Fr. Stanley Rother, U.S. missionary priest from Oklahoma, was martyred, in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, on July 28, 1981. A simple priest, he was loved by the people who experienced the massive repression that the indigenous people in Guatemala suffered for decades. Although he was not given to prophetic pronouncements, he worked hard with the indigenous in his parish, helping them and participating in their projects. He once said, “To reach out your hand to an indigenous person is a political act.”
After his death his body was sent back to the US but, at the request of the parishioners, his heart was left in the church he had served for many years.
Father Stan was an unlikely martyr, except for the fast that he stood firm, in solidarity with the poor and oppressed. In a Christmas letter months before he was killed he wrote:
“A nice compliment was given to me recently when a supposed leader in the Church and town was complaining that ‘Father is defending the people.’ He wants me deported for my sin.
“This is one of the reasons I have for staying in the face of physical harm. The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger. Pray for us that we may be a sign of the love of Christ for our people, that our presence among them will fortify them to endure these sufferings in preparation for the coming of the Kingdom.”