Father Stanley Rother at a Carnival celebration in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.
Father Stanley Francis Rother served in Guatemala at the mission in Santiago Atitlan starting in 1968. As the Guatemalan civil war raged between military and guerilla forces, the Catholic Church became a target. Determined to stay with the people, Father Stan remained in Guatemala and was murdered in July 1981.
Unbound’s co-founder Bob Hentzen met Father Stan while working in Guatemala. Father Stan’s love for God and people has long served as inspiration for our work.
In December 2016, Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of Father Stan, whose beatification (the final step before sainthood) will take place Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City. Father Stan was a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, and is the first recognized Catholic martyr born in the United States.
Unbound staff member Barclay Martin recently traveled to Guatemala and listened to the stories of many who knew Father Stan, and here he reflects on that journey.
Unbound preachers gather for the annual preachers conference at the Unbound HQ in Kansas City.
By Larry Livingston, senior writer/editor
Last week a group of Catholic priests who travel around the country to preach on behalf of Unbound were at our headquarters in Kansas City for their annual conference. Every summer they join together as a community for a few days of learning and fellowship, and to share stories of their adventures traveling to parishes throughout the U.S.
For those of us who work in Kansas City, this is one of our favorite times of the year. It’s our opportunity to thank them for all the times they drove seven hours to get to that small town in the middle of nowhere in time for Saturday confessions, or spent the night at Gate 23 at DFW because their originating flight was canceled in Philadelphia.
Unbound sponsor Joseph Rivard of Gulfport, Mississippi traveled to Colombia in May on an Unbound Awareness Trip. He joined Unbound as a sponsor less than a year before the trip, and sponsors three young men in Latin America. Joseph is a retired professor of psychology at Central Michigan University. He reflects on how the trip impacted his faith.
Sponsor Joseph Rivard (right) visits with his sponsored friend, 17-year-old Jan Sebastian, at Jan’s home in Colombia.
Like most Americans and others living in a “first-world” country, life is never perfect. Every Christian I know has a story to tell; stories that speak of the death of a loved one, sickness, stress in a career, family trouble, etc. Each of us, armed with faith, endeavor to overcome our own struggles. We journey through our lives doing the best we can to work through our own deficiencies while trying to understand and serve God in the midst of our confusing and sometimes tumultuous life journey.
When I left for Colombia in May, I knew this trip would be different from other mission-style trips I have made in the past. I knew it would be different, simply because God is always about things “now” and “new.” There were a lot of things in my life journey that could have justified not going on this trip, because life is that way — always filled with challenges and obstacles. Yet, whenever I quieted my worries, I was convinced in my heart that this trip was something God was calling me to do. He didn’t command me to go; God has never arbitrarily demanded things of me in that way. It was more of a gentle stirring and a pull on my heart that communicated invitation and opportunity.
Sponsored elder Bernard (center) joins Unbound Kenya communications liaison Regina Mburu (left), and Larry Livingston (right). Bernard, who is blind, was featured in a previous blog post.
By Larry Livingston, senior writer
I recently traveled to Kenya. My main reason for going was to meet people sponsored through Unbound and listen to their stories. I also wanted to meet members of our staff in Kenya and learn how they work with the families.
Since I’ve returned, several people have asked me what I learned from the trip. I have a hard time answering that question at this point, mostly because I need time to sort out my memories, feelings and insights. Like last year’s Christmas tree lights, they’re going to take a while to untangle before they can be illuminated.
Besides, as I get older I find that the most meaningful insights I take away from travel experiences aren’t new. Rather, they’re reminders of universal truths that I had either forgotten or, perhaps, taken for granted. Those insights are always more about people than things. They’re also, in a way, about God.
Here are some ‘old’ insights I took from my trip to Kenya.
Sponsored child Irene (right) and her mother Susan stand in front of a church after the Santo Niño parade.
In the Philippines, the Santo Niño Festival is celebrated with many replicas of the small child of Jesus statue.
Individual creativity in the Unbound community is rich, as we saw in last week’s story
. The community traditions and celebrations also run deep, telling the stories of ancestors and faith through dance, parades and other ceremonies. Keep reading
Julia and her husband, Dionicio, in their home in Bolivia.
The experience of having been hurt by others is, sadly, not an uncommon part of the story of many elderly people who live in poverty. Being poor carries with it great vulnerability and it only increases with age.
Many endure their hurts with grace and even learn to forgive. Those who find it within themselves to not only forgive, but actually reach out in compassion to the people who’ve wronged them, inspire us.
Josefa, an elder sponsored through Unbound, sits on the doorstep outside her home in Guatemala.
At 77 years old, Josefa has aches and pains, but she knows exactly how to find joy.
Marcelo with two of his six daughters, Maria (left) and Estela (center).
This is the first in a series of four stories about fathers of children sponsored through Unbound. We’ll be posting these leading up to the celebration of Father’s Day on June 19. Click here to watch the companion video.
Read Marcelo’s story
Gabriela, a sponsored youth and scholarship holder from Honduras.
Gabriela is the quintessential leader.
She excels in her studies. She coordinates a church group. And she’s a service scholar and mentor for other sponsored friends in Unbound.
But Gabriela hasn’t always been an all-around leader. She’s come a long way since she was first sponsored at 4 years old.
Briana, left, and Megan, right, hold photos of Ana, the child they’ve sponsored together for more than four years.
Best friends Briana Murphy and Megan McLaughlin wanted a way to stay connected when they graduated from high school and went away to different colleges.
They also felt motivated by their faith to contribute for the good of others, so they decided to sponsor a child through Unbound as a way to do both.