Community honors and remembers Father Baker

Posted at 6:34 PM, Jul 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-01 05:33:37-04

Our Lady of Victory Basilica honored Father Nelson Baker during a special service Sunday afternoon, where even several "Baker Boys" were present. These are men who grew up in the institutions Father Baker created.

"He was a Saint when he was here... on the Earth... on Mother Earth... he was usually blessing us," said 93-year-old John Phillips, the oldest of the Baker Boys. Phillips was brought to Father Baker when he was just seven days old. "He was a little short guy... he was a nice guy, with a rough voice."

"For some of them, Father Baker was the only father that they knew," said Pastor of Our Lady Victory, Paul Burkard. "They were here as orphans or had been neglected by their family so he still is the only father that they knew."

Father Baker left a legacy through the buildings that remain in place.

"With exception of one year, he spent his whole priesthood here at what he called his 'City of Charity,'" said Burkard.

Father Baker formed several institutions, including an orphanage, a reform school for boys, and Our Lady of Victory Hospital in the early 1900s. 

"Some of the fondest memories are here," said Joe Szczygiel, another of the Baker Boys. "You hear all these stories about 'I'm going to send you to Father Baker'... bologna! It was a great institution. And if I could, I would send my kids to do it."

Szczygiel carries a piece of paper with the story of the Baker Boys in his pocket at all times, proud that he grew up on the street where Father Baker took care of children.

"School was great," said Szczygiel. "Church was great... I made my First Communion here. We had a great time... really some great, great memories."

The Baker Boys closed the procession while holding a wreath to remember Father Baker and all he did for the Western New York community.