that Father Tom Connery says shows, “the Holy Spirit has a sense of humor,” he so mastered the Tzutihil dialect that he translated the New Testament for the natives.
Aside from his work in Guatemala, Father Rother, even when he was a seminarian, displayed a keen interest in the building up of the Church. He spent his time in activities for others, making breviary covers for classmates and devoting his recreation time to the construction the paths and stations in the Grotto. Monsignor John Bergamo (S’ 65) says of Father Rother’s pastoral personality, “When you saw him you could discern and feel the strength of his character,” adding that, “he just lived his faith, he lived his spirituality.”
Today, an average of 5000 people visit Father Rother’s parish in Guatemala each weekend.
Father Tom Connery (S’ 63) said it was sincere faith and pastoral zeal which got him killed, “They loved him,” he says of the parishioners, “that’s why they killed him.” Father Rother continues to be one of this seminary’s most revered alumni and an example for seminarians and priests everywhere.