By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY — The birth of Stanley Francis Rother was by all accounts ordinary, aside from the weather. The Catholic farm boy came into the world during an Oklahoma dust storm.
But in life — and in death — he was extraordinary.
The 46-year-old priest, shot to death in Guatemala in 1981, became the first person born in the United States to be declared a martyr by the Catholic Church.
Now a $50 million shrine built to honor the slain missionary — killed by three masked assassins who entered his rectory during Guatemala’s civil war — is expected to draw thousands of pilgrims to his home state.
“People from all over the world can come and know more about him and really ask for his intercession,” said María Ruiz Scaperlanda, author of “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run,” a 2015 biography of Rother.
A dedication Mass set for Friday will mark the official opening of the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine in Oklahoma City. The Spanish colonial-style structure incorporates a 2,000-seat sanctuary as well as a visitor center, gift shop, museum and smaller chapel that will serve as Rother’s final resting place.
The shrine grounds also will feature a re-creation of Tepeyac Hill, the Mexico City site where Catholics believe the Virgin Mary appeared to an Indigenous Mexican man named Juan Diego in 1531. An artist created painted bronze statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego — each weighing thousands of pounds — for the Oklahoma site.
This story appears on The Associated Press wire.
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Featured image provided by Archdiocese of Oklahoma City