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Arkansas Catholic Mission First In the World To Be Named After Blessed Rother

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Ark. (CNS) — Only a day after the first officially recognized U.S.-born martyr
was beatified in Oklahoma City, a new Spanish-speaking mission 200 miles away
in the northwest corner of Arkansas became the world’s first Catholic community
named for Blessed Stanley Rother.

is a happy day for you, the Catholic community of Decatur,” said Bishop Anthony
B. Taylor of Little Rock in his homily during a Sept. 24 Mass of dedication for
the mission. “You are now a mission under the patronage of Blessed Stanley
Francis Rother. This will make you the first church anywhere in the world
bearing his name.”

Catholic community began to meet in people’s homes for weekly prayer four years
ago. In March 2014, Father Salvador Marquez-Munoz celebrated the first Spanish
Mass in a community center. He is now the pastor of Blessed Stanley Rother Mission
as well as St. Mary Parish in Siloam Springs.

April, the community has been renting a small, former Baptist church for a
weekly Spanish Mass, but the dedication Mass was held in the local elementary
school because the small church could not accommodate the number of people who
came to the liturgy.

mission numbers about 80 parishioners, members of roughly 20 families who are immigrants
namely from Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico. Many of them work in the local
chicken-processing plant or in construction.

becoming established formally as a mission,” Bishop Taylor told the community,
“is due in large measure to your commitment to Jesus Christ and the initiative
that you have taken to live your Catholic faith in a place where previously
there have been very few Catholics.”

emphasized, “We are not dedicating a parish building today. What we are doing
is establishing formally as a community. After all, the church is the people,
not the building. And it is you who are being established as a quasi-parish not
the building.”

added, “I am impressed by how much you have grown so far. And I believe some of
you are already working on figuring out how to get a more adequate building for
your community.”

Taylor has a great devotion to the new mission’s patron. Like Blessed Rother, he
is a native of Oklahoma. Before becoming Little Rock’s bishop, he served as
vicar of ministries in the priest’s home diocese, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma
City, sponsor of the Guatemalan mission where the martyred priest served.

was the first episcopal delegate for the archdiocese’s sainthood cause for
Father Rother, and in that role conducted many interviews, mostly in Guatemala,
for documentation about his life and ministry that was sent to Rome.

a presentation about the martyred priest before Mass, Bishop Taylor told the
gathering that Father Rother was “a missionary who gave his heart to his people
and whose heart literally remains with his people 36 years after he loved them
to the end. This is the story of a man who challenges me to ask what my
response would be if the Lord were to ask me, ‘Do you love me this much?'”

on his cause “was one of the greatest privileges of my life,” Bishop
Taylor said. “Father Rother captured my heart the day he died, and I have
drawn on his witness ever since to find the courage I need to do what is right
when the situation is difficult.”

his homily, he noted that in addition to serving two parishes in Santiago Atitlan
and Cerro de Oro, Guatemala, Blessed Rother “also served many small and
isolated communities in the villages and the plantations of the area, sort of
like you here in Decatur, who are a long way from anywhere.”

fact Guatemalans are members of the community “makes Blessed Stanley a
doubly appropriate patron for your community,” the bishop said. “Everything
I know of Blessed Stanley tells me that he would be delighted to have your
community as the first one in the world named after him.”

the Mass, Tim Muldoon, the director of mission education for Catholic
Extension, told the community, “The occasion of naming a community after
Blessed Stanley Rother is an opportunity for us to highlight the importance of
mission to the life of your faith community as well as to the entire church in
the United States and the rest of the world.”

Extension is supporting the new community. The Chicago-based organization is
the leading supporter of missionary work in poor and remote parts of the United

was in Decatur to present the mission a $2,500 grant from Extension, called a
“Francis grant” after Father Francis Clement Kelley, founder of Catholic Extension,
who in 1924 became the second bishop of Oklahoma City.

pray that Blessed Stanley will be your faithful friend in heaven, just as he
was a faithful friend to his people of Santiago Atitlan,” Muldoon said.

the 1950s and early 1960s, Catholic Extension donors helped pay for the
seminary education of Blessed Rother and other seminarians of what was then the
Diocese of Oklahoma City-Tulsa. (In 1973, Tulsa became its own diocese and
Oklahoma City was elevated to an archdiocese.)

Extension also was a sponsor of the Sept. 23 beatification ceremony in the Cox
Convention Center in Oklahoma City.

Gonzalo de Villa Vasquez of Solola-Chimaltenango, Guatemala, the diocese where Blessed
Rother served for 13 years, confirmed that no churches there have yet been
named for the martyred priest. “Not yet,” he said, “but they’re coming.”


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