Saint Meinrad Archabbey

A catholic monastery devoted to the teachings of St. Benedict

Bob and Claire Baker

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Wife's surprise gift keeps on giving

140609_Bakers Gift Planner _for WebWhen Charles R. (Bob) Baker opened the envelope containing his wife's gift to him on his 90th birthday, he was speechless.

"In the 49 years I have known this man, I have never seen him speechless," Claire said. Inside the envelope was a certificate informing him that Claire had established an endowment in his honor at Saint Meinrad.

"Certainly, it was a surprise," Bob agreed. "But it was the best gift she could give me."

The Bakers live near Zionsville, IN. Bob is a chemical engineer who worked for General Motors in aerodynamics before he retired in 1980. Claire taught for many years at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis and now is coordinator of adult faith formation at St. Joseph Parish in Lebanon.

Their relationship with Saint Meinrad began with Bob's mother, Mary Baker, who grew up in nearby Cannelton. She was a longtime supporter of the Archabbey and, after she died in 1997, Bob decided to set up an endowment in her memory.

Mary had made gifts to support the education of priests, so Bob established the endowment so its earnings would be used for priesthood education.

Not long after he set up the endowment, Bob brought Claire to Saint Meinrad. "I had heard about Saint Meinrad, because I grew up part of the time in the Indianapolis Archdiocese," she said. "I wanted to see southern Indiana and Cannelton, and so we came and it was kind of like love at first sight. And we've been coming back ever since."

Later, Claire decided to seek a master's degree in theology, so she enrolled in Saint Meinrad's Lay Degree Program and began taking weekend courses in 2004. She graduated in 2008.

Bob came along on every trip and they both enjoyed the time away - Claire attending classes and Bob exploring the buildings and grounds. "I have never seen anybody who didn't smile, say hello and go out of their way to make sure you had just what you needed," Claire said.

Those years of lay degree classes prepared Claire for her current work in faith formation at her parish, but it also seemed to influence Bob.

When Claire established the endowment in Bob's name, the one thing she didn't do was decide what program or project it would support. That was up to Bob. "I said, 'Now, this is your decision. You've got to decide where this is going to go,'" she recalled.

After some thinking, he decided the endowment would support Saint Meinrad's lay degree programs. For years, priests were the only thing most people thought of when supporting a seminary, according to Bob, but today lay ministers are just as essential in doing the Church's work. "We can't run the Church - the parish - without lay ministers."

Although Claire refused to weigh in on the decision, she said, "I can't deny that it made me very happy."

Over the years, they have watched Saint Meinrad's programs expand and change to serve new needs in the Church, pointing to the "One Bread, One Cup" youth liturgical leadership program and the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates as examples.

"We see Saint Meinrad doing what is necessary to keep the Church going these days," Bob said. "They see a need and fill it," agreed Claire.

Claire is pleased with the endowment. "It's permanent. Saint Meinrad can use the proceeds, but the principal is going to continue to produce support."

"Long after we're gone, those endowments will still be here providing support."