By Mindy Ragan Wood, Staff Writer – The long-awaited beatification of the late Father Stanley Rother has hearts full of joy and pride in Okarche and around the world.
Rother is the first American born priest to be accepted as a martyr by the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of the Diochese of Oklahoma City decided to host the beatification for Father Rother close to home. The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
“Until recently, beatifications were required to be held in Rome,” said Diane Clay, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City Archdiocese. “Dioceses now have the option of hosting the beatification in the home diocese of the person being beatified. For Father Rother that is the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.”
The Cox Convention Center arena will seat 12,000 people and Clay said they hope to see it full. More than 80 members of media from the state, the nation, and Catholic international media will be present. Bishops and representatives from Italy, South Africa, Guatemala, and others from more than a dozen states will attend, Clay said. At least 180 members of
Rother’s family will be at the ceremony.
Planning the event been an enormous effort.
“This will be only the second beatification ever held in the United States, so in a lot of ways
Oklahoma is setting the standard,” she said. “The beatification has been a tremendous undertaking with a small staff, but it has been an amazing blessing and joy for all of us to be a part of. Archbishop Coakley chose to host the beatification in the United States to provide an opportunity for the faithful and our friends and neighbors to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Father Peter John Swaminathan of Holy Trinity Catholic Church said everyone in his parish is brimming with anticipation.
“I have two buses going from my place (church). We will be leaving for the Cox Center at 7 a.m.,” he said.
Everyone seems to appreciate Coakley’s decision to host the event near the hearts of those who knew Father Rother in Oklahoma.
“For them they’ve very excited because they have never seen that, someone they have known,” Swaminathan said. “It’s exciting for them. I have never seen someone beatified, only on TV. My spirits are very uplifted. I am excited.”
Far from a mere ritual or formality, the ceremony is a Holy moment for the faithful followers of the Catholic Church’s teachings.
“This is the working of God and God works in mysterious ways. This is one of the simplest examples of how God exalts the humbled, the lowly,” the priest said. “This is a concrete example of how an ordinary, humble person can be exalted to the level of beatification.”
Rother was slain by gunmen on July 28, 1981 while serving as a missionary to the people of Santiago Atilan, Guatemala. He was 46. He is an Okarche native, Catholic martyr, and a murder victim whose death remains unsolved. Although Rother had the opportunity to remain in the United States during the nation’s political upheaval, he chose to return to his flock. The beatification is the final step before sainthood.
Swaminathan said Rother’s life was a testament to the faith and heart of the Catholic Church’s mission.
“He humbled himself and became one among them…recognizing the humanity, the poor, and the weak. That is the mission of the church. The world caters to the rich, the powerful. What he did, he did as a courageous act and he was that (courageous),” he said.
A mass will be held after the beatification at Holy Trinity Church, 211 W. Missouri at 5 p.m. However, worshippers will likely arrive much earlier.
“People will start showing up at 3 and 4,” the priest said. “A lot of people will be here.”
Police Chief Mark Sterling said he has heard that the beatification will be filled to overflow with a large crowd expected to visit Okarche afterwards.
“From what I’m told right now, you’ll be lucky to find a place to stand. This is the first time an American born is being taken into sainthood,” said Sterling. “Not only is it going to be huge, but everyone from the Vatican will be there. We will get the overflow because everyone wants to see where he was buried, where he went to school, where he was raised. I will be working that day and will have officers on call if traffic gets heavy.”
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