By Valerie Suddock
The Saint Thomas Aquinas Parish Over 60 ministry hosted a pilgrimage to the hometown of Blessed Stanley Rother Nov. 13. Father Derek Thome, parochial vicar of the Wichita parish, lead the group to Okarche, Oklahoma, where pilgrims attended Mass at Blessed Rother’s boyhood parish.
The pilgrimage might not have happened except for a snowstorm during Fr. Thome’s diaconate year at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Fr. Thome recalls Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda’s visit to the seminary to speak about the life of Fr. Rother. Scaperlanda wrote the book about Blessed Stanley Rother, “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run.”
“Her next speaking engagement was in New England, but due to a snow storm her travel arrangements forced her to rent a car and drive to her next destination. I was able to transport her to Baltimore to pick up her rental car and on that trip she invited me to bring a group down to Okarche,” Fr. Thome said.
After being assigned to St. Thomas Aquinas and meeting the St. Thomas Aquinas Over 60s group, Fr. Thome remembered Scaperlanda’s invitation to visit to the hometown of Blessed Stanley Rother. Ms. Scaperlanda welcomed the group to Okarche after Mass and shared the heartfelt story of a simple farm boy and his journey to martyrdom. She then joined the pilgrimage to visit the Oklahoma City Diocesan Pastoral Center where many of Fr. Rother’s relics and other memorabilia are on display.
The pilgrimage drew to a close at Resurrection Cemetery and the mausoleum where Blessed Stanley Rother’s remains are entombed. Father Thome led the pilgrims in prayer for Blessed Stanley’s intercession for their intentions. “I count it a blessing,” said Fr. Thome, “that we were able to celebrate Mass at Fr. Rother’s church and learn more about his example of a life of stewardship – giving back the gift of his life out of love for God and the people of Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala.”
Jim and Mary Sheldon, logistical coordinators and members of St Thomas Aquinas Over 60, were pleased travelers from outside the Wichita area joined the pilgrimage. “It’s a good indicator St. Thomas Over 60 is sponsoring something worth traveling for. Some came from as far as Coffeyville and Clearwater” Mrs. Sheldon said.
One of the pilgrims who traveled in from Coffeyville was Mary Schlecht, director of Hispanic Ministry at Holy Name Church Coffeyville.
“Most people know about Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her wonderful work with the poor in India. Few people know about Blessed Stanley Rother. With God’s help I try to serve others like Mother Teresa and Father Stanley did.”
Father Stanley Rother is a third cousin to Mary Schlecht by marriage.
Suddock is a member of Holy Name Parish in Coffeyville.