Father Jim Baker honored with golden anniversary celebration
GARDEN CITY -- Father James Baker has been on a 50-year mission.
A native of Erie, Pa., then-seminarian James Baker was assigned to the young Diocese of Dodge City in the latter half of the 1950s by Archbishop (and later Cardinal) Ameleto Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate, at the request of Dodge City’s first bishop, the Most Rev. John B. Franz. Father Baker was ordained to the priesthood on May 25, 1963 as a diocesan priest missionary by the Most Rev. Egidio Vagnozzi.
“Sister Anita Bauer, my 6th grade teacher, had a brother who was a Passionist missionary in China,” Father Baker told the Register in an earlier interview. “On one of his home visits he came to our classroom at St. George School and told us about his missionary ministry in China. I decided I wanted to be a missionary like him. In fact, I believe at God’s insistence, I always wanted to be a diocesan-priest missionary, and that is why I was assigned by the then Apostolic Delegate to the Diocese of Dodge City.”
On May 25 Father Baker, JCL, celebrated his golden anniversary of priestly ordination with a Mass at St. Mary Parish, and reception at St. Dominic Parish Center. The Mass was celebrated by the Most Rev. John B. Brungardt, with Bishop Emeritus Ronald Gilmore and priests of the diocese. Guests included many friends and family of the retired priest, as well as past parishioners.
Father Baker served for more than four decades in pastoral assignments before retiring in 2006. He resides in Garden City and, with the theology degree in Canon Law (see the article on Page 3) that he earned while studying at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, continues to serve the diocese as a judge in the Marriage Tribunal.
“It was a fantastic two years for me to study theology in a post Vatican II Church,” he said of his time in Canada. “Besides, the theology degree in Canon law that I achieved is so necessary for the ministry I still do in marriage tribunals.”
During his 50 years as a priest, Father Baker said he has enjoyed “ministry in all its forms, but especially presiding at Liturgy: holy Mass and the celebration of the Sacraments and the Liturgy of the Hours. When I was pastor at St. Mary’s in Garden City, parishioners joined me for Morning Prayer every day. I always observed a holy hour before morning Mass and that always ended with Morning Prayer.”
Over the years, Father Baker has been heavily involved in the Boy Scouts, serving as district chairman and a member of the executive board of the Santa Fe Trail Council, BSA. He was the recipient of the Silver Beaver award, the highest honor bestowed by the Scouts.
Today, besides helping in ministerial areas, Father Baker enjoys gardening, working in his yard, and reading a good book. He also spends time working at Garnand Funeral Home in Garden City.