Sunday, 25 May 2014

"All of Toronto Sorrows:" 80th Anniversary of the Death of Archbishop Neil McNeil

May 25th marks 80 years since the death of Most Reverend Neil McNeil, a beloved Archbishop of Toronto.

Archbishop McNeil served the Archdiocese of Toronto for 22 years starting in 1912. That means he was Toronto's ordinary for the sinking of the Titanic, the Great War, the rise of Communism, the Jazz Age, the rise of radios and talkies, the renaming of the Toronto St. Patricks to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the stock market crash that started the Great Depression. 

Closer to home, Archbishop McNeil was very involved in social justice issues and was an advocate for Catholic education. He oversaw the completion of St. Augustine's seminary and the creation of thirty new parishes for the burgeoning Catholic population.

Below are a few of the artifacts from the days after Archbishop McNeil's death:

MN AA02.10
A spiritual bouquet offered by the Sisters of St. Joseph, Toronto.
"For the repose of the soul of our beloved Archbishop."
"Spiritual Offering: Solemn High Mass: 1. Masses said: 14. Masses heard: 1224. Holy Communions: 1224. Visits to the Bl.S: 1224. Deprofundis: 1224. Stations: 1224."

MN AA02.10
Commemorative Order of Service to enable funeral attendees to follow along with the mass. According to reports, the Cathedral started to fill up at 6:00 am on the morning of the 30th. As many as 15,000 people surrounded the Cathedral to hear the mass over a loudspeaker.  

MN AA25.07
A memorial card printed for the Archbishop.

The following obituary from an unknown newspaper elegantly describes Archbishop McNeil's life:

"All of Toronto Sorrows

"Toronto is one of the most ardently Protestant cities in Canada, but the whole community profoundly regrets the death of Most Reverend Neil McNeil, the Roman Catholic archbishop. His Grace was a native of Canada and his blood was a blending of Irish and Scotch strains. His life work and his character were such as to endear him to Canadians of every creed and every racial origin.

"Neil McNeil had a humble beginning. His father was a village blacksmith in Cape Breton, a man of sterling character and giant physique who made himself a person of local consequence by sheer worth. Neil was one of eleven children and at the anvil under his father's supervision learned lessons of industry and honesty. At an early age he was destined for the church; at 28 years he already was a doctor of divinity. As a priest he ministered to lonely souls in the sparsely-settled districts of Newfoundland, trudging rocky trails with a pack on his back in storm and wintry weather. He served for a number of years as editor of a church paper and as president of a college, became bishop of St. George's, Newfoundland, in 1895, when 44 years old, and in 1910 was chosen as archbishop of Vancouver. He was doing truly splendid work on the Pacific coast and setting up many new churches, schools and convents when he was surprised to receive word from Rome of his appointment to the larger task at Toronto. He was so attracted by the opportunities he found in the west that he freely stated on his arrival here that if the choice had been his he would have remained in Vancouver.

"But he was needed in Toronto. The situation here in 1912 called for a diplomat to be in Wellesley Place, a man of broad vision and conciliatory manner who could formulate broad policies and command the respect of citizens of the Protestant faith. No other prelate possessed the required qualities in happier combination than they were to be found in the person of Archbishop McNeil. And so he came east to Ontario to earn for himself an extraordinarily large place in the affections of the people.

"The late archbishop was scholarly and versatile. He could speak Gaelic and Latin. He had a gifted pen and wrote many articles for newspapers and magazines. He was something of an authority on astronomy. If need be he could shoe a horse, repair an engine, build a road, draw plans for a building, do carpentering and act as architect and contractor. He had sound business judgment and was an efficient administrator. All of his talents were consecrated to the service of humanity and mother church.

"His Grace did not abate one jot of the proud claims of his church. But he had no love for controversy and preferred to gain support for his views by the gentleness of his spirit rather than by the logic or even the justness of his position. His heart was set on obtaining a fair proportion of the corporation tax for the primary schools of his church and many who do not belong to his faith will regret that he did not live to see the realization of that fond desire. Pomp and ceremony and vestments were all about him on occasions, but his spirit was ever distinguished by meekness and humility. His amiable, modest, almost shrinking manner was that of one who would be the servant of all. He was a natural democrat and was revered by the whole priesthood. A lovable man, one of God's good men, who never was too busy or too burdened with cares to enlist in some new enterprise for the promotion of human welfare, his passing is a great loss to the city as well as to the world-wide communion that commanded his soul's loyalty."

