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Father of the Fatherless - The Authorized Biography of Father Nelson Baker, Written by Richard Gribble, CSC

By Edited Feb 1, 2016 0 2


Father Richard Gribble's 2011 version of the life of Father Nelson Baker is the only authorized version of the life of this holy priest who was declared Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.

Father Gribble's style of including current events, the political climate, national happenings, and the substantial growth of the Diocese of Buffalo in the early 20th century, are the factors which set his work far above other attempts to explain the magnetism of Father Nelson Baker, pastor of Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, New York.


Father Baker

                                                                          Father Baker

Father Nelson Baker may very well be recognized within the coming decade as a canonized saint of the Catholic Church. Even in his lifetime, he was called "the Padre of the Poor," when he provided a shelter for homeless boys in St. Joseph's Orphan Asylum and St. John's Protectory in St. Patrick's Parish in Lackawanna. The name of the parish was later changed because of Father Baker’s devotion to Our Lady of Victory. The priest also provided a home for unwed mothers at a time when girls in that situation were universally scorned. An infant home and a General Hospital were eventually erected on the same premises. Soon a grammar school and high school were added as the need arose.

Father Baker's devotion to Mary was born after his visit to her Shrine in Paris when he was a young priest. He made a promise to Mary that he would build a church honoring her under that name. True to his word, the Basilica opened in 1926. It has been called the most beautiful Basilica in the United States.


OLV Basilica

                                                           Our Lady of Victory Basilica

Even though his superiors recognized his business acumen and supported him in his efforts, Father Baker was forced to take on the State of New York over the policies he practiced in one of his charitable institutions. The priest gave his word to the unwed mothers that their personal and medical history would never be given out. He considered this promise vital to convince the mothers not to turn to abortion or suicide to escape the shame that would be forthcoming if their family and friends were aware of their straits. Until the day he died, Father Baker kept his promise to the girls, defying the mandate of the state.

Father Gribble's treatment steered clear of discussing whether Father Baker should achieve sainthood. His account is purely factual, but does include opinions of those people who knew Father Baker personally in his lifetime. One lone interviewee stated that he saw nothing in Father Baker that spoke of "heroic virtue." This man’s voice is drowned out by the thousands of people who testified to Father Baker’s sanctity, even to miraculous deeds, of this extraordinary priest who devoted his life to the service of the poor.


Fr. Baker and Orphans

                                                                     Father Baker and Orphans

Father Baker's cause for beatification is in progress now as the Vatican examines the veracity of a miracle attributed to the intercession of this holy priest. One miracle must be verified for the beatification of a candidate for sainthood, and a second miracle must be verified for canonization. A miracle has to be in the service of another person. Msgr. Paul Burkard, present pastor of the Basilica, is the Vice Postulator for Father Baker’s cause for canonization, and travels to Rome on a regular basis in that capacity. It is entirely possible that Father Baker’s beatification could be declared within the next two years. A second miracle is then necessary to declare Father Baker a saint. The Diocese of Buffalo has documentation of another miracle; however, it cannot be taken under consideration by the Vatican until the first miracle is verified.


Father Baker and Orphans

                                                            Father Baker and Orphans

Father Grabble’s authorized version is truly a page-turner, not merely an academic overview. I was happy to receive the book as a gift and have passed it on to others interested in Father Baker. I saw the Saint in person when I was four years old and my parents brought me and my sister to Mass at Our Lady of Victory Basilica. We sat up front in the second seat. My clearest recollection is that the 94-year-old priest’s shoe was untied during Mass, which I mentioned to my mother on the way out.

Father of the Fatherless: The Authorized Biography of Father Nelson Baker
Amazon Price: $29.95 $17.00 Buy Now
(price as of Feb 1, 2016)
Apostle of Charity: The Father Nelson Henry Baker Story
Amazon Price: $19.50 Buy Now
(price as of Feb 1, 2016)


Nov 21, 2014 4:50am
What a nice personal memory you have of seeing this holy man. I enjoyed reading this article. It's nice that God has raised up a probable saint in Buffalo. I'd love to visit his church someday. I'm pinning this to a large Catholic board.
Nov 21, 2014 10:06am
Thank you for stopping by!
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