Lackawanna, NY (WKBW) After years of hard work and support, the parish that Father Nelson Baker led in the early 1900s is finally seeing and celebrating progress towards honoring their former pastor with one of the highest honors the Catholic Church can bestow; the title of Saint.
At the Our Lady of Victory Basilica, the church Father Baker helped build, Sunday mass was held as the good news from the Vatican sunk in. Friday morning, Pope Benedict XVI gave the decree of heroic virtue, affirming that Father Baker was in close union with God, and moving him closer towards canonization.
Parishoners shared their happiness and joy to see the legendary priest move closer to the great honor.
"The community has always been behind him. In light of all that he has done, the infant home, the basilica itself having built that. It's an incredible story," Michael Kipler said.
"He has helped everyone in every single possible way he possibly could. From the orphan little boys to us," Marge Morrocco added.
Father Baker died in 1936, so most parishoners never knew the priest. But now, they are in full support of honoring him as a saint.
"This community really appreciates everything that he has done for everyone. Everybody knows about Father Baker from all over," Ginny Floriano said.
Russ Plandowski said he thinks Father Baker is the perfect example to follow. "How much it means to the whole community to uplift their whole spirits. To say to themselves 'Well this man has done a lot for us, let's see what we can do for the community too,'" Plandowski said.
The process is still a long one, but if canonized Father Baker would become the first American born male saint.
"That really says a lot about him, this town, about the people that live here. I can't say enough good things about Buffalo and about Father Baker," Linda Boehm said.
"I think it would be a mark of prestige for the community. To know that somebody from this area is recognized for the goodness that he did,"
Ann Gossart added.
The next step for Father Baker is beatification. That comes after the Vatican certifies one miracle that he did. After a second miracle is verified, then Father Baker can be canonized and made a saint.