The work ethic Fr. Stanley learned on his family's farm would serve him well in this new place. As a mission priest, he was called on not just to say Mass, but to fix the broken truck or work the fields. He built a farmers' co-op, a school, a hospital, and the first Catholic radio station, which was used for catechesis to the even more remote villages.
"What I think is tremendous is how God doesn't waste any details," Scaperlanda said. "That same love for the land and the small town where everybody helps each other, all those things that he learned in Okarche is exactly what he needed when he arrived in Santiago."
The beloved Padre Francisco was also known for his kindness, selflessness, joy and attentive presence among his parishioners. Dozens of pictures show giggling children running after Padre Francisco and grabbing his hands, Scaperlanda said.
"It was Father Stanley's natural disposition to share the labor with them, to break bread with them, and celebrate life with them, that made the community in Guatemala say of Father Stanley, 'he was our priest,'" she said.
Over the years, the violence of the Guatemalan civil war inched closer to the once-peaceful village. Disappearances, killings and danger soon became a part of daily life, but Fr. Stanley remained steadfast and supportive of his people.
In 1980-1981, the violence escalated to an almost unbearable point. Fr. Stanley was constantly seeing friends and parishioners abducted or killed. In a letter to Oklahoma Catholics during what would be his last Christmas, the priest relayed to the people back home the dangers his mission parish faced daily.
"The reality is that we are in danger. But we don't know when or what form the government will use to further repress the Church…. Given the situation, I am not ready to leave here just yet… But if it is my destiny that I should give my life here, then so be it.... I don't want to desert these people, and that is what will be said, even after all these years. There is still a lot of good that can be done under the circumstances."
He ended the letter with what would become his signature quote:
"The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger. Pray for us that we may be a sign of the love of Christ for our people, that our presence among them will fortify them to endure these sufferings in preparation for the coming of the Kingdom."
In January 1981, in immediate danger and his name on a death list, Fr. Stanley did return to Oklahoma for a few months. But as Easter approached, he wanted to spend Holy Week with his people in Guatemala.
(Story continues below)
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"Father Stanley could not abandon his people," Scaperlanda said. "He made a point of returning to his Guatemala parish in time to celebrate Holy Week with his parishioners that year – and ultimately was killed for living out his Catholic faith."
Scaperlanda, who has worked on Fr. Stanley's cause for canonization, said the priest was a great witness and example, particularly for the Year of Mercy.
"Father Stanley Rother is truly a saint of mercy," she said. "He fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, visited the sick, comforted the afflicted, bore wrongs patiently, buried the dead – all of it."
His life is also a great example of ordinary people being called to do extraordinary things for God, she said.
"(W)hat impacted me the most about Father Stanley's life was how ordinary it was!" she said.