by Karen Huefner

olv-exteriorWhatever your religious denomination, Our Lady of Victory Basilica is truly beyond a justifiable description that encapsulates all of its beauty, history, and grandour. Having just visited the Basilica this past Sunday, I could go on and on about the impeccable Italian marble or the close to 2,000 angels seen inside and out but the story behind Our Lady of Victory Basilica is what gives it its’ true beauty. OLV’s history starts with one man, Father Nelson Baker.

Although Father Baker was 79 years old in 1921, he was still a visionary with great dreams. At a routine parish meeting, the humble priest shocked all in attendance as he unveiled ambitious plans for a shrine that would rival any within the U.S. Astounding all with his infectious vigor, construction was begun almost immediately.

Even with no money set aside, Father Baker was confident support would soon come. The “Padre of the Poor” sent out a call of support and it was answered by thousands of citizens from around the nation. Some contributed through Father Baker’s direct-mail fundraising club (via per-brick sponsorships of $10), while countless others sent offerings both large and small.

By late 1925, construction was completed and the first Mass was held there on Christmas Day. Amazingly, when it opened, the Basilica had no debt, having been completely paid for at a cost of $3.2 million. In 1926, an even higher honor was bestowed upon the shrine as it was officially designated a Minor Basilica.

In July 1998, Msgr. Robert Wurtz, pastor of OLV Parish announced that the remains of Father Baker would be transferred from a nearby cemetery into OLV Basilica. The move would help raise awareness of Father Baker, his mission, and his legacy. Today, the Basilica continues to draw close to 2,000 visitors every month. The future will no doubt hold even more promise, as Father Baker advances down the long Path to Sainthood.

Tours are offered every Sunday at 1pm; or call for special arrangements. Visit their website at www.ourladyofvictory.org. While in Lackawanna, plan a stop at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, too.

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