Priest from Greek church in Norwich victim in Route 2 fatal crash

Norwich — A fatal motor vehicle accident Sunday afternoon claimed the life of a 37-year-old father of six who recently was appointed to lead the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Norwich.

Father Matthew Baker died in a motor vehicle crash near Exit 25 on Route 2 in Norwich.

State police said Baker was driving west when he lost control of his 2002 Dodge Caravan and traveled into the highway’s snow-packed center median. Police said the van rolled several times and came to rest on its roof in the eastbound lane. Baker was ejected from the car and sustained fatal injuries.

Three of Baker’s six children, ages 2, 3 and 6, sustained minor injuries and were taken for treatment to The William W. Backus Hospital.

Following seminary school, work on a graduate degree in theology and time at a parish in Cranston. R.I., Baker became pastor at the Norwich church on Jan. 15 following the retirement of Father Paul Pantelis.

“It’s a tragedy,” Pantelis said. “He had such tremendous potential. He was an extraordinary person — young, dynamic and a very kind-hearted individual. He was devoted, passionate about his priesthood and studying to complete his doctorate.”

Pantelis called Baker’s wife, Katherine, and children, “a tremendous example of what a family should be.”

One of Baker’s close friends, Seraphim Danckaert, said he met Baker at a graduate student organization at Princeton University. Over the last several years Danckaert said he had collaborated with Baker on academic projects and publications. Danckaert and his wife are the godparents of Baker’s youngest son, Matthew Baker Jr.

A site Danckaert set up to collect funds for Baker’s family had raised more than $200,000 by Monday evening.

Danckaert said the funds raised in the online campaign are going directly to Baker’s widow. The family, he said, had lived in virtual poverty while Baker completed his studies.

“We intend to harness this raw energy for the long-term benefit of Father Matthew’s young family. Father Matthew was young himself but touched the lives of many people through his writings, lectures, and personal presence. He was already regarded as one of the most promising Orthodox Christian theologians in the world,” Danckaert said in an email.

A memorial service was held Monday night at the Washington Street church.

Twitter: @SmittyDay


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