Buffalo (Lackawana), New York: Our Lady of Victory National Shrine & Basilica
The history of Our Lady of Victory Basilica:
In 1929, Father Nelson Baker, who was 70 years old at the time, told a routine parish council meeting at his church in Buffalo, New York about an ambitious plan to build a shrine that would rival any within the U.S.
He outlined his desire for the finest materials and artists to come together for a true masterwork — a way of paying homage to the Blessed Mother, who provided him with so much throughout the years.
Knowing that he had not set aside a penny for the new shrine’s building did not seem to upset him, as Father Baker was confident that Our Lady of Victory would look kindly upon him — and she did. The “Padre of the Poor” sent out a call of support and it was answered by thousands of citizens from around the nation, happy to support the project. Some contributed through the Association of Our Lady of Victory, Father Baker’s pioneering direct-mail fundraising club (via per-brick sponsorships of $10), while countless others sent offerings both large and small.
By late 1925, construction of the great Sanctuary of Our Lady of Victory was completed and the first Mass was held there on Christmas of that year. Amazingly, when it opened the following year, the Basilica had no debt, having been completely paid for at a cost of $3.2 million.
On May 25, 1926, a very special consecration ceremony took place. Attended by thousands of local dignitaries, priests, nuns, and well-wishers, the event was presided over by Father Baker, Bishop William Turner of the Diocese of Buffalo, and Cardinal Patrick Hayes.
Within two months an even higher honor was bestowed upon the shrine as it was officially designated a Minor Basilica via an apostolic decree from Pope Pius XI. The Holy Father was quoted as saying: “Among the churches of America, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Victory is, for many reasons, to be counted as one of the greatest. “With its beautiful statues and artwork it truly is one of the most beautiful churches in the U.S. Huge bronze doors open up to the worship space, with pews made from rare African mahogany, with an unobstructed view of the Main Altar for all who visit.
Photos courtesy Our Lady of Victory Basilica
In accordance with an order from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome, his body was transferred to the Basilica, itself a fact that would help raise awareness of Father Baker, his mission, and his legacy.
Fr. Baker was declared venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in January, 2011, moving him one step closer to Sainthood. You can read about his cause here.
Today the Basilica draws several thousand visitors each month and is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. It remains one of the most beautiful churches in the U.S. and should be included in any visit to the Western New York area.
Click here for the official website of Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica