Baker graduated with a bachelor's in philosophy and master of divinity from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio in 1970 and was ordained as a priest on March 21 of that year at his home parish of St Wendelin in Fostoria, Ohio. His first assignment was as assistant pastor of St Paul's Parish in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. He also taught at Bishop Kenny High School there for two years, directing the school's Department of Religion in 1971.
In 1972 he enrolled in the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, earning a graduate degree in dogmatic theology in 1975. He returned to his alma mater in Columbus to serve as acting spiritual director. From 1976 to 1981 he took over administration of the Catholic Student Center at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and from then until 1984 he taught theology at the St Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida.
On November 1, 1984 Baker was appointed pastor of the Cathedral-Basilica of St Augustine, and was elected president of the Diocese's Presbyteral Council shortly thereafter. On August 1, 1997 he was appointed as pastor of Christ the King Church in Jacksonville, Florida.
On September 29, 1999, Baker was ordained a Bishop and became the head of the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina. He was selected to succeed David Foley as head of the Diocese of Birmingham in the summer of 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI. Though Bishop Foley had retired in 2005, he remained in the position of administrator until the Vatican made a new appointment — a process delayed by the death of John Paul II and the sensitive relationship between the U. S. Catholic Church and Irondale's Eternal Word Television Network.
Baker is considered a "friend" of EWTN, having appeared on the network and having co-authored the book When Did We See You, Lord? with EWTN's Benedict Groeschel. His other books include Cacique: A Novel of Florida's Heroic Mission History. with Tony Sands and, most recently, The Questioner's Prayer. Baker's appointment to the post was made public on August 14, 2007, and he was formally installed on October 2, 2007 at St Paul's Cathedral downtown with Cardinal Justin Rigali and Archibishop Pietro Sambi officiating in front of 890 in the sanctuary and another 550 watching a video feed in an adjacent building.
|Bishop of Birmingham
August 14, 2007 - present
- Baker, Robert J., co-editor. (1983) Welcome the Stranger: Contemporary Ministry in the Church of Florida..
- Baker, Robert J., co-author. (1988) Historic Catholic Sites of St Augustine.
- Baker, Robert J. and Benedict Groeschel (2005) When Did We See You, Lord?
- Baker, Robert J. and Tony Sands (2006) Cacique: A Novel of Florida's Heroic Mission History. Saint Catherine of Siena Press.
- Baker, Robert J. (2007) The Questioner's Prayer. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Company.
- Garrison, Greg (August 14, 2007) "Vatican chooses bishop for Catholic Diocese of Birmingham." Birmingham News.
- Garrison, Greg (August 15, 2007) "Birmingham diocese to get new bishop." Birmingham News.
- Most Rev. Robert J. Baker, S. T.D. at the Catholic Diocese of Charleston website - accessed August 14, 2007
- Garrison, Greg (October 3, 2007) "Catholics install new bishop of central, north Alabama." Birmingham News.