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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A large group gathered at the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine in Oklahoma City on Friday.

A long-awaited ceremony was held to honor Father Rother and to dedicate the shrine.

According to the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, Father Rother grew up on a farm in Okarche, Oklahoma. He was ordained as a priest on May 25, 1963 and served as an associate pastor for five years in Oklahoma.

Father Rother spent time surrounded by extreme poverty in Guatemala where he joined the staff at the Oklahoma diocese’s mission in Santiago Atitlan. There, he served the native tribe of the Tz’utujil, who are decedents of Mayans. Father Rother learned Spanish and the Tz’utujil language in order to celebrate Mass in their language and to help translate the New Testament.

Officials say on July 28, 1981, around 1 a.m., Father Rother was killed during the civil war between the militarist government forces and the guerrillas.

On December 1, 2016, Pope Francis recognized Father Rother as a martyr for the faith. He is first martyr from the United States and the first U.S. born priest to be beatified, according to the Archdiocese of OKC.

On Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine was dedicated in his honor. The 2,000-seat shrine located in Oklahoma City includes a museum, campus, pilgrim center and souvenir shop.

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