For almost half a century after Confederation, young men training to be priests in the Archdiocese of Toronto were sent to Montreal for formation because there was no seminary in English Canada

The Archdiocese of Toronto’s vast geography and ever-increasing population have presented challenges for all of its bishops since the diocese was born 175 years ago. So much so that a recurring story of the archdiocese has been its growth followed by subdivision.

michael powerBishop Michael Power

A native of Halifax, Michael Power was founding bishop of the Diocese of Toronto and the first English-speaking bishop born in Canada.

He arrived in Toronto in 1842 and quickly went to work building Canada’s newest diocese, which at the time encompassed the Niagara Peninsula, all of southwest Ontario to Windsor and north to Lakes Huron and Superior.

Among his achievements was founding St. Michael’s Cathedral. Construction began in April 1845; however, Bishop Power did not live to see it completed. While ministering to immigrants dying of typhus, he contracted the disease and died in 1847 shortly before his 43rd birthday. He was buried beneath his unfinished cathedral.

armand decharbonnelBishop Armand François Marie de Charbonnel P.S.S.

Toronto was without a bishop for 30 months until Armand François Marie de Charbonnel was consecrated in the Sistine Chapel by Pope Pius IX on May 26, 1850 and sent to succeed Michael Power.

Over the next decade, he doubled the number of priests and parishes. He built 23 new churches as the Catholic population grew to 43,000. He used personal funds to finish the Cathedral and brought the Basilian Fathers, the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of St. Joseph to Toronto to staff schools and provide services for the poor.

He retired in 1860 and adopted a monastic life in his native France. He died in 1891 at age 88.

john lynchArchbishop John Joseph Lynch C.M.

Irish-born, John Lynch became Toronto’s coadjutor bishop in 1859 and succeeded Bishop de Charbonnel one year later. He became Toronto’s first archbishop in 1870 when Toronto was raised to an archbishopric by Pope Pius IX.

Under Archbishop Lynch, 70 priests were ordained as he built 40 churches and seven convents, while supporting the Sisters of St. Joseph who expanded services for the poor and opened Sunnyside Orphanage. He also welcomed the Redemptorist Fathers, Carmelite Sisters, Sisters of the Precious Blood and Sisters of the Good Shepherd to Toronto.

He fell ill in 1882 and was assisted by Auxiliary Bishop Timothy O’Mahoney until his death in 1888 at age 72.

john walshArchbishop John Walsh

John Walsh was made archbishop in a ceremony marred by some Orangeman pelting his carriage with stones as he arrived at St. Michael’s Cathedral. Irish born, he came to Toronto from Sandwich (now Windsor, Ont.), where he had served as bishop since 1867.

He continued the work of his predecessors in solidifying Catholic health, education and social services. He also undertook a Cathedral restoration by adding St. John’s Chapel and redecorating the Cathedral’s interior. As St. Michael’s Cemetery neared capacity, he opened Mount Hope Cemetery in 1898. He also founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Archbishop Walsh died in 1898 at age 68 and was buried in St. Michael’s Cathedral.

denis oconnor webArchbishop Denis O'Connor C.S.B.

Denis O’Connor was born in Pickering, schooled at St. Michael’s College, ordained by Bishop John Lynch in 1863 and became Bishop of London in 1890.

Made Archbishop of Toronto in 1899, he was a disciplinarian who enforced a doctrinal rigour that upset some priests and laity. He stressed religious instruction in schools. A proponent of fiscal restraint, he opened just four new parishes despite a sharp rise in the Catholic population. He did, however, commission a shrine to honour the Jesuit martyrs in Huronia, which eventually became the Martyrs’ Shrine.

Ill health and the burdens of office caused him to resign in 1908. He died in 1911.

fergus mcevayArchbishop Fergus McEvay

Fergus McEvay accomplished much in just three years as Toronto archbishop. Born in Lindsay and educated at St. Michael’s College, he was made Bishop of London in 1899 and replaced Denis O’Connor as Toronto archbishop in 1908.

He quickly established seven new parishes and approved construction of 10 churches. He also founded the Canadian Catholic Extension Society (which became Catholic Missions In Canada) and assured generations of Canadian ordinations by launching construction of St. Augustine’s Seminary.

Suffering from a blood disease since his arrival in Toronto, Archbishop McEvay, age 58, died on May 10, 1911 — before the seminary opened — and was interred at St. Augustine’s.

neil mcneilArchbishop Neil McNeil

A Nova Scotia native, Neil McNeil served two years as Archbishop of Vancouver before 22 years as Archbishop of Toronto, starting in 1912. They were years in which Toronto’s Catholic population doubled.

