Father Baker's Miracles
Reported Miraculous Cure of Boy 16

Monsignor Nelson Baker, [1841-1936] the beloved "Apostle of Charity" of Buffalo, New York, is credited with the miraculous cure of a teenage boy gravely ill with bacterial meningitis. The reported healing took place in the Buffalo Diocese this past summer.

Sixteen-year-old Joseph Donohue III, from Erie County, was taken by ambulance to Children's Hospital in the early morning of August 19, and his body began turning gray and black. The infection had shut down his respiratory system and spread into his blood. Doctors hooked him up to life support and placed him in a medically induced coma.

Pray to Father Baker

When his father, Joseph A. Donohue II, arrived at the hospital and saw his son near death, he immediately called Monsignor Ron Sciera, pastor of Precious Blood Catholic Church in Buffalo. The Monsignor encouraged him to pray exclusively to Father Baker. The father and family agreed.

The situation was worsened by the minute. He was bleeding from his eyes, and his limbs were turning black. Joseph was given last rites.

The family then moved to a hospital conference room, knelt and offered prayers seeking Divine intercession through Father Baker. At one point Gerald Welsted, the boy's maternal grandfather, wept aloud and said, "Parents shouldn't have to bury their children."

Word quickly spread in the hospital of the medical crisis. A hospital worker, whose grandmother had been Father Baker's housekeeper, placed a set of Rosary beads that belonged to the priest on the boy's chest.

Within the next two days the effort to forge a healing link between Father Baker and Joseph intensified. A swatch of fabric cut from a  vestment once worn by Father Baker was mailed to the family. That, too, was placed on Joseph's chest before it was put at the head of his bed along with the Rosary beads.

Another Catholic priest, the Rev. Jerry Sheehan, arrived at the hospital with dirt taken from the grave where Father Baker had originally been buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in 1936. "Father Sheehan sprinkled the dirt in my son's hair," said Joseph's mother.

An army of people around Western New York took up Joseph's cause and prayed relentlessly. "We'd say a decade of the Rosary  for each of Joe's organs," said his father. Within 72 hours, Joseph's condition slowly improved, gradually stabilized, and he regained consciousness. He was spared major amputations, though doctors had to remove a toe on his left foot and half of a toe on his right foot. Joseph remains on dialysis though his kidneys have begun functioning.

Dr. Alexendre Rotta, one of the physicians who treated Joseph, and who has 10 years' experience with the type of illness Joseph suffered, would not directly comment on whether he considered the teen's recovery a miracle. "We see a number of patients each year who have meningococcemia," Rotta said. "It is a serious medical condition, and some of them die, some recover completely, and others recover with some residual deficit."

Bishop Henry Mansell of Buffalo, however, believes that a miracle has occurred. "I've heard that the doctors said there is no medical, scientific or natural explanation for his recovery. To me, that appears to be a miracle," Mansell said.

Another Miracle: Three Vials

In furthering the cause of Sainthood for Father Baker, the bishop said the Diocese will document what has occurred and send it to the Congregation for Saints at the Vatican.

This reported miracle took place on the heals of another supernatural occurrence regarding Father Baker. Three vials of blood and body fluids that were buried with him in 1936 still contain liquid. This was discovered in 1999 when the priest's remains were moved in 1999 from Holy Cross Cemetery to a crypt in Our Lady of Victory Basilica. tests determined that the contents remained unexplainably fresh, a circumstance the Diocese believes was caused by a supernatural event.

Who Was Father Baker?

Monsignor Nelson Baker, familiarly known as "Father Baker" was born on February 16, 1841, in Buffalo, New York. His mother was Catholic, his father was Lutheran [who converted to Catholicism on his deathbed]. After Nelson's education in public schools, he went into business. In 1868, he resumed his education at Canisius College, Buffalo, as one of its first students. He entered Our Lady of the Angels Seminary at Niagara University, New York, in 1870, and was ordained a Diocesan priest on March 19, 1876.

For five years he served as Assistant Pastor at Lackawanna, then as curate in Corning, New York [then part of the Buffalo Diocese]. In 1882, he was recalled to Lackawanna as superintendent of the institution destined to become Our Lady of Victory Homes of Charity, with an orphanage, industrial school, home for infants, facilities for unwed mothers, and maternity hospital.

Father Baker's work with boys was legendary. Taking care of up to fifteen hundred boys at a time, he established workshops that taught the boys skills in various trades. Many of "Father Baker's Boys" became doctors, lawyers, priests, congressmen and governors.

His zealous and tireless apostolic activity was a product of his intense spiritual life. Father Baker nurtured an ardent devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Blessed Mother, particularly under the title Our Lady of Victory. In 1921, at the advanced age of 80, he began construction on the majestic Basilica of Our Lady of Victory. Constructed in four years' time, It was consecrated in 1926. L'Osservatore Romano rightly described the Basilica as "one of the most superb shrines the Catholic Church possesses in the United States."

He administered the Basilica Parish with the adjacent Homes of Charity, for the rehabilitation of countless underprivileged men, women and children until late in life. Father Baker died on July 29, 1936, in Lackawanna, New York. At least a half-million people attended his funeral.

In 1987, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved the initiation of Father Baker's cause and confirmed the title "Servant of God ---- Nelson Baker."

Father Baker's Prayer to Our Lady of Victory

O Victorious Lady, Thou who has ever such powerful influence with Thy Divine Son, in conquering the hardest of hearts, intercede for those for whom we pray, that their hearts being softened by the rays of Divine Grace, they may return to the unity of the true Faith, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.