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Prayer service held for Oklahoma priest on path to sainthood

OKLAHOMA CITY - About 200 people filled St. Eugene Catholic Church Friday evening on the anniversary of an Oklahoma priest's murder in his Guatemalan parish 36 years ago.

Rev. Stanley Rother was killed by masked gunmen in his church in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala on July 28, 1981. Last December, Pope Francis declared Rother -- who grew up in Okarche -- a martyr, setting up his beatification, the last step before being canonized as a saint.

For Rev. Donald Wolf, the pastor of St. Eugene's, he has more than just a connection to Rother through the cloth, but by blood -- they were second cousins.

"I’m more connected to the father in his title than the Rother in his name because of the priesthood that we share together," said Wolf.

It was a mission of witnessing, Wolf says, that led Rother to Guatemala in 1968. Helping establish a school, health clinic and translate the Bible into the area dialect.

But with political upheaval and martial law in the country in the late 1970s and 1980s, it became a dangerous place. Rother's name was put on a hit list.

The last time Rother returned to the United States was in 1981, to visit family -- including Wolf.

"It`s, for me, a particular gift to have had a chance to know Stanley and that he was present at my ordination," Wolf said. "So at most ordinations, we pray to the saints. At my ordination, we had a saint."