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American priest declared venerable

Catholic World News - January 17, 2011

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints has issued a decree, formally approved by Pope Benedict XVI, declaring that Father Nelson Baker (1842-1936), a priest of the Diocese of Buffalo, New York, lived a life of heroic virtue.

A native of Buffalo, Nelson Baker served in the Civil War-- he fought at hte Battle of Gettysburg-- and had returned home to build a successful business enterprise before he decided to pursue a call to the priesthood. Ordained to the priesthood at 34, he served as pastor of a parish in Limestone Hill (now Lackawanna), New York, for the last 54 years of his life and as diocesan vicar general for the last 33 years. He solidified and expanded a network of charitable institutions, including an infant home, an orphanage, a protectory for young adolescents, a working boys’ home, and a hospital.

Deeply devoted to Our Lady of Victory, he began fundraising for the construction of Our Lady of Victory Basilica at the age of 79; dedicated in 1926, it was immediately raised to the status of a minor basilica by Pope Pius XI. “Among the churches of America, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Victory is, for many reasons, to be counted as one of the greatest,” the Pontiff wrote. “This sanctuary is truly a masterpiece, in the nobility of its lines, in the splendor of its marbles … and in its artistic finish.”

During the Great Depression, his institutions served more than a million meals annually. When he died, between 300,000 and 500,000 people viewed his body as it lay in state.

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  • Posted by: Dennis Olden - Jan. 17, 2011 7:13 PM ET USA

    Our Bed-and-Breakfast host in Niagara last April told us about Father Baker's candidacy and gave us a Father Baker prayer card. I entrusted my granddaughter's faith to his care as she started college in the Buffalo area this fall. In just a few months marvelous things have happened to protect her faith which I attribute to Father Baker's intercession. Thanks be to God indeed!

  • Posted by: Pro Deo et Hibernia - Jan. 17, 2011 6:40 PM ET USA

    THANKS BE TO GO! I am a native of Buffalo, NY, and Fr. Baker's example continues to inspire generations of Catholics far beyond his death. Here's an interesting tidbit from his biography: Alarmed by the behind-the-scene usage of abortion and contraception among Catholics, Msgr. Baker ensured that his hospital adopted a "no questions asked" policy in which people could drop off babies they felt they could not for adoption. May he one day be canonized if God wills it!

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