Why Pekin students cheered when pope recognized Fr. Rother’s martyrdom

Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, making him the first martyr born in the United States. (CNS/Charlene Scott)

PEKIN — While they were convinced Father Stanley Rother deserved to be beatified, the junior high students in Joan Moore’s religion classes at St. Joseph School here didn’t expect that step to come this fast.

Less than a month after the students voted for the Oklahoma priest’s cause to advance during their “Sainthood Ballot”Pope Francis recognized that Father Rother had been martyred for the faith while serving in Guatemala. This clears the way for him to be beatified.

Eighth-grader Sophia Sison of St. Joseph School in Pekin stands next to the "campaign" display her team created for Father Stanley Rother. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Eighth-grader Sophia Sison of St. Joseph School in Pekin stands next to the “campaign” display her team created for Father Stanley Rother. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“When I announced it to the students . . . a cheer went up,” Moore told The Catholic Post. “Some of them were just sitting there looking at me, astonished and amazed, but they were thrilled that their choice had been recognized by the pope. They couldn’t believe that someone they had just researched and supported as a candidate for sainthood was actually going to be beatified.”

“You know, Miss Moore, it must have been God’s plan that we learned about him. He already knew this was in the works,” one student told her.

Moore said she was surprised and touched to learn that many of the eighth-graders who worked on “Team Stanley” had been praying privately for his cause, even after the unit on the election process ended in November. She told them that sometimes God answers our prayers quickly to give us encouragement to continue in our efforts.

“Now they’re thrilled to think in their lifetime that he most likely will be named a saint in our church,” Moore said.

“They couldn’t believe that someone they had just researched and supported as a candidate for sainthood was actually going to be beatified.” Joan Moore

The election unit she developed had the students look at the causes of four candidates who have been declared Servants of God, Venerable or Blessed. They narrowed the field to two in each category and then prepared full-blown campaigns to convince their classmates of the worthiness of each candidate.

While the country was deciding between Republicans and Democrats, the students at St. Joseph were casting ballots for future saints.

“It was wonderful because they were introduced to so many good role models of our Catholic faith, and not just our Catholic faith but good people — good people with heroic virtues that they can model their lives after. We all need that,” Moore said.

Stunned that action on Father Rother’s cause had happened so quickly, she said, “It must have been one of those things from their prayers and their voice to God’s ear and right back to the pope. Pretty good company to be keeping that way.”

 

 

 

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