New Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine (Archdiocese of Oklahoma City)

A fascinating new shrine is under construction in Oklahoma City (Archdiocese of Oklahoma City).  It has been designed by our good friends at Franck & Lohsen Architects in Washington, D.C. with ADG as the associate architect, based in Oklahoma City.  The Spanish Mission style shrine will be dedicated to the memory of the martyred missioner priest, Blessed Stanley Rother (1935-1981), who will be entombed in the church for the public veneration of the faithful.  Meanwhile, his case for sainthood continues and his heart is entombed at his mission parish in Guatemala.

Fr. Rother was priest from Oklahoma who was ordained in 1963 after studies at Mt. St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  He was martyred in Guatemala in 1981.  In 2017 he was beatified, recognized as having died "in odium fidei," the first US-born priest officially declared a martyr.  Fr. Rother lived and worked in Guatemala for many years as a full-time missionary, never abandoning his flock, even though his life was threatened and came under immanent danger by Marxist terrorists who eventually took his life and remain at large to this day.

While growing up in the Twin Cities the author of this article heard more than one sermon from Archbishop Harry J. Flynn about the sanctity and virtuous character of Fr. Rother.  Archbishop Flynn had come to know Stanley Rother rather well through their association at Mount St. Mary's Seminary where they met in the late 1950's and became very good friends.  Flynn was later appointed the rector.  The two remained in touch and Archbishop Flynn gave testimony of the personal holiness and heroic virtue of the priest-martyr.  A video can be seen here of Archbishop Flynn's testimony.         

The new 2,000 seat church will be the largest church in the Archdiocese, a welcome venue where future diocesan events will be held.  Further, it will be a hub of Hispanic ministry.  The center of the shrine design is the beautiful Spanish baroque church with fitting dome.  Other buildings on the shrine campus will include a large event hall for shrine activities and gatherings.  Classrooms will also be included along with meeting rooms.  There will also be a pilgrim center, museum, and gift shop.  In front of the shrine will be a zocalo plaza surrounded by a covered arcade colonnade in the style of a cloister walk with outdoor peristyle columns.  This brings to mind a quote from Sir Roger Scruton: "The colonnade provides the precinct of the temple - a boundary between inner and outer that is also fully permeable" (cf. The Aesthetics of Architecture, xi).    

The white stucco shrine with its large dome, tile roofs, and towers is visible from the highway, already taking shape as a city landmark in South Oklahoma City.  The two towers stand strong, symbolic of the entrance gate of the heavenly city.  The central plaza in front of the church will have a splashing fountain, seen in the above image.   The covered walkways, paved terraces and exuberant baroque detailing recalls the beautiful Catholic churches in Latin America, part of a 500-year legacy of European-style beauty and permanence that is distinctly Latin in its awe-inspiring style.   There will also be beautiful gardens surrounding the property were visitors can gather and picnic.  

The shrine is reminiscent in particular of the picturesque Guatemalan village that was so dear to the heart of Fr. Rother, where he served the local community with distinction and gave his life for them as a shepherd who lays down his life for his flock.  

In some ways the shrine also reflects the influence of the St. Xavier del Bac Mission in Tucson, Arizona, recognized as the best example of Spanish Renaissance church architecture north of the U.S.-Mexican border.  

The shrine and its plaza will accommodate well into the future many gatherings and festivals, with processions and other events that reflect the local culture in Guatemala, a beautiful land that is forever tied to the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.  

The charming style of architecture, with its curvilinear-shaped gable walls and low parapets at the roof line, brings a little piece of  Latin America to the great state of Oklahoma.  True to its character, the interior plaster finish is devoid of ornamentation, with a magnificent array of arches and lines framing a Spanish baroque altar that surely will not disappoint.  

Congratulations to the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City for getting this one right.  It will serve to edify the young and gratify the old.  This project was first announced in 2017.  The site was a former golf course.  Tremendous progress has been made in a short period of time.  The archbishop has done a fine job (he was a former student of the great Dr. John Senior).  

The church looks absolutely amazing and is a true architectural accomplishment, an incredible feat that is a shinning example of what can be done when great minds come together and dream big.  Greatness can be accomplished, enshrined in stone to inspire all who see it for generations to come.  

I encourage readers to donate here to support this worthy legacy project.  A video of the construction can be seen here.    

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