Monday, February 1, 2016

'The Shepherd Who Didn't Run' Blog Tour: Day 5, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn


The next stop on 'The Shepherd Who Didn't Run' book Blog Tour is a special one. It even includes a connection with a priest from New York who not only knew Father Stanley at Mount St. Mary's Seminary, but was even ordained on the same day as him (for two different dioceses)!

I owe a world of thanks to Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, who arranged for me to connect with Father Tom Connery, and who has been a huge supporter and encourager as I researched and wrote this book!


Fran Rossi Szpylczyn is a well known Catholic speaker and retreat leader, as well as writer and blogger. She works as the Pastoral Associate for Administration at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Glenville, NY. Fran's work can found at her blog, There Will Be Bread. She is also a contributing author for the Homilists for the Homeless series from Clear Faith Publishing, as well as a regular contributor to Give Us This Day. She lives in Clifton Park, NY with her husband Mark. 

So without further ado...

The steadfast shepherd of Santiago Atitlán

-1The path to sainthood consists of many steps. One of those steps to make sure that the person’s life story and cause is well known. Up until now, you may have never heard ofFather Stanley Rother, but based on the wonderful new book, The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run, Father Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma, I hope and pray that will change!
My own involvement with this project began some time ago. Catholic journalist and author María Ruiz Scaperlanda told me that she was writing a book about Father Rother. This caught my attention because a priest that I know went to seminary with Fr. Rother, so I was familiar with him. One thing led to another and this provided me with the opportunity for me to connect Maria to Father Tom Connery to further her research.
So who was Stanley Rother? This book will sweep you away as you learn more about this man of humble beginnings, growing up in rural Oklahoma on a farm. Expected to carry on the farming tradition himself, he surprised his family when he announced that he wanted to be a priest. Scaperlanda introduces us to  “shepherd who didn’t run,” even as he struggled academically at seminary. His quiet persistence could not keep him from failing, but other doors open as he finds himself at a different seminary – with very different results.
Moving at a lively pace, this books leads the reader through the events that lead Father Rother to the village of Santiago Atitlán in Guatemala. It was here that Father Stanley grew into Padre Francisco, as he was known, and ultimately called Padre Aplas. Although he once struggled with Latin in the seminary, he learned Tz’utujil, the language of the local people. His devotion to those he served was legendary, and his quiet and faithful presence was treasured.
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Artwork from Trinity Stores

There are so many rich details, so many moving anecdotes and stories to take in. It was the kind of book that had me fighting sleep so that I might go on. To read of someone of such humble faith who lived a life of incredible service is a gift, and a motivator. As I turned each page, I kept thinking of the many similarities between Pope Francis and Father Stan,  with their gifts of simplicity and the desire to serve others in the name of Christ.
And was in serving that Rother was assassinated. Guatemala was a land scarred by a long civil war and social unrest. In that unrest, what could be more dangerous to than a priest who brought dignity and hope to the people he lived amongst. He was killed because of his goodness. Father Stanley Rother was a steadfast shepherd, formed in and following Christ, a man who did not waver when it came to giving it all for God.
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My review of this book does little justice to the story of this amazing priest and martyr. The real story is found in the book itself, a book that I hope you will read and share with others. One of the things that struck me in my advance reading was the power of the book for adult and high school level catechesis, as well as vehicle for parish book clubs. It will also make for excellent Lenten reading, prayer, and study.
To read the rest of Fran's review and blog post, just click here