By Catholic News Service
OKLAHOMA CITY — Construction of a shrine honoring an American priest who was killed while serving in Guatemala reached a milestone with the installation of a massive dome.
Workers Aug. 12 carefully lifted the 45,000-pound dome onto the chapel in Oklahoma City memorializing Blessed Father Stanley Rother Aug. 12. Construction is expected to be completed in summer 2022.
“This was a momentous moment in construction of the shrine that will become a visible beacon of faith for thousands of people around the world,” Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul S. Coakley said of the dome’s placement. “They will come to visit our state and city, and come to learn about our ordinary priest from Okarche who lived an extraordinary life.”
The archbishop in an archdiocesan news release also expressed gratitude “for everyone who has played a part in this project and look forward to dedication next year.”
The $40 million shrine is the highest profile project undertaken as part of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City’s first capital campaign.
Besides a chapel, the site will include a 2,000-seat church where the priest’s body will be entombed, an education building, an event space, and several areas designated for shrines and devotion. The site will be developed over time, the archdiocese said.
When completed the church will be largest Catholic church in Oklahoma.
Blessed Rother (pronounced ROW-ther) was a priest of the archdiocese and beginning in 1968, he served the faithful at a mission in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, which the archdiocese sponsored from 1963 to 2001. While stationed at the mission, he also helped build a small hospital, a school and the area’s first Catholic radio station. He was brutally murdered there in 1981. He was 46.
Leif Arvidson, shrine executive director, thanked Archbishop Coakley, archdiocesan staff and the construction team for cooperating in reaching the milestone.
“Now we’ve crowned the church,” he said. “In this church, we endeavor to show Christ, to exalt Christ and to manifest Christ to his people.”
The dome was built at ground level using cold-formed metal steel before it was set into place. It is 34 feet tall with a circumference of 40 feet.
“It’s an emotional moment to see the dome put in place. The innovative engineering and planning to build the dome on the ground made it faster, safer and less expensive,” said Tony Yanda, senior director of construction operations at The Boldt Company, which is leading the building effort.
Archbishop Eusebius J Beltran of Oklahoma City, who retired in 2010, formally opened the priest’s sainthood cause in 2007. Now-Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, was the first episcopal delegate for the cause. Like Father Rother, he was ordained a priest for the Oklahoma City Archdiocese.
In his role as delegate, then-Father Taylor conducted many interviews, mostly in Guatemala, for documentation about the slain priest’s life and ministry that was sent to Rome.
In December 2016, Pope Francis recognized Father Rother’s martyrdom, making him the first martyr born in the United States. He was beatified Sept. 23, 2017.
Along with the Spanish colonial-style church — which will be the largest Catholic church in Oklahoma — an additional element will be a museum and pilgrim center, to be built for an additional $5 million. The center will welcome visitors each year to learn about the life, witness and martyrdom of Blessed Rother.