John Mulhall (Photo by Michael Swan)

It’s back to the future for new Toronto chancellor

  • November 11, 2022

As John Mulhall officially began his tenure as the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Chancellor for Temporal Affairs Oct. 31, his main task was looking to the past.

Mulhall is diving into his new job at a time when Toronto parishes are trying to transition back into a pre-pandemic orientation following two years marred by uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.

“We are making sure to make people understand that we are trying to get back to where we were in 2019 in how we are operating the Church and how we are making decisions about the type of projects we’re pushing ahead with whether it’s new churches or refurbishments,” said Mulhall. “We’re trying to get back to normal. A pretty good plan is in place. It just needs to be firmed up a bit to get all the parishes back to the same standard to where they were before all this started.”

Week one on the job was chockful with activity for the native of Peterborough, Ont. Meetings with staff from the various administrative departments at the Catholic Pastoral Centre dominated his itinerary. Quick immersion into this workplace is key as managing financial budgets and reports, directing investments, directing litigation matters and overseeing archdiocesan properties are just a few of his new responsibilities. 

Over the coming weeks, Mulhall intends to make visits to priests guiding some of the archdiocese’s 225 parishes. He also is planning a formal sit-down with the bishops of the Hamilton, London, St. Catharines and Thunder Bay dioceses. Toronto’s Archbishop Cardinal Thomas Collins is the ecclesiastical provincial for these four jurisdictions. 

Armed with degrees from Trent University in his hometown and Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s, Mulhall had a robust business career in Canada and the United States before taking on the chancellor’s role in Toronto. He’s worked for the electrical products manufacturer Cooper Industries, the Eaton Corporation power management company and, most recently, for Valmont Industries, serving as general manager of the agriculture and infrastructure corporation’s coatings division in Miami, Florida.

It was while on holiday on Georgian Bay north of Toronto this past summer when Mulhall caught wind of the archdiocese’s search for a new chancellor of temporal affairs. A couple of people approached Mulhall after Mass at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Honey Harbour, Ont., to suggest he would be a good fit to succeed the retiring Jim Milway. The thought piqued his curiosity.

“What intrigued me most about the position was that it is a great position of service to the Church here in the archdiocese and all of Canada,” said Mulhall. “It is an opportunity to use my management and business skills in combination with my own Catholic religion and knowledge of the Church to take on a role that really supports all the charitable, sacramental and Church life initiatives that the archdiocese does for the people here.”

After a nine-week interview process, Collins offered Mulhall the position at the end of September. 

Mulhall said he looks forward to forging a collaborative relationship with the Cardinal.

“He and I had a good interchange of ideas, and I think he had a good understanding of my abilities, my approach to the job and how I will deal with all the issues coming up day by day,” said Mulhall. “And I think he was very comfortable of how I plan on continuing the good work of the men who preceded me.”

Though living in the U.S. for periods in recent years, Mulhall has family ties to the archdiocese dating back over a century. His grandfather moved from Grey County to Toronto and became a parishioner at St. Basil’s Parish on the University of St. Michael’s College campus during the First World War. Later, both his parents graduated from the university. 

Residing in various locations has given him appreciation for the consistent, enduring structure of Catholic dioceses.

“I’ve lived in different parts of the United States from New England, North Carolina, Florida and Texas. The churches are a little bit different in each place because of the demographics, but the universality of the churches hit home wherever you are in North America or anywhere in the world. The Mass is the Mass and the people share the same faith,” he said.

“What most impresses me wherever I go is that Catholic churches are run the same way. The diocesan structure is the same and the bishops operate in the same manner. I see it here in Toronto — the consistency, the standardization and the universality of the Church here with so many different people from around the world here. It really hits home when you are in this archdiocese.”

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