Friday, 8 November 2019

The Remembrance Poppy

The poppy is a widely recognized symbol of remembrance for fallen soldiers that many choose to wear in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day.

We were intrigued to find records in our archive that document how the poppy became a universally accepted memorial flower and how it started to bloom on the lapels of Canadians.

The use of the flower as a memorial has roots in John McCrae's 1915 poem In Flanders Fields. An American teacher by the name of Moina Michael read McCrae's poem and pledged to always wear a poppy as a sign of remembrance. In 1919, Madame Anna A. Guerin (nee Boulle) happened to meet Michael while touring the States, and was inspired to circulate paper poppies to raise funds for individuals living in war-torn France.

Guerin pitched the idea of an Inter-Allied Poppy Day to several nations after her American Poppy Drives proved successful. The Great War Veterans' Association of Canada (precursor to the Royal Canadian Legion) adopted the campaign in 1921.

Here at ARCAT we have two early letters from the office of the G.W.V.A. that request participation in the Poppy Day Campaign ahead of Armistice Day on November 11.

Letter describing the National Poppy Day Campaign, circa 1921. 

"It has been thought appropriate that Canada should also adopt this beautiful custom. to this end, the Great war Veterans' Association of Canada has arranged with the French Children's League to distribute just prior to Armistice Day, replicas of the Flanders poppy, which the orphan children of France are making."

 FW HC05.11
ARCAT First World War Collection

Letter describing the National Poppy Day Campaign, circa 1921.

"On Armistice Day the soldiers cemeteries in France will be thronged by a reverend crowd eager to show that those who fought and won and sleep in Flanders Fields are not forgotten.
consider it a sacred obligation to wear the bright red poppy on Armistice Day
and keep alive the memory of those who brought  back honour to their country, lory to their flag, and peace to the world."

 FW HC05.11
ARCAT First World War Collection

The Legion continues the annual Poppy Campaign to this day as a way to support veterans and their families. Find more information about the Poppy and Remembrance Day on the Legion's website.

Monday, 28 October 2019

ARCAT needs your help!

Archivists often know a little bit about everything, especially when it comes to the subject areas of their holdings. The archivists at the Archdiocese of Toronto are no exception as they collect facts, names, dates, faces and places as quickly as they collect materials pertaining to the history of the Archdiocese. However, archivists can't know it all, which is why we need your help!
Back in November 2018, we received a panoramic photograph with zero contextual information. We found very little success in our attempts to identify the location, date, and the names of many of the individuals in the photograph.
As you can see, many Bishops and priests are present, indicating a large special event of some kind. We believe we have identified former Archbishop Neil McNeil, who was Archbishop of Toronto from 1912 to 1934. This gives us an indication of the date range.
Take a look at the photograph below and see if you recognize the building or any of the individuals pictured.
If you're confident in your detective skills, comment your responses on this post or email us at 

Photograph Collection
PH 36/12P

See below for close-up sections of the photograph:

We believe the individual in the bottom right hand corner is Neil McNeil, Archbishop of Toronto from 1912 to 1934.

Could the man in the middle row on the far left be Fr. Charles Coughlin?

Friday, 11 October 2019

What could this light be? A council!

A well known image shows Council Fathers seated in St. Peter's Basilica. Over 2000 bishop and other experts from around the world participated in the Second Vatican Council, including several Canadians.

[October 11, 1965 - December 8, 1965]

PH 14V/05cp
ARCAT Photo Collection

October 11, 1962 was a turning point for modern Catholicism: The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican (Vatican II) was opened by Pope Saint John XXIII. The Council brought bishops and theologians from around the world to address problems faced by the Church and its people. The Council's significance was so great that it is common to hear people talk about "pre-Vatican II" and "post-Vatican II."

Over the course of four sessions ending in December 1965, 16 documents were produced that addressed issues of the Church in the modern world. The changes that came out of these documents are still discussed and debated today.

