It takes a lot to become a saint.
It takes a lot of good works and a couple of miracles by the saints themselves. But it also takes a lot to proceed with canonization once someone has been nominated for sainthood. A lot of effort...and funding.
Such is the case with Father Nelson Baker, the beloved local priest who was known as "Padre of the Poor" for his exceptional charitable work throughout Western New York. Upon canonization, Father Baker would be the first native born, diocesan priest in the United States to become a saint, not to mention the first saint from Buffalo. A canonization effort has been under way for Father Baker since 1987, and it reached a new level at the Vatican in 2011, when he was elevated to "venerable" status. Costs of the process have accrued quickly and steadily and may add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In June of 2012, Our Lady of Victory Basilica began a $2 million capital campaign, among which $250,000 was designated to help cover costs associated with moving toward the next level of canonization for Father Baker. Such costs include things such as continuing research, legal fees, documentation, printing, travel, and related items.
Under the guidance of Monsignor Paul Burkard, pastor of Our Lady of Victory, the parish applied for a grant from the Foundation to be used toward the $250,000 goal. The Foundation stepped in to aid the sainthood effort with a $25,000 matching grant, stipulating that the Foundation would match dollar for dollar up to $25,000 that Our Lady of Victory parish would raise from new donors.
In case anyone needed to be reminded of how popular Father Baker is in the Diocese of Buffalo, the Basilica had over $17,000 within a few weeks of the grant announcement. At this writing, that challenge funding goal has been exceeded.
"Elevating Father Baker to sainthood is incredibly significant for local Catholics and the entire community as it puts us on the world stage for evangelization and highlights the great faith we share here," said Richard Suchan, Executive Director of the Foundation. "Reaction to the matching grant from the Foundation is proof that people recognize the importance of Father Baker's canonization, and of Fr. Baker's contributions to our faith and society as well. It's an example of what we mean by being the belief."
Monsignor Burkard, who in addition to his duties as pastor of Our Lady of Victory oversees the effort as Vice Postulator for the Cause of Canonization of Venerable Nelson Baker, said that the campaign is just under the goal of $250,000 and the Foundation grant was a significant catalyst.
"It was exciting to receive the funding, as we have never had a matching grant before and the parish responded with great generosity," he explained. "I am especially grateful to the Foundation for helping us near our goal more quickly. We would not be where we are without the matching grant."
Monsignor Burkard noted that the funds raised are put into an account for future costs associated with the canonization of Venerable Nelson Baker. For example, while the process continues from the venerable status to beatification, a canon lawyer must be retained on site in Rome to prepare and submit legal documentation required by various Vatican committees studying Father Baker's candidacy. When Father Baker is canonized, there will be a canonization ceremony here in Buffalo that will draw guests from around the world, including a cardinal from the Vatican. And the canonization itself will take place at the Vatican. The funds raised will be available to cover costs associated with these events.
"The canonization of Venerable Nelson Baker will be a major American church event and all of our generous donors will have played a part in it," Monsignor Burkard concluded. "While we don't know when an announcement of Father Baker's canonization might come, we are certainly prepared thanks to the efforts of so many faithful people who believe in this great cause."