Oklahoma City preparing for beatification of martyred Oklahoma priest

Father Stanley Rother performing a baptism in Guatemala (

Thousands of people are expected to attend the beatification ceremony for the late Rev. Stanley Rother, the first American-born priest named a martyr by the Roman Catholic Church, in Oklahoma City Saturday morning.

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City spent Friday putting the finishing touches on the arena at the Cox Convention Center.

“It’s just amazing looking around here in the convention center,” said Dick Rother, a cousin of Father Rother’s who traveled from Minnesota to attend. “It’s just unbelievable.”

Beatification ceremonies are usually held at the Vatican in Rome.

“We wanted to make sure this was available to people here, who wouldn’t be able to travel to Italy to see this,” said Diane Clay with the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

Father Rother grew up on a farm northwest of Oklahoma City.

“And even though he came from an ordinary background – loved to fix tractors, raise pigs and cows and chickens – he ended up going into the priesthood,” Clay said.

After several years in Oklahoma, he went to Guatemala to serve there. Father Rother helped rural farmers in his parish, opened a school and a TV station, and translated several books of the Bible into his parishioners’ native language. His work with the poor eventually put him on a hit list, and in 1981, he was murdered.

“This is the last step, the beatification mass, before sainthood,” said Clay. “And what that means in the Catholic Church is someone who has lived a holy life, a life that’s worth emulating, striving to be like – a good example, essentially.”

After beatification, there will need to be a verified miracle attributed to Father Rother before he can be named a saint.

“Hopefully with some miracles and a lot of prayer that may happen, and he'll be a saint rather soon,” said Father Richard Mahoney, who came from Minnesota to participate in the beatification ceremony.

It’s an honor his family never dreamed of.

“It’s a big family and it's a really big honor to have a potential saint,” said Dick Rother, with tears in his eyes.

Doors open at 8 a.m. Saturday morning and the ceremony starts at 10 a.m. Seating is first come, first serve.

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