Friday, 16 May 2014

Records of the Week: Queen Victoria and the Archdiocese of Toronto

Queen Victoria wearing her small diamond crown.
Photograph by Alexander Bassano, 1882
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
This coming Monday is Victoria Day, a uniquely Canadian holiday, which was enacted to remember the “Mother of Confederation.”

Queen Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 until her death in 1901. Her reign spanned the episcopates of the first five ordinaries of the Toronto see: Bishop Michael Power (1842-47); Bishop Armand de Charbonnel (1850-60); Archbishop John Joseph Lynch (1860-88); Archbishop John Walsh (1889-98); and Archbishop Denis O’Connor (1899-1908).

The statutory holiday is celebrated on the last Monday before May 25, in honour of Queen Victoria's birthday (May 24, 1819).  Victoria's birth was noted by Rev. William P. MacDonald, a Roman Catholic priest who came to Upper Canada in 1826 and eventually became Vicar General of the Diocese of Toronto under Michael Power. In his papers at ARCAT, we have a letter from Lieutenant General Wetherall, on behalf of the Duke of Kent, thanking the Rev. MacDonald for his congratulations concerning the Duchess:

May 27, 1819: Letter from Kensington Palace regarding the birth of Alexandrina Victoria (Queen Victoria).
Sent on behalf of “the Duke of Kent to acknowledge Rev. MacDonald’s very obliging letter of
congratulations on the safe confinement of the Duchess…

Macdonell Fonds, M AE 13.02 
Similarly, the birth of Queen Victoria's heir prompted a congratulatory letter from the same Rev. MacDonald:

January 20, 1842.: Rev. MacDonald, then pastor of the Hamilton parish writes to the Queen: “I have presumed to forward…my most heartfelt congratulations, on the birth of a son, and heir to the British Throne; and to express my fervent wish and prayer that Your Majesty, with your amiable and illustrious Consort, may live long and prosperous, to bless the many millions of your happy, and loving subjects with your mild and wisely directed Sway
Macdonell Fonds, M AE 04.08 

During the Victorian period, the Diocese of Toronto was created, incorporated and elevated to an archdiocese:
September 15th, 1842: A letter to the first bishop of Toronto,  Michael Power, from the Chief Secretary’s Office conveying
the authority of the Queen for recognizing you in the character of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Toronto.
Power Fonds, P AB 10.02 

The Act to Incorporate the Diocese of Toronto on March 29, 1945,
enacted by the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty.
Statutes of the Province of Canada, 1845. An Act to Incorporate the Roman Catholic
Bishops of Toronto and Kingston, in Canada, in each Diocese (pp. 499-502).

The number of Catholics in predominantly-Protestant Toronto also expanded exponentially with the influx of Irish Catholics fleeing the Great Famine (1845-52). The Queen and her government’s handling of the famine did not ingratiate the monarch to Irish emigrants.   Many saw themselves as dispossessed, forced from Ireland by starvation, which they blamed on Britain's slow reaction to the calamity.

These sentiments are captured in our records concerning preparations for the Queen's Jubilee in 1887 and the Catholic bishops' decision to boycott the celebrations:

June 29, 1887: In preparation for the Queen’s Jubilee, the Toronto City Clerk’s Office asks Bishop Lynch if he will
be kind enough to order the bell in your church to be rung at 11 o’clock sharp on the morning of July 1st next...
Lynch Fonds, L AH 32.73

In a separate letter, Bishop Lynch of Toronto writes, “I don’t intend to take any notice in the Church of the Queen’s Jubilee. I presume that the other Bishops of the province will let the festival pass. If we ordered the people to come to mass, we would have an almost empty church. The brutal acts of her government in her Jubilee year have set Irish hearts from rejoicing.”
These ‘brutal acts’ probably refer to events leading up to Bloody Sunday.
Lynch Fonds, L AD 07.245

Bishop Walsh of London writes to Bishop Lynch,
I don’t intend to have any Jubilee celebration….
We might, it is true, pray for her conversion and that the reign of injustice may speedily end.”
 Lynch Fonds, L AD 03.49

Friday, 9 May 2014

Record of the Week: The Crowning of Our Lady of Guadalupe

This past Monday, people all over the world celebrated Mexican heritage and culture with the day known as Cinco de Mayo (fifth of May). Also, May is known as the Month of Mary, and Mother's Day is coming up on Sunday. What do we have in our collection that fits all of these themes? 

