U.S. martyr in Guatemala

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.”



One response to “U.S. martyr in Guatemala

  1. We were both much younger when Stan Rother and I were students at Conception Abby, MO, during the summer of 1959. Having had the advantage of five years of Latin study and a moderate facility with languages, I had the pleasure of serving as an encouragement to him in his struggle with learning Latin. I was impressed with his rich background as a guy, who only three years older than I, had more life experience because of his service in the Navy and his hand-on skills. And here he was at a summer course in Latin, wondering if he’d ever overcome the obstacles he was encountering in answering God’s call to ministry. He and I were ordained the same day, though in dioceses miles apart–he in Oklahoma, me in Northern Illinois. And although we carried out ministry miles apart, we both ended up serving the poor and learning to communicate in another language, he among the people of Santiago Atitlan, me among people of most of the Latin American countries living in the Diocese of Rockford. Especially since 1981 when I read of his martyrdom, I treasure the couple of pictures I took of Stan, right at home at a picnic with younger seminarians there amidst the corn fields of Missouri during that summer. Although the pictures, like Stan, don’t stand out as anything spectacular, I’d love to share them with anyone interested.

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