The medical team consisted of a pathologist and an orthopedic surgeon, both local Catholics. They helped examine and describe the remains, and compile a report sent to the Holy See. Among other things, the Church looks for signs of incorruptibility, when a body does not decompose. The condition has been found among some saints, although by itself, it is not enough to prove sanctity.
"They had expertise that would be helpful in describing what would be found when his tomb was opened, because we didn't know what we could find," Archbishop Coakley said.
Both the exhumation and examination are done "with great dignity and reverence, and there is a process by which we exhumed his body from the family plot at the parish cemetery in Okarche," the archbishop added.
"And in that process we took one of his ribs, and that's what we used for preparing first class relics," he said.
His body was then transferred to a temporary resting place in Resurrection Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery next to the pastoral center in Oklahoma City, while his rib was sent to Rome.
"There is an Augustinian monastery of St. Lucia in Rome, and they are custodians of relics and have experience in preparing relics, so we sent our relic of Fr. Rother to them," Archbishop Coakley said.
The sisters there will divide the rib into many tiny fragments, which will be encased in reliquaries, available to bishops who wish to obtain relics of Fr. Rother for public veneration. First-class relics are no longer distributed to lay persons, in order to protect the relics from negligence or abuse.
Meanwhile, the task of preparing the third-class relics (sometimes referred to as "touched relics") of Fr. Stanley fell to the Carmelite Monastery of Rochester, New York, a congregation of 11 discalced, cloistered Carmelite nuns.
Mother Therese, the prioress of the convent, told CNA that while the sisters had done smaller "touched relic" projects for Carmelite saints, this was the first major relic project the convent has undertaken.
"A sister from Oklahoma City mentioned to me that the archdiocese was looking for someone to put together relic cards for Fr. Stanley's beatification," she said. "I said, 'Well we've not done this on a huge scale but we are familiar with this process'...so that's how it came about, a simple question from one of our Carmelite nuns."
Often, third-class relics distributed at beatifications come in the form of a little piece of cloth embedded in a holy card.
(Story continues below)
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"When the body was exhumed, the bones were wrapped in a very large and special cloth," Mother Therese said.
This cloth was signed and dated by Archbishop Coakley during the exhumation in May and then sent to the nuns, who are punching small holes in the holy cards of Fr. Stanley and affixing the pieces of cloth – which will become relics once Fr. Stanley is beatified – to the cards.
The holy cards also have a picture of Fr. Stanley on the front, and a prayer for his canonization on the back – some in English and some in Spanish. The sisters have already made 10,000 and are expecting to make several thousand more.
"It's a very great privilege for us," Mother Therese said. "It has brought us very close to Fr. Stanley...we feel that he will intercede for us and that he will bless our community and the Church in the U.S. as well, because he's the first American-born martyr."
Archbishop Coakley said working on Father Stanley's cause has been an honor, especially as someone who graduated from the same seminary as Fr. Stanley (though years later) and has been interested in his story for quite some time.
"I took that as a great privilege to be coming into the Oklahoma City Archdiocese at such a time," he said.