Wednesday, February 15th 2023, 7:31 pm
This Friday, thousands of the Catholic faithful will gather in south Oklahoma City for the dedication of the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine. They will join Catholic Bishops from around the United States and Guatemala to honor the farm boy from Oklahoma who could soon become a saint.
At Resurrection Cemetery in Northwest Oklahoma City the most important piece in a massive memorial -Blessed Stanley Rother's body- is revealed, raised and readied for its final resting place.
“A lot of people ask ‘what was it like to go to a family gathering when Father Stan was there?’ ‘What was it like to have a saint in the family?’ And I always say he wasn't born with a halo,” says Father Donald Wolf.
Father Wolf is the Blessed Stanley’s second cousin.
“He [Blessed Stanley] came home for the last time to the state of Oklahoma for my ordination,” says Father Wolf.
Father Wolf will be the parish priest for the shrine which will also serve the area's growing Hispanic population and combine the parishes of Sacred Heart and Holy Angels.
The first Sunday there will be an estimated 5,000 worshipers for mass.
“If I'm supposed to be the living representative of the parish, yes there will be a lot of nervousness,” smiled Father Wolf.
The shrine is built in the Spanish colonial style. Much like blessed Stanley would have known in Guatemala. The grounds will also feature a replica of Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in 1531.
A 50-million-dollar shrine, the largest catholic church in Oklahoma dedicated to a man many say is the least likely to become a saint.
“If somebody who's a Rother can be considered a saint, then anybody could,” jokes Father Wolf.
Blessed Stanley was born on a farm in Okarche.
“He was in the FFA and obviously grew up on the farm he knew about farming and techniques about that,” says his nephew, Patrick Rother. “So, when he went to Guatemala that was his strength and made him prosper down there.”
He had the quiet reserve of his mother, and was a hard worker and stubborn like his father.
“He wanted to do what he knew was right, regardless of the circumstances,” says Patrick.
Yet he never learned Latin - a sort-of-must for any would-be priest.
“He flunked out and was asked to leave the seminary where he began his training in San Antonio,” explains Archbishop Paul Coakley.
The bishop at the time believed in him and found him another seminary in Maryland.
Father Stanley was ordained a priest in 1963 here in Oklahoma City.
Ultimately, he was asked to join the mission in Guatemala based on skills outside the church.
“He was sent down to do this work that nobody else could do because he was a better mechanic and carpenter,” said Father Wolf.
When civil war grew increasingly violent, Father Rother stubbornly stayed with his church and its members in Guatemala.
He was murdered in his rectory in 1981.
On Monday, his body was ceremoniously placed in the altar of the chapel at the shrine.
People from around the world are expected to come and pray for blessed Stanley’s intercession- his divine intervention.
“People have asked me repeatedly what's it going to take for Blessed Stanley to become Saint Stanley Rother? And I’m like it’s going to take a miracle. But in fact that's what it's going to take,” says Archbishop Coakley.
Rother is the first US born martyr, making him one miracle away from sainthood.
“The standards are very rigorous, the church will take a very skeptical approach to any reported miracles, so we'll see,” says Archbishop Coakley.
The process has already moved along quickly.
“I’m hoping my dad and aunt can see that,” says Patrick. “That would be a great thing.”
“So, God's made Stanley a saint,” says Father Wolf. “We're just trying to keep up the bureaucracy of something that's already happened.”
But Father Wolf says that's the lesson in this for all of us.
“Holiness is not something in books, holiness is not something that's only present for those people that from the beginning are set apart from everyone else,” says Father Wolf.
If a stubborn farm boy from Okarche, who flunks out of seminary, and is chosen for mission work because he's a good mechanic can become a saint.
“Holiness is the product of what people do in the situations they are a part of,” says Father Wolf.
Then there's hope for us all.
“Of course,” says Wolf. “That's the way God would do things because that's the way God always does things.”
Dedication for the Shrine is at 11am Friday morning. The shrine will also feature an education building, an event space and museum.
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