UPDATE: Msgr. Burkard's trip to Rome was cancelled Sunday because of storms throughout New York. He is looking to reschedule the trip in early 2018.
As Western New Yorkers prepare for some cold weather, Msgr. Paul J.E. Burkard is preparing for a meeting in Rome. The pastor of Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna will visit the Vatican at the end of October to discuss Venerable Nelson Baker's cause for canonization.
"I usually make (the trip) once a year. Depending on their needs over there, sometimes I make it twice a year," he said. "It's kind of odd to say that anything involved in a beatification or a canonization is routine, but this is. It's a fairly routine trip."
Msgr. Burkard will meet with the Congregation for the Cause for Saints on Oct. 31, Nov. 2 and briefly Nov. 3 to answer any questions the congregation may have regarding the case of the Buffalo-born priest who founded Our Lady of Victory Basilica and its many varied institutions.
"They're vetting the miracle for Father Baker to be moved to beatification. So, I'm sure we will be discussing the medical testimony that they have in front of them, and moving forward through several hundreds of pages of medical testimony that go along with that miracle," he said, adding he cannot discuss any details of the case currently under examination.
Msgr. Burkard, who serves as vice postulator for Father Baker's cause for canonization, said the congregation is midstream in the beatification process, the third step in becoming a saint. The first, being named a servant of God, occurred in 1987. In 2011, Father Baker was found to be of heroic virtue and took on the title "venerable."
The beatification itself a five-step process. First, the Vatican accepts the medical testimony for the suspected miracle. Secondly, a board of doctors examines the information to see if there is no medical explanation. "They're looking at the question, 'Is the miracle attributed only to medicine or medical therapies, or is it a true miracle?'" Msgr. Burkard explained.
If approved, a board of theologians looks at the testimony, to make sure it is in accordance with the faith. If they approve, it is passed on to the congregation members themselves. Their decision would then be forwarded to the pope, who would preside over the beatification ceremony.
People should not start planning any flights to Rome just yet. A decision is not expected to come soon.
"This is not going to be any kind of final determination. The amount of medical testimony that they have is the equivalent of the New York City telephone directory," Msgr. Burkard said. "(The board of doctors is) working their way through that. There is also a mount of narrative - interviews that are included in that testimony from people who are part of the miracle; family members and staff people at hospitals and whatever. This time, they are looking mostly at the medical testimony."
Msgr. Burkard said he would offer a full account of the meetings to the Western New York Catholic upon his return in early November.