Document Type


Date of Degree


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Bozeman, T Dwight


Since 1986, the Catholic Our Lady of Victory (OLV) parish of Lackawanna, NY and the diocese of Buffalo have been working to secure canonization for Father Nelson H. Baker (1842-1936), founder of the North American branch of the Association of Our Lady of Victory and the OLV Basilica and Institutes, which, among other services, included a hospital, orphanage and school. Lackawanna is also the site of the Bethlehem Steel Plant closings of the early 1980s, which have come to symbolize the Buffalo region's difficult and troubled transition to a post-industrial economy. Thus, I frame my dissertation with the overall idea that the possibility of Baker's sainthood offers hope for economic recovery to the city of Lackawanna. Specifically, this work seeks to combine the study of material history with the study of lived religion by using performativity as a theoretical tool. Through a comprehensive presentation of the material history of Father Nelson H. Baker from the 1880s to 2006, I demonstrate that material history is a significant, integral and vital component of lived religion. Further, I make the case that devotional practices include creative acts that both provide evidence of Baker¹s sanctity for his cause and contribute to the performative nature of his material history. As such, this work attempts 1)to fill in a gap in the scholarship about contemporary Catholic sainthood in the U.S. by focusing on a specific cause for sainthood, 2) to further develop an understanding of the communal processes of representing sanctity,3) to offer a way of combining analyses of the built environment, material, print and visual culture with the study of lived religion, and 4) to expand the scope of scholarly approaches to Catholic devotional practices by demonstrating that in the Baker case, devotional practices involve a cooperative effort by both official and popular agents in the creation of material items to promote and further a cause. Visual materials are presented in the body of the text in JPEG format


print culture history, material culture, visual culture, sainthood, american catholicism, lived religion


xi, 300 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 296-300).


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Copyright © 2006 Heather A Hartel

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