Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine

Photo Stanley Rother

BRAVA Signature Project (Synthetic Slate and Spanish Tile):

Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine, Oklahoma City, OK

Protecting a Legacy and its People

“It’s truly humbling to be a part of history here, to see something that the community, the entire Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, rallied behind.”

— Jason Spoolstra, Director of Pilgrimage at Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine

Standing tall as a majestic beacon of faith, the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine is the largest Catholic church in the state of Oklahoma. This historic, awe-inspiring building not only marks the final resting place for the martyr Blessed Stanley, Oklahoman native and the first U.S.-born priest to be beatified by the Catholic church; it also serves as a resource for the entire Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, welcoming worshippers of all denominations from across the state to the rest of the country and beyond.

Stanley Rother Shrine BRAVA Roof Tiles Wide Shot
Stanley Rother Shrine Complex

Upon entering the Shrine grounds, one can’t help but marvel at the sheer enormity of this beautiful, holy place. It’s a direct reflection of the Archdiocese’s desire to commemorate Blessed Stanley Rother, a beloved missionary and spiritual leader who dedicated himself completely to his parishioners and who, in fact, gave his life in service of them in 1981 during the Guatemalan Civil War.

Stanley Rother Shrine Pilgrimage
Grounds for Pilgrims

In 2017, Father Rother’s Rite of Beatification was held in downtown Oklahoma City, with an assembled audience of over 20,000 people from around the world. It stood to reason, then, that the creation of a local place of worship in his memory would attract a sizeable number of visitors. To do it justice would be no small undertaking.

Spanning 4 years and 6,000 square feet, the ambitious plans for this project called for a church and main sanctuary with seating over 1,800 people, a chapel, ministry facilities, a welcome center, and a museum. All of which would, of course, require durable and reliable protection from the elements in order to thrive for years to come.

Stanley Rother Cathedral Interior
Stanley Rother Cathedral Interior

But these aren’t your everyday elements. The Oklahoma City metro area is subject to some of the most severe forms of weather, from hail to ice to blazing heat, not to mention being one of the largest tornado-prone areas in the U.S. — and the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine was to reside directly at the center of it.

To make the build even more complex, the Archdiocese wished to pay homage to Saint James the Apostle Catholic Church in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, where Blessed Stanley Rother had served, by mirroring its Spanish Mission design style. The architectural challenges that accompanied this wish? The considerable length of the Shrine’s roof and its multiple cupolas, which included a singular massive dome: the standout feature at the building’s center that would defy any and all applications of traditional Spanish tile roofing.

Cupolas and Extraordinary Building Length Brought Challenges
Cupolas and Extraordinary Building Length Brought Challenges

Enter Brava.

“Brava Roofing…was that final missing puzzle piece for this Shrine.”— Jason Spoolstra, Director of Pilgrimage at Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine, speaks about the value of the building to the community and his part in its storied history.

“Many aspects of the Shrine tell the story of not just Blessed Stanley Rother but also of the church … and also the beauty, the architecture, and the different pieces that were selected to make the Shrine what it is today.”

— Miguel Mireles, Executive Director, Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine

When the Shrine first broke ground in the fall of 2019, word about the large-scale project spread quickly, fascinating the locals. “The community was really curious at first about the structure of this place,” shared the Shrine’s Director of Pilgrimage Jason Spoolstra. “Especially once they started seeing the frame and how massive this project was going to be.”

Stanley Rother Complex Aerial Above
Top Down View of Main Cathedral Complex

Not surprisingly, the building’s signature dome caused the greatest stir. “The roof hadn't started to be placed on there yet; it was still a blue dome and people were wondering, ‘What is this place???’” said Spoolstra with a laugh. “But once people saw it they were just floored by it, and they were really excited to see the final project be finished.”

The act of pilgrimage, a devotional practice consisting of a journey, blends the spiritual with the physical into a unified experience. The design and construction of the Shrine did much the same, marrying the Archdiocese’s objectives with the best building materials for the job. As Executive Director of the Shrine, Miguel Mireles was an integral part of it from the very beginning. Mireles worked to raise the money necessary to complete the build while advising on the roofing materials necessary to protect it day in and day out.

“In the early design stages,” he said, “we knew when we were selecting something for our roof that it had to be durable, and also that traditional clay tiles would probably not work due to the environment they would be in.”

Keeping to the Archdioceses’ desire to replicate the look of authentic Spanish tile, however, was paramount. During the selection process, which included advisement from several architects, the Brava name was offered.

BRAVA Synthetic Spanish Tile & Synthetic Slate Tile
BRAVA Synthetic Spanish Tile & Synthetic Slate Tile Architectural Detail

“[Brava] had a product we could actually use for our roof and give that traditional clay tile look, but be able to withstand the many, many elements that happen here,” said Mireles. “In selecting Brava, the specs that really spoke to us the most [were] its ability to withstand severe weather and also the sunlight, maintaining the integrity and color for years to come.”