A letter sent to bishops in the Canadian Catholic Conference contained text of a July 1962 statement of Pope Saint John XXIII explaining his inspiration for calling the Council:
"Let us take, for example, the idea of the ecumenical council. How did it happen? How did it develop? It happened in such a way that to relate it seems unreal, because so suddenly did the thought arise of such a possibility and too, the determination to apply Ourselves to carrying it out. 
"A question posed during a particular conversation with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tardini, brought forth the observation of how the world is immersed in serious distress and agitation. We pointed out, among other things, how it is claimed that people want peace and agreement but, unfortunately, sometimes it happens that ultimately disagreements become more acute and threats are increased. 
"What will the Church do? Must the Mystical Barque of Christ remain at the mercy of the waves and go adrift? Is there not rather expected from the Church not only an admonishment, but also the light of great example? What could this light be? 
"The questioner was listening with an attitude of reverent respect and expectation. Suddenly Our soul was enlightened by a great idea that We felt just at that moment, and which We welcomed with indescribable trust in the Divine Master; one solemn and binding word came then to Our lips. Our voice expressed it for the first time: a council! 
"To tell the truth, at once the fear arose that this might cause perplexity, if not dismay. Undoubtedly, We would now have to listen to a list of grave difficulties, if for no other reason than that the sudden announcement would lead to the thought of a natural and lengthy preparation that such an aim would entail. 
"Instead, the answer came without delay. A clear feeling beamed over the face of the Cardinal: his assent was immediate and exultant. 
"This was a first definite sign of God's will. Who does not, in fact, know the necessary and attentive consideration with which the Roman Curia customarily examines the major and minor questions that present themselves? (PO VA14.04)" 

Here in the archives, we have records from five of our bishops who attended the Council: Cardinal McGuigan, Archbishop Pocock, Cardinal Carter, Bishop Marrocco, and Bishop Allen. We have previously written about the commemorative rings they all received, but there are many other documents of historical significance in our storage rooms.

Commemorative edition of Humanae Salutis, the document convoking the Second Vatican Council. The last pages contain the signatures of all the cardinals.

"The forthcoming Council, then, will meet happily and at a moment in which the Church has a more lively desire to fortify her faith and to contemplate herself in her own awe-inspiring unity, just as she feels the more urgent duty to give greater effectiveness to her healthy vitality and to promote the sanctification of her members, the spread of revealed truth, and the consolidation of her structures. This will be a demonstration of the Church, always living and always young, that feels the rhythm of time, that in every century beautifies herself with new splendor, radiates new light, achieves new conquests, all the while remaining identical to herself, faithful to the divine image impressed on her face by her divine Bridegroom, who loves her and protects her, Christ Jesus." (translation)

December 25, 1961

AF 074
ARCAT Artifacts Collection

Pope Saint John XXIII greeting Cardinal McGuigan during preparatory meetings at the Church of the Canadian Martyrs in Rome.


PH 09V/15P
ARCAT Photo Collection

A letter which includes instructions for what to wear to the Council. Can you imagine the big task of making sure over  2000 participants were dressed appropriately?

August 9, 1962

PO VA04.11
Archbishop Pocock Fonds

Bishop Carter's Vatican passport specially issued for the Council. On the next page it reads,

"Hamlet John Cicognani Cardinal Bishop of the Holy Roman Church of the Title of the Suburban See of Frascati Secretary of State to His Holiness Pope John XXIII requests all Civil and Military Authorities to permit the bearer, who is one of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, freely to pass, and, in case of need, to provide him with every opportune assistance and protection. From the Vatican, 1962."

CA AA07.03
Cardinal Carter Fonds

Philip Pocock attended the Council while Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto. Though his fonds is not yet available to researchers, it contains several boxes of documents and notes from his work during that time. An especially exciting item is his handwritten diary from the first session of the Council. It details behind-the-scenes discussions and his personal thoughts and reflections. On December 16, 1962 he wrote,
"On Dec. 8 the solemn closing of the first session took place. All the Fathers joined in the singing of the Gregorian at the Pontifical mass. It was very powerful and beautiful. At the end of the mass the Holy Father walked in, took his throne and spoke to us for about a half hour. He again stressed the pastoral purpose of the Council. Much work would be accomplished in the interval before the reopening of the Council, September 8/63. He seemed to be well and his voice was strong, However, I fear that he is suffering from a chronic disorder, perhaps cancer. (PO AA13.03)" 
Pope Saint John XXIII would die within six months, but his successor, Pope Saint Paul VI would continue the work of the Council.

Bishop Pocock in St. Peter's Square during the first session of the Council.


PH 14V/08P

ARCAT Photo Collection

We are lucky to have a box of newspapers and magazines with articles about the Second Vatican Council in Archbishop Pocock's fonds. Included are titles such as Life, Newsweek, and The New Yorker, to name a few.


