Southington couple produces clothes for Pope Francis’ U.S. visit

SOUTHINGTON — While people across the country and world watched Pope Francis’ first Mass on United States soil, they were also watching the work of local liturgical designers Brian and Lisa Baker. Brian Baker, owner of Baker Liturgical Art, designed the pope’s vestments and the sacred vessels used for the Mass.

He also outfitted attending cardinals, the papal entourage and nearly 300 bishops who attended the service at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

The pope’s vestments on Wednesday consisted of white and off-white silk and included a Baltimore cross, the symbol of the Washington archdiocese. Brian Baker also made vestments for Pope Benedict’s 2008 visit to the United States but the current church leader prefers more simplified clothes.

“He likes it a little bit simpler, Pope Francis is a different pope,” Brian Baker said.

The Washington Archdiocese hired the Bakers for Pope Benedict’s visit and offers the uniquely designed vestments and communion vessels as gifts. They’ll be stored in the Vatican’s archives, Brian Baker said.

“It’s an honor,” he said. “It’s certainly an honor to be entrusted with that kind of project.”

The couple was relieved at the end of the visit, though. Lisa Baker was tasked with outfitting the visiting cardinals as well as preparing and ironing the pope’s clothes. Seven Mexican bishops showed up to the mass unexpectedly and the Bakers had to find extra vestments for them as well.

“We always have extra,” Lisa Baker said. “It was a good thing.”

An assistant helps the pope get ready for a service but Lisa Baker was the one doing final fittings for the cardinals.

“It’s wonderful. The cardinals I was with, they’re gracious and such nice men,” she said.

Brian Baker’s business includes church restoration across the country. He’s related to the family of the Patrick Baker & Sons religious supply store but has his own office at 1210 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike.

Last week, he visited the Vatican to confirm designs with the pope’s assistant. The Bakers didn’t work directly with Francis but were able to spend some time with him between events in the United States.

Through Francis’ assistant, Brian Baker was told the pope was pleased with the garments and vessels. That’s particularly good since the Bakers’ reputation was at stake with the design and delivery. The Washington Archdiocese had a good opinion of the Bakers from the 2008 papal visit and expected a similar performance.

“You’ve got to be able to produce,” Brian Baker said.

203-317-2230 Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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