OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma – The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City announced Tuesday that its capital campaign, one of the goals of which is the construction of a shrine for Blessed Stanley Rother, had surpassed its original $65 million goal.
“I have been grateful and humbled by the generosity of families across the archdiocese who have supported this historic campaign,” Archbishop Paul Coakley said Sept. 18. “We have been blessed to have the powerful witness of Blessed Stanley to help guide us as we build upon his legacy for future generations.”
In addition to the shine for the Oklahoma priest who was martyred in 1981 in Guatemala, the One Church, Many Disciples campaign will fund local parishes and schools, renovation of the cathedral, evangelization efforts, faith formation endowments, and retirement for elderly priests.
The Blessed Stanley Rother shrine will be built in Oklahoma City off of I-35, and will house the relics of the martyr. According to the Oklahoma City archdiocese, it will include a 2,000-seat church, a chapel, ministry and classroom buildings, a museum, and a pilgrim center.
One-third of parishes in the archdiocese have completed the capital campaign, 34 are in its midst, and 32 will begin in January 2019.
Given the success of the campaign, Archbishop Coakley has announced a challenge goal of $80 million.
Rother was beatified Sept. 23, 2017 in Oklahoma City.
Rother was born March 27, 1935 in Okarche, Okla., and entered seminary soon after graduating from Holy Trinity High School.
Despite a strong calling, Rother would struggle in the seminary, failing several classes and even out of one seminary before graduating from Mount St. Mary’s in Maryland. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Oklahoma City and Tulsa in 1963.
He served for five years in Oklahoma before joining the Oklahoma diocese’s mission in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, a poor rural community of mostly indigenous persons where he would spend the next 13 years of his life.
The work ethic Rother learned on his family’s farm would serve him well in this new place. As a mission priest, he was called on not just to say Mass, but to fix the broken truck or work the fields. He built a farmers’ co-op, a school, a hospital, and the first Catholic radio station.
Over the years, the violence of the Guatemalan civil war inched closer to the once-peaceful village.
Disappearances, killings, and danger soon became a part of daily life, but Rother remained steadfast and supportive of his people.
In 1980-1981, the violence escalated to an almost unbearable point; Rother was constantly seeing
friends and parishioners abducted or killed.
In January 1981, in immediate danger and his name on a death list, Rother did return to Oklahoma for a few months. But as Easter approached, he wanted to spend Holy Week with his people in Guatemala.
The morning of July 28, 1981, three Ladinos, the non-indigenous men who had been fighting the native people and rural poor of Guatemala since the 1960s, broke into Rother’s rectory. They wished to disappear him, but he refused.
Not wanting to endanger the others at the parish mission, he struggled but did not call for help. Fifteen minutes and two gunshots later, Rother was dead and the men fled the mission grounds.
Though his body was buried in Okarche, Rother’s heart was enshrined in the church of Santiago Atitlan where he served.
Rother’s cause for beatification was opened in 2007, and his martyrdom was recognized by the Vatican in December 2016, which cleared the way for his beatification.
His body was exhumed from the Okarche cemetery in May 2017, and re-interred at a chapel at Resurrection Cemetery in Oklahoma City.
Blessed Stanley Rother’s feast is celebrated July 28 in the dioceses of Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Little Rock.