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April 12, 2024

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, Judy Zocchi, and Stanley Rother

April 12, 2024
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This week, Judy Zocchi, our Head of Script Development, shares some thoughts about her own connection to The Mount and Blessed Stanley Rother. She also interviews the Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City.

Discovering Stanley Rother

I'm hoping by now you listened to the Merry Beggars' series on Blessed Stanley Rother. I was asked how I learned about him since his story is not well known. It was June 2010, and I was at Mount Saint Mary’s University to receive the Bruté Medal. I was the first woman to receive this award since the school had a long history of being all-male. I was in the fifth class of females admitted to the Mount, and rumor had it that the rector of the seminary at that time, Father Flynn, was not in favor of admitting women. Fast forward thirty-four years, and the now Archbishop Flynn, was the celebrant of the Mass before the award ceremony. It was his sermon that kick-started my devotion to Blessed Stanley.  

He told the story about his seminary classmate and friend, Stanley Rother, who was the first American-born martyr. How did I not know that? I was on the campus around the time he came back to the Mount to discern if he should leave his mission in Guatemala when he was listed as number eight on the death list. I became obsessed with telling his story. I found his biography, written by the amazing Maria Ruiz Scarpendella, and tried to obtain the movie rights. Already taken. I missed that boat!

Fast forward now thirteen years. I’m hired by the Merry Beggars as the Head of Script Development for their series, The Saints. Love it! Awesome – Yes – but… I personally want to write the series about Blessed Stanley. After all – he’s a son of the Mount, I’m a daughter of the Mount – and oh yeah - Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, another son of the Mount, presented the Positio of Father Rother to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. I pitched the Executive Producer -and thankfully he said yes!

The Mount Connection

I guess you’re getting the Mount Saint Mary’s connection here - so of course, that was my first stop. In last week's blog, you met Monsignor Andrew Baker, the present Rector of Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He gave me access to original letters between Blessed Stanley and Father Flynn. He connected me to a classmate of the two men when they were seminarians. I hope you enjoyed the Flynn/Rother friendship featured in the series. For me, writing this was surreal, as I personally knew several of the characters mentioned in the series from my time at the Mount. I'm hoping that Blessed Stanley has touched your heart and you will help me to continue to spread his story. He is an example of when a person is given a second chance, they can very well aspire to do great things!

Now I'd like you to meet Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City. He graduated from Mount Saint Mary's Seminary, around the time I graduated from the university.

An Interview with The Archbishop

Q: Please describe your connection to Mount Saint Mary's.

I was ordained in 1983 from Mount St. Mary's Seminary. I served as Director of Spiritual Formation at the Seminary from 1998-2002.

Q: What is your relationship to Blessed Stanley personally and in your position?

We are fellow alumni of MSM Seminary. He was ordained in 1963, I was ordained in 1983. I never met him but I was beginning my third year of theology at the Mount at the time of Fr. Rother's death. I met his parents and sister (Sister Marita) when they visited the seminary that year. The seminary placed a bronze plaque at St. John's Well between the seminary and Immaculate Conception Chapel in Fr. Rother's memory because he used to care for the grounds around the well (fountain).

Q: Where is the process of his sainthood and what was your role?

Blessed Stanley was beatified in Oklahoma City in 2017. As archbishop, I was responsible for facilitating the Vatican stage of his process. My predecessor, Archbishop Beltran, completed the diocesan stage before his retirement. I presented the Position in Rome and was responsible for preparing the Beatification Mass. At this point, we are monitoring reports of possible miracles attributable to Blessed Stanley's intercession. We are actively promoting his Cause by raising awareness of his life and encouraging his cult. We built and dedicated an archdiocesan shrine where Blessed Stanley is entombed.

Q: How has Blessed Stanley impacted you personally?

Blessed Stanley has been an inspiration and source of encouragement to me as a seminarian, a priest, a bishop, and archbishop. I am privileged to be working toward his canonization.

You can also listen to an interview with Judy Zocchi and Maria Ruiz Scarpendella on The Cale Clark Show from this past week, and the story of Blessed Stanley Rother at!

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