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Old Posted May 19, 2009, 4:04 PM
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Our Lady of Victory Basilica, Lackawanna NY

Our Lady of Victory is a Basilica in the heart of Lackawanna, New York. A basilica is a church that has precedence over other parish churches, usually for some cultural reason, such as being the site of pilgrimages, historical importance, and so on. A basilica, however, is not any seat of jurisdiction in the Roman Catholic Church; cathedrals serve that purpose. When a church is designated as a basilica, certain Papal items are allowed to be displayed in the church. One such item is the canopeum, which is kept half-open until the Pope visits the church, after which it is opened fully.

Construction of Our Lady of Victory was begun in 1921, and was completed by 1925. The first Mass was held on Chrstmas, 1925. On May 25, 1926, the church was consecrated. Later, in the Summer of 1926, the church was declared a Minor Basilica via apolstolic decree by Pole Pius XI.

The basilica has seen little change over the decades. Originally, the church had two tall towers at the fron of the church, and these were damaged in a thunderstorm in 1941. The towers were replaced by shorter copper domes. In 2002, the copper roof of the church had to be replaced due to heavy Winter snow, and so the new roof's green weathered tint did not match the tint of other copper fixtures. Other than those changes, the church has remained the same.

The basilica was the vision of Father Nelson Baker. Nelson was born in Limestone Hill (present-day Lackawanna) on February 16, 1842 to a Lutheran father and Catholic mother. Nelson was baptized as a Catholic in 1851. After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, and later working at a grain business, Nelson Baker decided to enter the priesthood in 1869. Baker studied at Our Lady of Angles Seminary (now Niagara University) and was ordained in 1876 at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Buffalo. Upon being ordained, Father baker was assigned to St. Patrick's Church in Limestone Hill, and then St. Mary's Church in Corning. Father Baker returned to work in Limestone Hill in 1882, where he stayed until his death. When Father Baker returned, be began to address the problem of the large population of orphaned children in the Buffalo area, and the lack of facilities to take care of all of them. Forced to pay thousands of dollars in debt to creditors, he began the Association of Our Lady of Victory, and began asking for donations from women around the United States. With the combined small donations of thousands of women, Father Baker was able to pay off the debt. Continuing donations allowed Father Baker to expand his services for orphans and troubled boys. In the early 1920s, Father Baker envisioned a grand church dedicated to Our Lady of Victory, who had helped him over the years. He began work on the church in 1921 and wanted only the best craftsmen. The church was completed in 1926. Father Baker continued running his orphanage and infant home until his death on July 29, 1936, at the age of 94.

After Father Baker's death, work began on moving Father Baker towards sainthood. Under Catholic rule, a person can becomes a saint through three steps. First, a person is declared a "Servant of God", which means that an official study of the life of the person is underway. While the person is a Servant of God, the body is usually exhumed in order to be examined for any possible evidence of holiness. Father Baker's body was exhumed from nearby Holy Cross Cemetery in 1999, and at the time, vials of his blood were found to be in pristine condition and still in liquid form, which could help move Father Baker closer to sainthood. Currently, one miracle is under review by the Vatican, which would allow the Pope to beatify Father Baker and thus move him to the second step of sainthood. Once a first miracle is accepted by the Vatican, a second miracle is needed to elevate the person from "Blessed" to "Saint". Other stories of miracles are being reviewed to possibly submit to the Vatican as a second miracle.

Father Baker was known to love angels, and he had countless angels incorporated into his church. It is said that if you count all of the angels in Our Lady of Victory, you will never get the same number, and no one is exactly sure how many angels there are in the church.

Father Baker is now buried in the basilica, after being moved from the adjacent Holy Cross Cemetery in 1999. When his body was exhumed and reinterred, vials of his blood were still in excellent condition and the blood was still in liquid form after 60 years. This has been given as evidence of Father Baker's holiness, and while it likely cannot be used as one of the miracles needed for sainthood, it has been a sign for those working on praying for Sainthood for Father Baker.

Artifacts of Father Baker, which are on display in a museum in the basement of the church.

Father Baker's bedroom was recreated in the museum. Contrary to popular belief, Father Baker never lived in the basement of the church; his bedroom and office were in a small office building next door that has since been demolished.

A re-creation of Father Baker's office.

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Old Posted May 19, 2009, 7:09 PM
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Thank you for posting these! I noticed the Basilica shots in your city photos thread (very nice BTW) and had no idea lil' ol Lackawanna had such a structure...amazing!
"I hate small towns because once you've seen the cannon in the park, there's nothing else to do." Lenny Bruce
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Old Posted May 21, 2009, 2:03 AM
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