Pope Francis approves beatification of Oklahoma’s Father Rother

Beatification next step toward sainthood

 OKLAHOMA CITY – Pope Francis on Friday recognized Oklahoma priest Father Stanley Francis Rother as a martyr, clearing the way for his beatification. Beatification is the last step before sainthood.

Father Rother, who was raised on a farm in Okarche and killed while serving the Oklahoma Catholic mission in Guatemala, is the first U.S. priest and martyr to be approved for beatification. 

Pope Francis received His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, and authorized the Congregation to promulgate the decree recognizing the martyrdom of Father Rother.

The Positio on the life and martyrdom of Father Rother previously had been discussed and approved by a panel of nine theologians and more recently by a group of 15 Cardinals and Archbishops who voted affirmatively to recognize his martyrdom in odium fidei (in hatred of the faith). The Positio refers to the volume containing the evidence that was collected from witness testimonies in both Oklahoma and Guatemala, and supporting documents during an inquiry conducted by a special tribunal of the Archdiocese created to carry out this investigation.

The signing of this decree now opens the way for his beatification, since an approved miracle is not required in a cause of martyrdom. However, in order for Father Rother to be canonized by the Church, an alleged miracle due to his intercession occurring after the promulgation of this decree must be recognized as having no scientific explanation and approved by the Vatican.    

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican voted in November to advance the cause of Servant of God Father Stanley Rother.

The beatification ceremony could come as early as next fall.  

“We’re just thrilled, and grateful to God and to all those who have worked to promote the cause of Father Rother,” said the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City. “The Church needs heroic witnesses to advance the mission of Christ, and Father Rother was truly a heroic witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He gave his life in pastoral service to his people. I am looking forward to the celebration of his beatification.”

Father Stanley Francis Rother was born in Okarche, OK, in 1935 where he grew up on a farm just northwest of Oklahoma City. After graduating from Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., Father Rother was ordained on May 25, 1963. He served in several parishes in Durant, Tulsa and Oklahoma City before volunteering for mission service in Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala in June 1968.

Father Rother was well-loved by the local people and helped establish a school, radio station and health clinic, and worked to translate the Gospels into their native dialect. By the late 1970s, the village was experiencing political and military unrest with parishioners disappearing and being found dead days later along roadsides. Despite learning his name was included on “hit lists,” Father Rother made one last trip home to Oklahoma to see his parents in January 1981, and then returned to Guatemala to stay with his people, telling his family he must return because “the shepherd cannot run.”    

On July 28, 1981, in his rectory, three masked men shot Father Rother, killing him. Days later, his body was returned to Oklahoma, but his heart stayed behind to be buried at his parish in Santiago Atitlan.

In October 2007, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City under the direction of Archbishop Eusebius Beltran opened a Cause of Canonization for Father Rother.

“My heart and my soul rejoice at the announcement regarding the beatification of Father Stanley Rother, an Oklahoma martyr,” said the Most Reverend Eusebius J. Beltran, Archbishop Emeritus of Oklahoma City. “I thank Almighty God for the inspiration to initiate the cause for the canonization of Father Rother. I thank the many faithful people of our archdiocese and beyond who labored so diligently on the acts of this cause, and also for the many people whose prayers have helped to make this possible. Father Stanley Rother, pray for us.’”

In September 2014, Archbishop Coakley presented the Positio of Father Rother to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints in Rome. In 2015, the Theology Commission of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints voted to recognize Father Rother a martyr.

Once beatified, the next step of Father Rother’s cause will require a verified miracle before he can be canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church.

For information on Father Rother’s life and the process for sainthood, go online to www.archokc.org/cause-for-beatification-of-father-stanley-rother/home or visit the Rother Guild website at http://rotherguild.org.