By Father Timothy Gollob
Special to The Texas Catholic
In the July issue of The Texas Catholic there was a magnificent presentation about the Mission Trip 2017 of our youth missionaries to Central America. The pictures told the wonderful story that these young students had bonded with each other and with the people of Nicaragua. We at Holy Cross look forward to a full report from our own missionary, Alexis.But there is much more in the rest of the story.
As I write this column, there are preparations going forward in Oklahoma City for the beatification of a priest missionary to the Central American country of Guatemala. Father Stanley Rother has been acknowledged by Pope Francis as the first recognized martyr of the Catholic Church to have been born in the United States.Since he came from Okarche, Oklahoma in the diocese of Oklahoma City, it is very fitting that his beatification ceremony will take place in their civic center on Sept. 23, 2017.
A delegation from Dallas will be going to Oklahoma City to honor this unassuming, saintly priest.Already, there is a shrine dedicated to his memory at the Assumption Seminary in San Antonio. However, the mention of his college days brings to mind the fact that he had a hard time conquering the difficult studies. At one point, he even had to drop out after failing several exams. As is the case in life, the staff that failed him did not know the quality and the worth of the person they had been teaching.But in real life there is often a change of events. The good nuns who had instructed Stanley in grade school came to his rescue. Sister Clarissa Tenbrick, who had taught him in the fifth grade, reminded him of the patron of parish priests, St. John Vianney. He, too, had had a terrific struggle in his seminary days, but he persevered and became a great confessor in a rural parish in France. We know him now as the Cure d’ Ars.
For me, Blessed Stanley is an excellent advocate to our young people of following a vocation to do something special for God’s creation. Other people might discourage you. The way to the goal might be rugged and daunting, but the calling from God always comes with sufficient grace to persevere to the end.Check out the missionary work of Blessed Stanley. He spent 13 years with the Tz’utujil Mayan Indians in the mission of Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala. He used the skills he had learned in the seminary to serve holy food to his flock. He used the skills he had learned on his parent’s farm to help the village form a co-op. He sponsored a school and a hospital and a Catholic radio station. His kindness was given to all.But in the early 1980s, violence was rife in Central America.
All missionaries faced the constant danger of being killed or abducted. Father Rother returned to his home diocese in 1981 when his name appeared on a death list; but he could not abandon his people. He returned at Holy Week to be the pastor who could not desert his Guatemalan flock. On July 28, 1981, he was shot to death in the rectory of the parish.
To our youth returning from their trip, I give this advice: Continue the bonds with each other; remember the lessons of humility and love that the people of Nicaragua shared with you, have ears to hear the cries of the world in which you will live, and be a blessing to all God’s creation.
Father Timothy Gollob is the pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Oak Cliff.