Francis Asbury Baker
Francis Asbury Baker (March 30, 1820 – April 4, 1865) was an American Catholic priest, missionary, and social worker, known as one of the founders of the Paulist Fathers in 1858.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland as the son of a prominent physician and University of Maryland Professor of Medicine, Baker graduated from Princeton University in 1839, was ordained as an Episcopal Deacon in the early 1840s and seemed destined for a career as a respected Protestant clergyman. His encounters with then Redemptorist Father Augustine Hewit and Archbishop Francis Kendrick (of Baltimore) as well as the intellectual ferment fostered by the Oxford Movement persuaded Baker to become Catholic in 1853, a conversion that created considerable stir at the time. He was ordained a Redemptorist Priest three years later.
Father Baker worked closely with Father Isaac Hecker on his missions and so after Hecker’s expulsion from the Redemptorists and his subsequent permission to found the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle, granted by Pope Pius IX, Baker joined fellow missionaries Isaac Hecker, Augustine Hewit, Clarence Walworth, and George Deshon in leaving the Redemptorists to found the new society.
Father Baker divided his time as a Paulist between assisting at St. Paul the Apostle parish in New York City and giving missions throughout the eastern states. A zealous and effective missionary, Baker worked fervently for the conversion of America. The strain of both tasks took its toll on Baker’s fragile health and as early as 1861 he was forced to slow his activities because of throat ailments. In early 1865 Baker contracted typhoid fever from his conversion work with New York’s poor and due in part to his already fragile health. He soon after died quietly surrounded by family and friends at the age of 45 just seven years after the founding of the Paulists.
He is buried at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
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