No matter the elements on any particular day, all visitors to the Shrine are greeted at its pilgrim center, which serves as a gateway to the church and the chapel. Opposite the main building, a paved path surrounded by native grasses and plants takes you 50 feet up Tepeyac Hill, a re-creation of the site in Mexico City where Mary appeared to Saint Juan Diego in 1531. There, pilgrims can pause to reflect while taking in the astonishing views of the grounds — and of the Shrine’s immense roof.

Stanley Rother Shrine Pilgrim's Path
Stanley Rother Shrine Pilgrim's Path

“The Brava roofing is really the very first thing that people track to, their eyes are immediately captivated,” admits Spoolstra. “Their heads turn and [he makes a whoosh sound] ‘What is that place?’ and they're struck by the beauty of it.”

“I can't tell you how many times I've driven by and felt the need to point it out. I think I'll be pointing it out to people for quite a while yet.”

— Paul Goodman, Owner & CEO, Goodman Construction

The Shrine faced another issue when it came to choosing the right materials for its sprawling, challenging roof: the weight.

“The Dome wasn't engineered to be able to hold the weight of real slate, and so to be able to still get the slate look — enter Brava,” said Paul Goodman, majority owner and CEO of Goodman Construction, which specializes in high-end unique and experimental roofs. His company was engaged early on in the project to help determine what the Shrine’s roof covering could, and could not, be.

“Brava Tile’s products allowed the Shrine to be able to have that slate look without having to spend a huge amount of money to design the structure to be able to hold the weight of real slate,” relayed Goodman.

Stanley Rother Shrine Dome, Cupolas , and Architectural Details
Stanley Rother Shrine Dome, Cupolas , and Architectural Details

The Brava composite roofing tiles chosen for the project provide all the warmth and beauty of Spanish clay tile and the elegance and durability of natural slate but in a lightweight synthetic material, which met the client’s needs while helping decrease both roof maintenance and installation labor.

Goodman explained: “It’s not nearly as heavy as traditional tile is, or traditional slate. That makes it easier on the guys to install, but it also means less expense in terms of heavy equipment…which also means that the wear and tear on the grounds is a lot less, because this stuff can be walked up a ladder. All of that translates into faster install times.”

The Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine install was the first time Goodman’s company utilized Brava roofing, applying both its Slate and Tile profiles. “We used them in some fairly creative ways, both in terms of large scale as well as multiple compound radiuses, which you'll see on the domes and on the front of the building,” recalled Goodman. “We really, really got to put it through its paces.”

As for the Shrine’s larger-than-life dome? Brava even went as far as to build a version of it at their manufacturing plant to perform test installs — and the results speak for themselves.

“If you build it, he will come.”

— Kevin Costner as Ray Kinsella, Field of Dreams

The Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine was carefully and respectfully designed to honor both the martyr’s life and his mission. But it has another, perhaps equally sacred purpose: to be of service to those who travel from near and far in order to observe, to learn, and to grow closer to their faith.

“There are two churches, Sacred Heart and Holy Angels, that now come here on Sundays to celebrate their masses,” said Spoolstra. “It's like home to them. And I know for a lot of people, they come here to walk the grounds for their daily walk and exercise or come to mass every day.”

It’s the fulfillment of a goal established years prior, to have people from all across the globe come together to celebrate Blessed Stanley and worship underneath the same roof. “For me to have this little, small part as the director of pilgrimage here,” said Spoolstra, “to welcome thousands and thousands of people every year to come and see this beautiful shrine, to see the architecture, to see Blessed Stanley — it’s such a blessing.”

Worshippers & Stanley Rother
Worshippers & Stanley Rother

Mireles feels very much the same about the people and the building itself. “It’s a true vocation for me to be part of the team here and to work for the church…and now, seeing the finished shrine, it's just very rewarding to my heart and to my faith to see folks come and experience, and maybe for the first time, their faith deepen…. Bravo was able to perform and bring us the product that we did need to be able to open up a beautiful space for folks to come and visit.”

Just as Blessed Stanley Rother left behind a memorable, lasting legacy, so, too, will this very unique and special place. You can hear the pride in his voice as Mireles describes the countless numbers that will take what they learn here, expand upon it, and share it with others.

“That’s the biggest reward…when you say ‘Oklahoma City’ to have people say, ‘Oh, that’s where the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine is,” said Mireles, his face shining with joy. “People can feel comfortable and excited to see a beautiful roof on a beautiful place. That's why we selected Brava, and we would definitely share that with folks to say, ‘Use Brava, and your needs can be met by them as well.’”

Stanley Rother Shrine at Sunset
Stanley Rother Shrine at Sunset
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