By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Oklahoma native Stanley Rother was a Catholic priest assassinated by a suspected Guatemalan government death squad in 1981, a pastor who is pushing for Rother’s inclusion among the faith’s saints told Enid parishioners Wednesday evening.
The cause for Rother’s martyrdom is being boosted by a group of local Catholic leaders, with the hope of pushing Rome to recognize Rother first as a martyr for the faith, then as a saint of the church.
The Guild, as the group is known, is based in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and led by Prague pastor M. Price Oswalt.
Oswalt spoke Wednesday at a special mass at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church. He told the congregation Rome is close to recognizing Rother, who was born in Okarche, as a martyr. If it does, Rother would become the first Oklahoma-born martyr and saint, Oswalt said.
“I think we’ll see his beatification next year or so. With the cardinal (handling beatification) already knowing who he is and saying we have a good shot at martyrdom, that means he’s going to promote it,” Oswalt said after the mass.
Sainthood would come next, but not before the church recognizes a miracle stemming from someone praying to Rother for help.
“That could take years,” Oswalt said, noting Mother Teresa of Calcutta has yet to be named a saint. “Some beatifides ... have gone centuries. The cause has been dropped because no one’s produced it. It could be a few years. It could be tens of years.”
After he is named a martyr, The Guild will push for followers to pray to Rother as an intercessor, someone who has God’s ear. If a person receives a favor, Oswalt said they should contact The Guild.
The Vatican already has eight boxes of testimonials and interviews from people who knew Rother, and an account of his death from a man who witnessed it.
The boxes also contain about 20 letters Rother wrote. In those letters is an explanation of why Rother returned to Guatemala after receiving death threats, Oswalt said. His final writings are compiled in a book named after an excerpt, in which he says, “A shepherd cannot run.”
Oswalt said he believes the church’s selection of a Latin American pope will help in Rother’s canonization to become a saint.
“I personally think the Holy Spirit gave us Pope Francis, who’s from South America, cares for the poor, understands what the way of life was in Central America in the ’80s,” he said. “Stanley (Rother) served the poor. He took care of those who were being persecuted. It fits Francis’ bill.”
Rother was killed inside his mission on July 28, 1981, by three men who are believed to have been supporters of Guatemala’s military government, according to a 2007 in-depth article appearing in the Oklahoma Gazette.