In addition to completing St. Augustine’s Seminary, Archbishop McNeil created 32 new parishes, including parishes for non-English speaking immigrants.

He also campaigned for fair distribution of taxes to Catholic schools, and encouraged good relations between Catholics and Protestants, leading to the creation of the Federation of Catholic Charities. He oversaw the launch of the China Mission Seminary (later the Scarborough Foreign Missionary Society) and the Newman Club. He died on May 25, 1934, buried at St. Augustine’s Seminary.

james mcguiganArchbishop James Cardinal McGuigan

James McGuigan was made Archbishop of Regina at age 35 and remained five years before being named Archbishop of Toronto in 1934. The PEI native led the archdiocese for an unprecedented 36 years. In 1946, he became Canada’s first-English speaking cardinal, and participated in the 1958 conclave that elected Pope John XXIII.

He initiated successful fundraising campaigns to pay the debt on St. Augustine’s Seminary, raise money for Catholic Charities, open high schools and add new parishes with ethnic priests to serve the immigrants who poured into Toronto following World War II.

Assisted for health reason after 1961 by coadjutor Archbishop Philip Pocock, he resigned in 1971 and died in 1974.

philip pocockArchbishop Philip Porock

Philip Pocock became a bishop at age 37 and went from Bishop of Saskatoon to Archbishop of Winnipeg to coadjutor and then Archbishop of Toronto in 1971.

Born in St. Thomas, Ont., he arrived as Vatican II was being implemented and managed the transition by creating a senate of priests, a pastoral council and by urging laity to become more active in parish life.

During his seven years, several new parishes were opened. But he is best remembered for launching ShareLife after removing Catholic Charities from the United Way.

Health issues caused him to resign as archbishop in 1978 but he remained an active priest until his death at age 78 in 1984.

gerald carterArchbishop Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter

A Montreal native, Gerald Emmett Carter made his mark in Catholic education in his home city before being named Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of London and then Bishop in 1964. He was appointed Archbishop of Toronto in 1978. One year later, he was elevated to the College of Cardinals.

The cardinal was active in improving race relations, fighting against abortion, protecting the rights of Catholics and securing affordable housing for low-income families, senior citizens and the disabled. He was also active in opening Covenant House for street youth and in gaining full government funding for Catholic high schools.

He resigned as archbishop in 1990 and died in 2003 at age 91.

aloysius ambrozicArchbishop Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic

A native of Slovenia, Aloysius Ambrozic was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto in 1976. He became coadjutor Archbishop to Cardinal Carter in 1986, became Archbishop in 1990 and was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 1998.

As archbishop for 16 years, he saw Canada’s largest diocese become a multicultural, multi-racial community that grew from 1.1 to 1.6 million Catholics. He built 25 new churches, most in the rapidly expanding suburbs around the city, as ethnic parishes and groups flourished. He also created an office of youth ministry to develop spiritual and social programs for young people.

He retired as archbishop in 2006 and died in 2011 at age 81.

thomas collinsArchbishop Thomas Cardinal Collins

After nine years in Alberta as Bishop of St. Paul and then Archbishop of Edmonton, Guelph native Thomas Collins returned to Ontario to be installed in 2007 as Archbishop of Toronto. He was made a cardinal in 2012.

He has led efforts to welcome refugees and highlight the persecution of Christians worldwide. He has also denounced assisted suicide and euthanasia while arguing for conscience-protection rights for health care professionals.

In 2012, he issued a Pastoral Plan for the archdiocese. He also led a successful Family of Faith capital campaign, which has exceeded $170 million in donations and pledges to support the goals of the pastoral plan. In 2016 he rededicated St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica after an extensive restoration.

The education system as we know it in the Archdiocese of Toronto looks nothing like it did 175 years ago. What does?

Baptisms. Weddings. Funerals. Masses. Confessions. These routine aspects of Catholic life today were rare and often inaccessible just five generations ago.

An essential obligation in the life of any diocese is to ensure the reverent care of its dead. For the Archdiocese of Toronto, the Irish potato famine and a local typhus epidemic forced it to accelerate its thinking on this important duty in the earliest days of its history.

The Archdiocese of Toronto has come a long way in 175 years but the journey is far from over. Future years will see more parishes, more ministries and a vibrant Cathedral Square, connected not only in spirit but interconnected by technologies that will link St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica with parishioners stretching from Oshawa to Midland to Oakville.

