OKARCHE, Okla. (AP) — A first-class relic of "native son" Stanley Rother was presented to his hometown parish during a recent much-anticipated Mass and special gathering.

The relic — a piece of the priest's rib — was carried down the aisle in a reliquary shaped like a cross by his brother, Tom Rother, during the Mass on Oct. 15 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, which Tom Rother and his family still attend, The Oklahoman reported.

The relic gifted to the Okarche church was the same that was viewed and venerated during the beatification Mass for Stanley Rother on Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Diane Clay said there are three classes of sacred relics. A first-class relic, like the one presented to Holy Trinity, is part of the body of a person who has been beatified or recognized as a saint. A second-class relic is a piece of the saint's or beatified one's clothing or something used by the individual. A third-class relic is an object that has been touched by a first-class relic. A reliquary is a container for relics.

Clay said the Rother relic presented to Holy Trinity was prepared in Rome and is the larger relic of several prepared there. She said the Most Rev. Paul Coakley, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, has provided some of the smaller relics to other bishops.

Several Holy Trinity parishioners, including a member of Rother's family, said they were thrilled to have the relic in their parish.

"I think it's wonderful," Marti Rother, wife of Tom Rother and Stanley Rother's sister-in-law, said with a smile. "I just think it's something we will each go to every day to pray to. I'm so happy."

Steve Knecht shared similar sentiments.

"Officially, it's a way that we can pray to Father Rother for God to bless us," he said.

Church members Jenny Arms and Angelica Mojica said when they arrived at the church for Mass, they were pleasantly surprised to learn that the relic presentation was to occur.

"I think it's an honor that we will have someone from our small town who will be a saint," Arms said.

Mojica, who was asked to be one of the altar servers, agreed.

"It's pretty amazing," she said.

The Rev. John Peter Swaminathan, Holy Trinity's pastor, thanked Coakley for remaining true to his promise to give the relic a permanent home at the church that Rother attended as a youth.

"A small town in Oklahoma has now become a prominent place on the U.S. map," Swaminathan said, anticipating thousands of visitors to Rother's hometown parish.

He told the gathered crowd that the relic would be installed in a place of prominence at the church, next to a statue of the Blessed Mother for people to light holy candles, pray and request Rother's intercession.

In his homily, Coakley said it was a joy to bring the major relic to Holy Trinity where it would be venerated — honored — by the faithful. He said Rother lived out many years of his life as a Christian witness in the small Okarche parish.

"He is, for us, a witness. He is, for us, an intercessor and in a special way, he is, for this parish, a son and a brother," the archbishop said.

Similar to Rother's beatification, the Oct. 15 Mass served as a reminder that the priest's life and legacy forever connects Oklahoma and Guatemala.

Rother was 46 when he was killed July 28, 1981, by unknown assailants in Guatemala. An Okarche native, Rother was an Archdiocese of Oklahoma City priest serving as pastor of the Santiago Atitlan parish in Guatemala at the time of his death.

His body was buried first in Okarche and more recently, exhumed for interment at a cemetery in Oklahoma City until they will be permanently housed in a planned shrine planned for the city's south side. His heart is buried in Guatemala.

A contingent of Guatemalans from St. Patrick Catholic Church in Oklahoma City attended the recent Mass at Holy Trinity, and they brought with them music and food highlighting Guatemalan culture.

A band of Guatemalans performed outside Holy Trinity before and after the Oct. 15 Mass and the Guatemalans prepared food for the people who attended the special gathering.

Marco Maldonado, speaking through translator Maria Escobar, thanked Holy Trinity parish for inviting the Guatemalans to participate in the day's activities.

"We appreciated what he did for our community in Guatemala," Maldonado said. 'That is why each of us is to follow what he did and give our lives for others."

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com