Path to sainthood: Slain Oklahoman could be first U.S.-born priest beatified, paper reports

Sometimes, old news is worth reporting again.

Carla Hinton is the longtime religion editor for The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City's daily newspaper where I worked for nine years. She had a nice story Sunday on Oklahomans traveling to Guatemala to mark the 35th anniversary of a slain priest's death.

Thirty-five years, huh!?

So why is this front-page news all these years later?:

I'm not privy to The Oklahoman's news meetings, where editors decide what stories to give the most prominent play, but here's my guess: This is a case that many Oklahomans — particularly the state's religious community — have followed for a long time. The editors know that the story of the upcoming pilgrimage will appeal to those readers.

As for those unfamiliar with the Rev. Stanley Rother's death, Hinton shares the history and the path that has led to this week's anniversary commemoration in an extremely compelling way. It's just an interesting weekend read for those with coffee in one hand and the thick Sunday paper in the other:

The Rev. Don Wolf remembers working in his Guymon parish on a muggy summer day in 1981 when he received a telephone call from a friend.
“It's all over,” his friend said — and Wolf knew what this meant.
His cousin, the Rev. Stanley Rother, 46, had been killed by unknown assailants a few days earlier on July 28, in the rectory of his church in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, and the sad news was beginning to trickle back to the slain priest's family members, friends and fellow Catholic priests in Oklahoma.
“It was a shock to hear, but it wasn't a surprise, because everyone, including him, knew that it was dangerous to go back,” said Wolf, now pastor of St. Eugene Catholic Church in Oklahoma City.
Wolf will be among a contingent of 60 people from Oklahoma and Arkansas traveling to Rother's beloved Guatemalan parish Monday to commemorate the 35th anniversary of his death.
The quiet, humble yet courageous Rother is a candidate for sainthood, and the coming trip of clergy and laity is a way to keep the Okarche native's memory alive, said the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Oklahoma City archbishop. 

Later in the story, The Oklahoman notes that canonization efforts for Rother began in 2007. But I found myself wishing the paper had provided a few more details on that process. So I decided to make that constructive criticism.

That was before I noticed a sidebar with those exact details:

In 2015, a Vatican commission formally recognized the Rev. Stanley Rother as a martyr, bringing him a step closer to Roman Catholic sainthood.
The Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, archbishop of the Oklahoma City archdiocese, said the determination of martyrdom was a critical step in the archdiocese’s efforts to have Rother beatified, which is the final stage before canonization as a saint.
The martyr designation for Rother has special significance for many reasons: If beatified, Rother would be the first Catholic martyr from the United States. He also would become the first priest born in the United States to receive this recognition.
Coakley said he is hopeful in the months ahead to receive a “breakthrough” or word from Rome that Rother will be beatified. 

Oh, well. So much for that criticism. I guess I'm stuck with an entirely positive post.

Seriously, this is one of those excellent Godbeat stories that likely doesn't break through the barrage of political, economic and crime news except at a newspaper with a full-time journalist devoted to such reporting. Kudos to Hinton and The Oklahoman for an insightful, interesting feature on old news that is definitely timely again.

Go ahead and read the whole story.

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