OKLAHOMA - An Oklahoman will soon be the first ever Catholic parish priest from the United States to be beatified.
Father Stanley Francis Rother came from humble beginnings.
"He was an ordinary farm boy from Okarche, German Catholic family. Very ordinary. He wasn't a brilliant student. In fact, he couldn't pass Latin and had to find another seminary,” Reverend Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, told KFOR.
However, the bishop of Oklahoma at the time, believed in a young Rother and found a seminary that accepted him.
"He was ordained a priest in 1963, and in 1968 he volunteered to serve the Oklahoma Catholic Mission in Santiago in Guatemala,” Coakley said.
Rother was well loved by the locals in Guatemala where he helped establish a school, a radio station, a health clinic and translated gospels into the native dialect.
In 1981 he made on last trip to Oklahoma to see his parents, and despite learning his name was on hit lists, he returned back to Guatemala, telling his family “the shepherd cannot run.”
Six months later, he was shot and killed.
"When it was time to take his body back to Okarche for burial the people literally blocked the way and wouldn't let them remove his body, and the agreement was reached that his heart appropriately would remain behind in Guatemala in his parish, and his heart is entombed at this time in the back of a beautiful colonial era church,” Coakley said.
Last year, Pope Francis recognized Rother as a martyr, clearing the way for his beatification, the last step before sainthood.
"There's never been a Catholic parish priest in the United States beatified. There's never been a Catholic martyr from the United States,” Coakley said.
From an ordinary little farm boy in Okarche, Rother is now on his way to sainthood.
In honor of the 36th anniversary of the martyrdom of Father Rother, St. Eugene Catholic Church is holding a special evening prayer service.
The priest at St. Eugene's, Father Don Wolf, who is also Father Rother's cousin, will offer his personal reflections on Rother's path to sainthood.
A light reception will follow the prayer service.
The prayer service will be held July 28th from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. at St. Eugene Catholic Church, located at 2400 W. Hefner Rd., OKC, OK 73120.