Comic book tells story of Buffalo priest up for sainthood and beloved for his work with poor

By Kurt Jensen |OSV News

Tom Lucia, the chief creative officer of OLV Charities, still has his 1980s Marvel comic books celebrating the lives of St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Kolkata.

They were important mainstream recognitions of Catholic figures and increased their popularity among young people.

So coming up with one to help promote the sainthood cause of Venerable Father Nelson H. Baker, a Buffalo, New York, priest, seemed like a natural idea. The result is “Father of the Fatherless” from Voyage Comics, being distributed to more than 3,000 students in Catholic schools in the Buffalo area.

“From there, the intent is to get the comic book throughout the country,” Lucia told OSV News.

It was released June 4 at the Father Baker Museum in Lackawanna, New York.

This is the cover of “Father of the Fatherless,” a new release from Voyage Comics, which tells the story of Venerable Father Nelson Baker, a Buffalo, N.Y., priest up for sainthood who is beloved for his work with the poor. (OSV News photo/courtesy Voyage Comics/OLV Charities)

It’s also connected to the centennial of OLV National Shrine & Basilica in Lackawanna. The celebration began in 2021, marking the setting and blessing of the cornerstone in 1921. Construction was completed in 1925 and the first Mass at the church was celebrated at Christmas that year. The church’s consecration was in May 1926, and two months later, Pope Pius XI designated the church as a minor basilica.

Dubbed by local newspapers as “the padre of the poor,” Father Baker (1842-1936) built, in addition to the basilica, an orphanage, a maternity hospital, a trade school and a home for infant care.

The charitable work he began exists today as OLV Charities. Additional OLV mission partners include OLV National Shrine & Basilica (along with OLV Elementary School) and OLV Human Services.

Father Baker, who served at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Buffalo after his ordination in 1876, was beloved in his lifetime for his charitable efforts, including serving thousands of meals during the depths of the Great Depression.

He felt called to the priesthood after operating a successful feed and grain business with a partner. Before that, he served in the 74th Infantry of the New York State Militia, a unit that organized in the summer of 1863 and was stationed in central Pennsylvania, although it didn’t see combat. If he is canonized, he will be the first Civil War veteran to be so honored and the first St. Nelson.

The comic is based on Holy Cross Father Richard Gribble’s biography, “Father of the Fatherless,” and covers Father Baker’s life from his baptism at age 9 onward.

There’s quite a bit about his love of playing, and later coaching, baseball, although the rough-and-tumble 19th-century version had far different rules than the modern game and was played for quite a few years before gloves were introduced.

But he considered it part of his ministry, Lucia said. “When he played baseball with the boys, he was educating, and teaching them trades.”

Father Baker was named a Servant of God in 1987 and in 2011 was named Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI. The next step in his cause would be beatification, with the priest receiving the title Blessed. After that would come canonization, or declaration of sainthood. In general, two miracles need to be accepted by the church as having occurred through the intercession of the prospective saint, one for beatification and one for canonization.

The sainthood cause was stalled when evaluators in Rome didn’t think the evidence of one medical miracle was strong enough. “We’re forming a committee to get one other miracle out to Rome,” said Msgr. David LiPuma, co-postulator of the cause.

Msgr. LiPuma hopes the comic gives children a hero to admire.

Founded in 2018 by Philip Kosloski, Voyage Comics creates entertainment formed by Catholic values. Other books in their catalog include “Champion of the Poor: Father Joe Walijewski,” and “Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist.” Funding came from the Carl Tripi Foundation.

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Kurt Jensen reports for OSV News from Washington.

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Author: OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.

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