Chief shepherds helped forge Catholic Toronto

By 
  • February 5, 2007
Since its founding as a diocese on Dec. 17, 1841, Toronto has had 12 chief shepherds. Below are short profiles of the 10 archbishops/bishops who preceded Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic. Much of this information was supplied by the Archives of the Archdiocese of Toronto.

power_Tor_bishop1Bishop Michael Power (Bishop 1842-1847)


Born in Halifax on Oct. 17, 1804, Michael Power was ordained at 23, vicar general of Montreal at 35 and bishop of Toronto at 37. He laid the groundwork for many of the Catholic institutions still at work in the city today. He brought the Loretto Sisters to Toronto in 1847 to found the first Catholic schools in the city and began the construction of St. Michael’s Cathedral.

He also died the death of a true servant, helping the poor Irish immigrants escaping famine and disease in Ireland. He contracted typhus while ministering to them and died a week later on Oct. 1, 1847.


charbonnel_TorBish2Bishop Armand de Charbonnel (Bishop 1850-1860)


A French count, Armand Francis de Charbonnel was born on Dec. 1, 1802, in France. He came to Canada in 1839, after being ordained a priest 13 years before. When he heard the news that he was to be appointed bishop of Toronto in 1850, he urged Pope Pius IX to find someone else, but to no avail.

With his own family fortune, he paid off the debt for the cathedral. He also carved out the dioceses of London and Hamilton from the huge geographic expanse that was the Toronto diocese.

He also persuaded three religious orders to come to Toronto. The Basilians established St. Michael’s College and the Brothers of the Christian Schools came to establish schools for children. The Sisters of St. Joseph served the poor through hospitals and orphanages.

Bishop Charbonnel never enjoyed the prestige and power of high office and longed for a simple life of prayer. In 1860 he was permitted to retire and returned to France, where he became a Capuchin. He died on Easter Sunday 1891.


lynch_torbish3Archbishop John Joseph Lynch (Bishop 1860-1870, Archbishop 1870-1888)


A fiery preacher and gifted administrator, John Joseph Lynch was born in Ireland in 1816. He joined the Vincentians and was ordained in 1843. His first ministry was in the United States, where he founded Niagara University.

He was appointed bishop of Toronto in 1860, at the urging of his predecessor, Bishop Armand de Charbonnel. Throughout his time, he struggled with controversy, notably over Catholic-Protestant relations (which often had an Irish-English hue) and the survival of Catholic schools.

In 1870, the Pope made Toronto an archdiocese and Lynch its archbishop. He died in 1888, recognized by both Catholics and Protestants as a dedicated Christian leader.


walsh_TorBishopArchbishop John Walsh (1889-1898)


John Walsh was born in Ireland on May 23, 1830. His classical, philosophical and part of his theological studies were taken in Ireland. He emigrated to Canada in April of 1852 and completed his studies at the Sulpician Seminary in Montreal. On November 1, 1854, John Walsh was ordained and subsequently served as pastor at various Toronto parishes before becoming vicar general of the archdiocese in 1862.

On Nov. 10, 1867, he became bishop of Sandwich (London), Ont. He occupied this see until elected archbishop of Toronto on Aug. 13, 1889.

During his time as archbishop he established the Sacred Heart Orphanage (Sunnyside), St. John’s Industrial School for Boys, and purchased land for Mount Hope Cemetery. Archbishop Walsh died on July 30, 1898.


oconnor_TorBishopArchbishop Denis O’Connor, CSB (Archbishop 1899-1908)


Denis T. O'Connor was born on March 28, 1841, in Pickering, Ontario. He did his classical and philosophical studies at St. Michael's College and entered the Basilian Order in 1859. On Dec. 8, 1863 he was ordained a priest and then served as a professor at St. Michael's College and and as Superior of Assumption College, Windsor, until 1890.

On Oct. 19, 1890, he was consecrated as bishop of London. Bishop O'Connor was the first Basilian priest to reach the episcopate.

On Jan. 7, 1899, he was appointed Archbishop of Toronto, becoming Toronto's first bishop born in Ontario. He soon became a leading figure in the question of certification for separate school teachers and he guaranteed an equal education for Catholic children. The archbishop strongly believed in a well-trained clergy and in the Catholic education of the laity. Newly ordained clergy were required to submit to examinations at regular intervals and older clergy attended frequent retreats and seminars.

Due to ill health, Archbishop O'Connor resigned on May 4, 1908. After a long battle with Bright's Disease and diabetes, he died on June 30, 1911.


mcEvay_TorBishopArchbishop Fergus McEvay (Archbishop 1908-1911)


Fergus McEvay was born in Lindsay, Ont., on Dec. 8, 1852. He received his classical education at St. Michael's College and the University of Toronto, and took theology at the Grand Seminary, Montreal. On July 9, 1882, he was ordained a priest by Bishop James Cleary of Kingston in Trenton, Ont. Until 1899, Fr. McEvay served as a priest in the dioceses of Kingston, Peterborough and Hamilton.

Father McEvay was ordained as bishop of on Aug. 6, 1899. On April 13, 1908, he was appointed archbishop of Toronto. While archbishop, seven new parishes were established and 10 new church buildings constructed. He also founded the Canadian Catholic Church Extension Society.

