Pope John Paul II was the big news today as Pope Benedict will raise his predecessor’s status to “Blessed,” meaning that one miracle has been accepted to be through the former Pope’s intercession by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. In this case, a French nun who prayed to the Pope has been cured of Parkinson’s Disease.

But there was another person who made some headlines here in Buffalo and that is Fr. Nelson Baker, Servant of God. Fr. Baker is known as “The Padre of the Poor” for his work amongst the orphans and troubled youth of Lakawanna. The Pope authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree recognizing Fr. Baker’s “heroic virtue,” which will allow him to carry the title “Venerable.”

A Civil War Vet, he started a grain business with his brother but the call of the priesthood won him over. Over time, he expanded the orphanage and the protectorate and eventually became the Vicar General of the Diocese at the turn of the Century.

Unwanted babies were being found in the Erie Canal and that moved Fr. Baker to establish an infant home to offer refuge, prenatal and adoptive services. It was filled to capacity nearly immediately and allowed Baker to begin construction on a Maternity Hospital which later was converted to a general hospital and still stands today. (Our Lady of Victory Hospital).

When he turned 79 he could have sat back and faded into the twilight of his old age, but instead he built Our Lady of Victory Basilica with $10 blocks from contributors. Amazing.

So today let us pray to Fr. Baker for our needs and especially for the needs of children. A colleague just told me that she was informed that a child she knows may have leukemia. So we pray to Fr Baker for healing and recovery. May he grow closer to sainthood officially, but may we continue to believe that he is among those in the communion of saints with God on heaven. Fr. Baker, pray for us. Amen.

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