Advertise with us

Home International First U.S.-born martyr to be beatified

First U.S.-born martyr to be beatified

E-mail Print
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Father Rother served in Guatemala missions during civil war

Father Stanley Rother, the Oklahoma-born martyr who served as a priest in Guatemala, will be beatified in Oklahoma City on Sept. 23.

Pope Francis officially acknowledged Father Rother’s martyrdom in December, making the priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City the first recognized martyr to have been born in the United States.

Born in Okarche, Okla., Father Rother graduated from Mount St. Mary's seminary in Maryland. While still in seminary, St. John XXIII asked the Churches of North America to send assistance and establish missions in Central America. The dioceses of Oklahoma City and Tulsa established a mission in Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala, a poor rural community of mostly indigenous people.

A few years after he was ordained, Father Stanley accepted an invitation to join the mission team, where he would spend the next 13 years of his life.

The beloved Padre Francisco was known for his kindness, selflessness, joy, and attentive presence among his parishioners. Pictures show giggling children running after Padre Francisco and grabbing his hands, said Maria Scaperlanda, author of The Shepherd Who Didn't Run, a biography of the martyr.

“It was Father Stanley’s natural disposition to share the labour with them, to break bread with them, and celebrate life with them, that made the community in Guatemala say of Father Stanley, ‘he was our priest,’” she said.

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 Father Stanley remained steadfast and supportive of his people.

In 1980-1981, the violence escalated to an almost unbearable point. Father Stanley was constantly seeing friends and parishioners abducted or killed. In a letter to Oklahoma Catholics during what would be his last Christmas, the priest relayed to the people back home the dangers his mission parish faced daily.

“Given the situation, I am not ready to leave here just yet … But if it is my destiny that I should give my life here, then so be it ...”

He ended the letter with what would become his signature quote: “The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger. Pray for us that we may be a sign of the love of Christ for our people, that our presence among them will fortify them to endure these sufferings in preparation for the coming of the Kingdom.”

On the morning of July 28, 1981, three Ladinos, non-indigenous men who had been fighting the native people and rural poor of Guatemala since the 1960s, broke into Father 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, Father Stanley was dead and the men fled the mission grounds.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 March 2017 14:13  

Dear reader,

Due to an unmanageable amount of spam and abusive messages, we are no longer able to offer the comment function on our website. We respect the principle of public debate and remain committed to it. Please send us a note at and visit us in the near future when we have finished building our new website — at which point the comment function will be restored.

Kind regards,

The B.C. Catholic






Salt and Light Webcast
  Courtesy of Salt & Light Television

Click image to watch Video
Medieval Gem - UBC acquires papal bull

Click image to watch Video
Paul Goo's Diaconate Ordination

Click image to watch Video
Thank You John Paul II



4885 Saint John Paul II Way Vancouver BC V5Z 0G3   Phone: 604 683 0281 Fax: 604 683 8117
© The B.C. Catholic

Informing Catholics in Canada since 1931