One of the archbishop’s most notable achievements was the creation of St. Augustine's Seminary. The cornerstone was laid and blessed by him on Oct. 23, 1910. Unfortunately, he did not live to see it completed. Suffering from a blood disease since his arrival in Toronto, he finally succumbed to this illness on May 10,1911.


mcneil_torBishopArchbishop Neil McNeil (Archbishop 1912-1934)


Neil McNeil was the first Canadian-born prelate of the Catholic Church in Toronto. Born of Scottish stock in Cape Breton, N.S., in 1851, McNeil was adept at both manual labour and scholarship. He was known to help build churches with his own hands and yet did doctoral work in philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Urban College in Rome.

He started his career teaching at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., and also wrote and edited Catholic newspapers.


mcGuigan_torBishopCardinal James McGuigan (Archbishop 1934-1971)


James McGuigan was born in Prince Edward Island in 1894, studied at Quebec’s Grand Seminaire and obtained doctorates in philosophy and theology. He was ordained in Charlottetown in 1918.

His first foray out of the Maritimes as a priest was in 1920 when he was taken to Edmonton by Bishop Henry O’Leary of Charlottetown, who wanted the young priest with him as he took up his new charge in the West.

He served in many capacities in Edmonton before being ordained archbishop of Regina in 1930. In 1935, at age 40, McGuigan was appointed to Toronto to take over a church suffering in the midst of the Depression.

Throughout his long years in Toronto, McNeil confronted many of the social issues of the times: the joblessness of the Depression; communism, the impact of the Second World War, increasing immigration from a wider variety of countries.

Faced with the lingering animosity between Irish Catholics and largely English and Scottish Protestants, McGuigan was able to build bridges between the two communities and oversee the expansion of the church to serve Toronto’s newest ethnic communities.

In 1945, he became English Canada’s first cardinal. By the early 1960s, his deteriorating health left him an invalid and he died in 1974.


pocock_TorBishopArchbishop Philip Pocock (Archbishop 1971-1978)


Philip Francis Pocock was born in St. Thomas, Ont. on July 2, 1906.  He studied theology at St. Peter's Seminary, London, and was ordained on June l4, 1930.  Father Pocock worked in two parishes until 1933 when he went to Rome for graduate studies and obtained a doctorate in canon law. On his return to London he was appointed to the staff of St. Peter's Seminary where he taught moral theology and canon law until 1944.

On April 7, 1944, Fr. Pocock was appointed bishop of Saskatoon. He became archbishop of Winnipeg on Jan. 14, 1952.

Due to Cardinal McGuigan's poor health, Pocock was appointed coadjutor archbishop of Toronto on Feb. l8, 1961. He became Archbishop upon Cardinal McGuigan's resignation, March 30, 1971.

Archbishop Pocock did his utmost to ease turmoil caused by the decisions of Vatican II. He created the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and the Senate of Priests. The laity were encouraged to participate in church decisions, the liturgy and charitable works. During these years, two auxiliary bishops, Thomas B. Fulton and Aloysius Ambrozic, were consecrated, and 45 new parishes were established. Archbishop Pocock also withdrew the Council of Catholic Charities from the United Way and established ShareLife as a Catholic alternative in opposition to United Way's support of Planned Parenthood clinics. 

On April 29, 1978, Archbishop Pocock resigned and took up residence at St. Mary's parish, Brampton.  He remained active as a priest, celebrating Mass at elementary schools, confirming students, and visiting a senior citizens' home as well as performing his parish duties. He died on Sept. 6, 1984.


carter_bishopToroCardinal Gerald Emmett Carter (Archbishop 1978-1990)


Gerald Emmett was born in Montreal on March 1, 1912. He received his theological education at the Grand Seminary of Montreal and was ordained on May 22, 1937. Fr. Carter's first 25 years in the priesthood were spent working in various educational fields. He founded the St. Joseph's Teachers' College in Montreal and was a member of the Montreal Separate School Board for 15 years. Fr. Carter was deeply involved in adult education at the university level through the Newman Club at McGill University in Montreal and as first president of the Thomas More Institute in Montreal. He was also a professor of catechetics for 25 years.

On Dec. 5, 1961, Fr. Carter was appointed auxiliary bishop of London and became ordinary of the see on Feb. 22, 1964.

Bishop Carter was appointed archbishop of Toronto on April 29, 1978. One year later on June 30, Pope John Paul II elevated him to the College of Cardinals.

Cardinal Carter has contributed significantly to the Catholic community by seeking to improve race relations, by founding Covenant House for street youth under 21, fighting against abortion, and protecting the rights of Catholics. He also witnessed the fulfilment of the Ontario government's promise to provide full funding to Catholic high schools. In 1988 Cardinal Carter made an agreement with the province to provide affordable housing for low-income families, senior citizens and the disabled, and the Housing Office was formed.

On June 21, 1979, Cardinal Carter consecrated three auxiliary bishops for Toronto, Bishops Robert B. Clune, Leonard J. Wall, and Michael P. Lacey.

In May of 1986, Auxiliary Bishop Aloysius Ambrozic was appointed coadjutor Archbishop of Toronto. Cardinal Carter's resignation as archbishop was accepted by the Pope and was announced March 17, 1990. He passed away on April 6, 2003.


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