Hundreds of Catholics from across the state gathered in southeast Oklahoma City Sunday to break ground on what will become Oklahoma's largest Catholic church.
The shrine to Blessed Father Stanley Rother is being built on Southeast 89th Street near Interstate 35.
The martyred Okarche priest helped build a radio station, hospital, and helped translate the gospel into the local indigenous in the small village of Santiago-Atitlan, Guatemala.
The 46-year-old Rother discovered he was on a death list in the middle of the Guatemalan Civil War but refused to leave the parish he loved.
“He said a shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger,” Archbishop Paul Coakley said.
Rother was murdered in the Parish house on July 28,1981.
“We honor then, the memory of a martyr. A martyr of the church, a saint for all of us, a role model to all of us,” Coakley said. “This good shepherd who spent himself, who gave himself, who poured out his life.”
In 2016 Pope Francis announced Rother would become the first US born priest to be beatified by the Catholic Church.
The $40 million Spanish colonial church built in his honor will include a 2,000-seat church, a chapel where Rother will be buried, an education building and event space. It will also be a needed home for the area’s growing Hispanic population.
“Most of the parishes serving our Hispanic community in this area are overcrowded, bursting at the seams,” Coakley said.
A house of worship dedicated to a servant, who Coakley said, was adored by those he served.
“In God’s own way and in God’s own providence bring it to completion in ways we cannot hardly begin to imagine,” Coakley said.