On a Sunday morning a steady stream of parishioners files through the glass doors of possibly the most bustling church in the Archdiocese of Toronto. Latecomers with toddlers in tow scan the crowded pews for a seat. As the procession ends, the priest reaches the presider’s chair and raises his right hand to his forehead.

timeline photo webFORMATIVE YEARS

  • - 1841 Dec. 17: The Diocese of Toronto is created. Michael Power is appointed its first bishop.
  • - 1848 Sept. 29: St. Michael’s Cathedral is consecrated. Catholic population reaches 50,000.
  • - 1850 Sept. 22: Bishop Armand-François-Marie de Charbonnel is installed as second bishop of Toronto. He uses his personal estate to pay off debt on St. Michael’s Cathedral.
  • - 1856: Diocese of Toronto is divided by the creation of the dioceses of Hamilton and London.
  • 1857: House of Providence opens. St. Paul’s Church Cemetery is closed after filling up quickly with the burials of Irish immigrants who had succumbed to typhoid fever.
  • - 1859 April 29: Bishop de Charbonnel resigns, Bishop John Lynch becomes third Bishop.
  • 1870 March 18: Pope Pius IX raises Toronto to an Archdiocese.
  • 1876: Sacred Heart Orphanage is established on the site of today’s St. Joseph’s Health Centre.
  • 1892: St. Michael’s Hospital is founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
  • 1893: The Catholic Register newspaper is launched.
  • 1908 April 13: Archbishop Fergus Patrick McEvay is appointed Archbishop of Toronto.
  • 1908: Canadian Catholic Church Extension Society is founded (changed to Catholic Missions In Canada in 1999).
  • 1911: Catholic population is 70,000 and total number of churches is 92.
  • 1912 Dec. 22: Archbishop Neil McNeil appointed to head Toronto archdiocese.
  • - 1913: Catholic Charities office is formed. … Aug. 28: Opening of St. Augustine’s Seminary.
  • 1924: China Mission Seminary is established next to St. Augustine’s Seminary, later becoming the Scarborough Foreign Mission Society.
  • 1935 March 20: Archbishop James C. McGuigan is installed in Toronto.


  • 1949: Catholic population is 197,000, served by 158 parishes and missions.
  • -  Establishment of the Diocese of St. Catharines.
  • - 1970 April: Toronto School of Theology is incorporated.
  • - 1971: Cardinal McGuigan resigns and is succeeded by Archbishop Philip F. Pocock.
  • - 1974: May-June: The first 26 Permanent Deacons of the Archdiocese of Toronto are ordained.
  • - 1976: ShareLife is established when Archbishop Pocock withdraws the Council of Catholic Charities from the United Way.
  • - 1978 April 29: Archbishop Pocock resigns and Bishop Gerald Emmett Carter is installed.
  • - 1979 May 26: Archbishop Carter is elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals.
  • 1982: Covenant House is established in downtown Toronto.
  • 1984: Catholic population is 1,214,000, served by 214 parishes, missions and chapels.
  • 1985: Ontario Government passes legislation providing full funding to Catholic high schools.
  • 1990 March 17: Cardinal Carter resigns, succeeded by Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic.
  • -1992: Catholic population is 1,337,000, served by 233 parishes, missions and chapels.
  • 1998 Feb. 21: Archbishop Ambrozic is elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals.
  • - 2000 Nov. 5: Official blessing of St. Paul’s Church as a minor basilica.
  • - 2002 July 23-28: World Youth Day in Toronto, presided over by Pope John Paul II.
  • 2002 Nov. 16: Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute is opened.
  • 2006 Dec. 16: Cardinal Ambrozic resigns and Archbishop Thomas Collins appointed as the 10th Archbishop of Toronto.
  • - 2012 Feb. 18: Archbishop Collins is elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals.
  • - 2016 Sept. 30: St. Michael’s Cathedral officially reopens and is consecrated as a minor basilica after a five-year, $28-million renovation.
  • Today: The Archdiocese of Toronto is Canada’s largest diocese. The Catholic population of 2 million is served by 225 parishes and includes 806 priests and 91 religious orders.

Fr. Matthew McCarthy couldn’t help but choke back tears as he stood at the altar of St. Michael’s Cathedral in the moments before entering the priesthood.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

The Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto has been forced to suspend all new applications to sponsor refugees for the rest of this year due to persistent backlogs in government processing.

Published in Canada

TORONTO – Youth ministers are in demand at the Archdiocese of Toronto and the Office of Catholic Youth is trying to keep up.

Published in Youth Speak News

With about 300 priests concelebrating, dozens of deacons in attendance and an overflow assembly standing in the aisles of St. Michael’s Cathedral, the Archdiocese of Toronto re-equipped itself for another year of baptisms, confirmations and ordinations by welcoming the new supply of chrism oil.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

It's a blessing that he didn't expect, said newly appointed Msgr. John Borean.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

Conscience rights for Ontario doctors will get the full attention of Queen’s Park on Thursday, March 23, in committee hearings on Bill 84.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA