$50 million shrine to remember first US Catholic martyr, killed a priest


OKLAHOMA CITY: Stanley Francis Rother’s birth appears to have been typical except for the weather. The Oklahoma dust storm was present when the Catholic farm boy was born.

But he was outstanding both in life and in death.

The 46-year-old priest killed by gunfire in Guatemala in 1981 became the first American-born person to be hailed as a martyr by the Catholic Church.

Assassinated by three masked assailants who broke into his rectory during Guatemala’s civil conflict, the missionary was slaughtered. A $50 million shrine honoring him will bring thousands of pilgrims to his home state.

Individuals worldwide are welcome to learn more about Rother and sincerely petition for his intercession, according to Mara Ruiz Scaperlanda, who wrote a biography of Rother in 2015 titled “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run.”

The Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine in Oklahoma City will be formally inaugurated during a dedication Mass on Friday. The 2,000-seat church, together with a tourist center, souvenir shop, museum, and a smaller chapel that will house Rother’s last resting place, are all included in the Spanish colonial-style building.
On the shrine, grounds will also be a replica of Tepeyac Hill, where, according to Catholic tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, an Indigenous Mexican, in 1531. Tepeyac Hill is located in Mexico City. For the Oklahoma location, a painter crafted two massive painted bronze statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego.
The shrine was built without incurring any debt because of donations from Catholics, according to Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul S. Coakley.

Coakley stated that many different things would drive people to the school, whether to celebrate Mary, Juan Diego, or Blessed Stanley Rother. “We pray that it will be a chance for people to encounter faith and develop a closer bond with the Lord.”

According to the National Organization of Shrine and Pilgrimage Apostolate, the Oklahoma complex joins about 120 Catholic national and diocesan shrines in 27 states and the District of Columbia.

Leif Arvidson administered the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, for ten years before taking on the role of executive director at the Rother shrine in 2020. Annual pilgrimage numbers, according to Arvidson, are around 75,000.
He refrained from making a visitation count for the Rother shrine.

The Catholic population in Oklahoma is still a minority, according to Arvidson.

According to the Pew Research Center, most adults in the Bible Belt state are evangelical Protestants (47%). Followed by mainline Protestants, 18%. Next, with 8%, are Catholics.

According to Arvidson, “I think he’ll be incredibly significant to Catholics, Oklahomans, and just anyone who will appreciate the beauty of the characteristics that he displayed — of service, humility, and dedication to God’s call in a person’s life.”

Southern Baptist and president of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau Zac Craig concurred with Arvidson’s judgment.

It significantly enhances our existing array of culturally diverse attractions. Craig, mentioning the city’s brand-new First Americans Museum and the national memorial for the 1995 bombing of a federal office building, declared, “I think it’s going to be appealing to everyone.



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