A poster advertising anniversary celebrations of the Basilica of Guadalupe.

In 1851, Cardinal McGuigan took a trip to Mexico, where he helped celebrate the 56th anniversary of the crowning of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe by decree of Pope Leo XIII in the Basilica de Guadalupe.

My favourite part is that 'James Charles McGuigan' becomes 'Santiago Carlos McGuigan' in Spanish. A much more mysterious and intriguing name!

Check here for more information about Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Record of the Week: "the famous cameo ring"

Today marks one month since the death of Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus M. Pearse Lacey.  In lieu of a Month's Mind Mass, we offer a story about his episcopal ring:

Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Lacey photographed wearing his episcopal ring
at the 50th anniversary celebration of Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish, Etobicoke, July 2009.
Bishop Lacey was pastor of the parish when it opened.
Photo courtesy of Emanuel Pires for the Archdiocese of Toronto

A Roman Catholic bishop receives an episcopal ring when he is consecrated.  They are typically large, gold, stone-set rings. Aside from those personally purchased or gifted, bishops' rings belong to the Church. The ordinary of a See inherits the previous bishop's ring collection, which is held in trust. A bishop may be buried with a ring that he owned, but all those belonging to the Church must be returned upon his death.

Following the funeral of Most. Rev. Lacey, his family ensured that his ring was transferred to the Archdiocese by way of the Archives. When we received the ring, we were surprised to see that it was a cameo piece made of carved shell. Cameos often depict bust-length portraits of women - in this case, the Madonna. Sea snail shell is a relatively soft material and the finer details of the relief carving have been worn smooth over time. The coat of arms of the Holy See is also etched into the gold of the band. Another surprise was the inscription, which reads, "Arch'bp N. McNeil to Bp. J. T. Kidd."

Bishop Lacey's episcopal ring, a shell cameo depicting Our Lady.  The gold setting has the Vatican coat of arms carved on either side of the face and an inscription underneath that reads, "Arch'bp N. McNeil to Bp. J. T. Kidd."
Archbishop McNeil probably gave this to Bishop Kidd to mark his consecration in 1925.
Acc. 2014-002

Most Rev. Neil McNeil was Archbishop of Toronto from 1912 to 1934.
Msgr. John Thomas Kidd was the Rector at St. Augustine’s Seminary from 1913 until 1925, when he was appointed Bishop of Calgary. Archbishop McNeil was one of the co-consecrators at Bishop Kidd's episcopal ordination, so that is probably when he gave him this ring.

We looked to see if we had any photos of Bishop Kidd wearing the cameo ring. The best we could find was this photo of Kidd's consecration at St. Michael's Cathedral.  If you squint a bit and use your imagination, you can make out the white cameo face on the ring finger of his right hand.

"Taken on occasion of the ceremony of consecration of Right Rev. John T. Kidd, D.D., L.L.D, Bishop of Calgary,
Toronto, May 6th 1925." Centre detail from a panoramic photograph.
Front row: Archbishop of Toronto Neil McNeil, Bishop of Calgary John Kidd, Apostolic Delegate to Canada
Archbishop Pietro di Maria, Archbishop of Ottawa Joseph-Médard Émard
Photographs Special Collection PH35K/09P
Close-up detail of the Madonna cameo ring on Bishop Kidd's finger
Photographs Special Collection PH35K/09P

After Calgary, Kidd was appointed Bishop of London, Ontario. Following Bishop Kidd’s death in 1950, his successor, Bishop Cody, was instructed by the executors to bring “the famous cameo ring” back to Cardinal McGuigan in Toronto. We were pleasantly surprised to find a letter documenting this in our archives:

A letter from Bp. John Cody of London to Msgr. Francis Allen, Chancellor, stating that the he will be returning the ring to Toronto.
McGuigan Fonds, MG TA01.57

So how did Bishop Lacey end up with the ring?  According to his family, when he was appointed bishop, Lacey was given the option of choosing a ring from the archdiocesan collection.  Because of his Marian devotion, Bishop Lacey selected the Madonna ring.

It is wonderful to now have this ring at ARCAT, to hold in trust for the Archbishop of Toronto.  It was especially delightful to discover traces of its history in our other records.  Now, if only we knew how it came to be known as "the famous cameo ring"...