Bishop Edward Weisenburger serves as the promoter of justice for the cause for canonization for servant of God Father Stanley Rother of Okarche, Okla. The priest was murdered July 28, 1981, while serving at the mission of Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala.
As the promoter of justice, his role is to help the Church study and examine the life of Father Rother. The promoter, he said, is there to ask not only the “nice questions” but also to “ensure that all the facts are uncovered in the process and that all questions, including difficult questions, are asked.”
That role has included several trips to the mission in Guatemala.
“It’s always a very moving experience,” said the bishop, “especially to spend some quiet time in the room of the parish rectory that still has the marks of the bullet holes where Father Rother was killed.
“It has been turned into an unofficial chapel where people still slip in to pray.”
Having served as pastor of Father Rother’s home parish in Okarche, the bishop said he got to know members of the Rother family personally.
“When the cause began, I was a former pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Okarche, having served there from 1995-2002,” the bishop said. “Those were seven exceptionally happy years of my life. That parish has produced a host of vocations to priesthood and religious life.
“It should not be surprising that such a vibrant parish would produce vocations and now a potentially canonized saint.”
Last December, Pope Francis declared Father Rother a martyr, clearing the path for his beatification. On March 13, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City received word the beatification will take place Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City.
A biography of Father Rother titled “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run,” was published by Our Sunday Visitor in 2015.
“Martyrs are witnesses to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is hard to argue with such fidelity, even unto death,” Archbishop Paul Coakley said. “Witnesses to the faith are crucial in the process of evangelization and the transmission of the faith. We need such credible witnesses today, as in every age, to inspire and encourage us in the midst of our daily trials.”
The archbishop studied at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., Father Rother’s alma mater.
“When I learned that I was being appointed as archbishop of Oklahoma City, one of the first things that came to mind was that this was the home of Father Rother,” the archbishop said.
“I had first learned about him when I was a seminarian at his alma mater,” he added. “He was killed when I was a seminarian there.
“I have always been inspired by his witness, and so was thrilled at the prospect of being able to continue the work of my predecessor, Archbishop [Eusebius] Beltran, in promoting his cause during the Vatican phase of the process.
“Even before the official public announcement that I had been appointed the new archbishop, I made a clandestine visit to Okarche, Father Rother’s hometown, to pray for his intercession.”
The archbishop prays that Father Stanley Rother’s life will inspire Catholics.
“It is my hope that the upcoming beatification and the grace associated with such an event will become a catalyst for the renewal of faith in Oklahoma and the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as embodied and proclaimed in the Catholic Church,” he said. “I hope it will inspire a longing and desire for holiness among all our people.”