Fr. Stanley had once flunked Latin studies, but he had mastered the local indigenous dialect of Tzutuhil and had become a beloved member of his community in Santiago Atitlan. He would share meals with them, visit them in their homes, and lived a simple life just like his people.
"We come from the same roots," said Andrew Kling, director of community outreach and media relations for Unbound.
"Walking with, rather than speaking for the community, is part of our ethic. Rather than passing out stuff, we walk with the families. We have social workers who ask them: what are your dreams, what are your goals, how can we help you get there with a little bit of help every month. We don't just parachute in western aid workers, we're developing an ear and listening to the community," he said.
Chico Chavajay is a Guatemalan who works as the coordinator of Unbound's largest project, based in the region around Lake Atitlan where Fr. Stanley worked.
Chavajay grew up speaking the same native language that Fr. Stanley learned to speak. While he was only one year old when Fr. Stanley died, Chavajay told CNA that the impact of Fr. Stanley is still strongly felt by everyone in the region.
"Everyone knows him, if you just mention his name, people respond, because he rescued people and people knew they were rescued by him," Chavajay said.
And it doesn't matter if someone is Catholic or not. "Padre A'plas is Padre A'plas," Chavajay noted, using Fr. Rother's other name.
"Stanley" was such a foreign name that the people of Guatemala took to calling the priest Fr. Francisco, after his baptismal name of Francis, which in Tzutuhil translates to A'plas.
"There's lots of connections of spirituality of Fr. Stanley and the spirit of Unbound," Chavajay added. "Our program prioritizes education and health, just like Fr. Stanley."
Fr. Stanley had helped to establish the first hospital in the area, which was free and open to anyone, Chavajay said. That hospital saved his sister's life when he was just 8 years old.
Chavajay noted that Unbound has also, in a way, adopted the signature phrase of Fr. Stanley: "The shepherd cannot abandon his sheep at the first sign of danger."
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This was something Fr. Stanley wrote in a letter home, explaining why he would not abandon his missionary post, even as the threats of the Guatemalan civil war escalated.
"We have the same belief that we're not going to abandon the people that we serve," he said.
The connection that Chavajay feels to Fr. Stanley is strong, particularly because they spoke the same language, he said.
"I feel that I have a real blood connection with the community in Santiago and Padre A'plas because our language is the same," he said.
Furthermore, his younger brother also became a priest and served at the same parish where Fr. Stanley had been a priest.
An increase in vocations is something that the whole region has seen since Fr. Stanley's death, Fr. Goggin added. Five or six priests have come from Fr. Stanley's own parish, and several more have come from the local diocese.