Dedicated in 2023, the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine and Museum welcomes pilgrims and visitors from throughout Oklahoma, the United States and beyond. This sacred space was built to honor and serve as the final resting place for the first U.S.-born priest and martyr ever beatified by the Catholic church.
The shrine church was designed in the Spanish colonial-style, mirroring Blessed Stanley’s church in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala. Visitors can explore the Museum to learn more about Blessed Stanley Rother’s life and Oklahoma roots. The Museum’s information is in both English and Spanish, and there is also a beautiful gift shop onsite. Also on the grounds of the Shrine is a replica of the Tepeyac Hill in Mexico. The hill is always open, which gives the opportunity for visitors to come at any hour to reflect.
Catholics have been reflecting on Blessed Stanley Rother’s life since he started his ministry in the 1980s when he served the Native tribe of the Tz’utujil, who are decedents of the Mayans. Although he struggled with Latin in seminary, Father Rother learned Spanish and the Tz’utujil language in Guatemala. He celebrated Mass in their language and helped translate the New Testament.
During his ministry, Father Rother was surrounded by extreme poverty among the Tz’utujil, who were living in one-room huts growing what they could on their small plots of land. He ministered to his parishioners in their homes -- eating with them, visiting the sick and aiding them with medical issues. He even put his Oklahoma farming skills to use by helping them in the fields, bringing in different crops and building an irrigation system.
While he served in Guatemala, a civil war raged between the militarist government forces and the guerrillas. The Catholic Church was caught in the middle due to its insistence on catechizing and educating the people. During this conflict, thousands of Catholics were killed. Eventually, Father Rother’s name appeared on a death list. For his safety and that of his associate, Father Rother returned home to Oklahoma. He didn’t stay long, though, as he was determined to give his life completely to his people, stating that “the shepherd cannot run.” He returned to Santiago Atitlan to continue the work of the mission.
Within a few months, three men entered the rectory around 1 a.m. on July 28, 1981, fought with Father Rother and then executed him. His death shocked the Catholic world. No one was ever held responsible. The people of Santiago Atitlan mourned the loss of their mentor and friend.
In 2007, his Cause for Canonization was opened. In June 2015, the Vatican in Rome voted to formally recognize Oklahoma’s Father Stanley Rother a martyr. The determination of martyrdom was a critical step in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City’s Cause to have Father Rother beatified, the final stage before canonization as a saint.
On Dec. 1, 2016, Pope Francis officially recognized Father Rother as a martyr for the faith. The Rite of Beatification was held on Sept. 23, 2017, in downtown Oklahoma City – an event attended by more than 20,000 people from around the world.
Blessed Stanley Rother was born and raised in Oklahoma, so the shrine’s location reflects his ties to the state. The shrine is free to tour and open to all.