PO VA71-75
Archbishop Pocock Fonds

Here's a bonus note from Archbishop Pocock to the Chancery Office sent during the Council's last session in 1965. It is a transcription of a dictaphone recording:

"Message from his Grace:

We are installed at last here in Rome and we have had two day sat the Council. We had a beautiful trip over and two terrible days of rain in Capri. I suppose I better not talk to you about it because you will be finding out all the news in my letters anyway. I hope this machine that I rented works all right. If the speed is wrong or if it is hard to interpret, i wish you would let me know by a cable so I won't waste too much time here. Give my love to all the girls and my respectful regards to the clergy there at the Chancery Office."

September 1965

PO CO05.409
Archbishop Pocock Fonds

Friday, 27 September 2019

Happy Feast of St. Vincent De Paul!

"There is scarcely a single form of charitable activity existing in America at the present time that was not successfully undertaken by St. Vincent in France three centuries ago."  
 -- Henry Somerville
Today, September 27th, is the Feast Day of St. Vincent de Paul, patron saint of charities.

The Archdiocese of Toronto has shared St. Vincent de Paul's charitable spirit from its founding when Bishop Power and the Loretto Sisters risked their lives to help the sick and poor Irish immigrants.

Since then there have been too many charitable endeavours in our history to cover in one post, so this week we are highlighting the particular organizations and places in the Archdiocese under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul.

  In addition to having an amazing cover page, this booklet details the many charitable deeds undertaken by St. Vincent to help the sick and the poor.

St. Vincent de Paul booklet by Henry Somerville, Paulist Press, 1916.

Archbishop McNeil Fonds
MN AP06.26

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a lay organization formed under the direction of Blessed Frederic Ozanam in 1833. The society is inspired by the words and deeds of its patron saint, developing programs, distributing resources, and advocating for those in need. The Toronto Council was established in the 1850s, and continues to offer thrift stores, residential housing, and programs such as sending children to summer camp and prison and home visitations.

St Vincent De Paul Society Bulletin for Toronto Particular Council, Vol 1, No. 1

February 1957

Other Collections - St. Vincent de Paul Society
 OC 012 BU12

St. Vincent's patronage has also been present in the Archdiocese through the works of the Congregation of the Mission (also known as the Vincentian Fathers). The order was founded by St. Vincent de Paul in 1625, and our very own Archbishop Lynch was ordained as a Vincentian in 1843. Like St. Vincent, Archbishop Lynch cared lovingly for Toronto's poor, who were often Irish Catholics.

Archbishop Lynch remained in close contact with his Province after leaving for Toronto. The following letter was written to Archbishop Lynch after he was named Bishop of Toronto in November 1859:

“It is the last time that I can presume to address you by the familiar and sweet name of confrere. You shall soon be, but in a fuller sense, what I always considered you, a dear and venerated Father.

So we have lost you in our poor litter Congregation! […] I can say emphatically and all who know you say, that your loss will be keenly felt by the Province in general and by the Seminary at the Falls in particular.
May Almighty God be with you in your new and higher sphere of action, and as when amongst us you were a faithful imitator of St. Vincent so may as a Bishop walk in the holy footsteps of St. Francis de Sales and St. Charles Borromeo"

November 8th, 1859

Archbishop Lynch Fonds
L AB01.10

After Archbishop Lynch's death, the Vincentian Fathers would not return to the Archdiocese until 1933 when they would administer different parishes in Toronto. The Slovenian Vincentians continue to be present in the Archdiocese, administering the parishes of Our Lady Help of Christians and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

St. Vincent de Paul is also the patron saint of a Toronto parish of the same name, which appropriately celebrated its first mass on September 27th, 1914. The parish's St. Vincent de Paul Society and St. Vincent de Paul Separate School were both also established in 1914.

The first mass was celebrated by the parish on September 27th, 1914 in a storefront on Roncesvalles. The church building was dedicated 10 years later in September, 1924.

St. Vincent de Paul Parish 75th Anniversary Booklet, 1989

Parish Collections - St. Vincent de Paul - Publications

These instances of patronage to St. Vincent de Paul are only a small example of his influence in our Archdiocese. You can find out more about St. Vincent de Paul here.
"We ought to deal kindly with all, and to manifest those qualities which spring naturally from a heart tender and full of Christian charity; such as affability, love and humility"
-- St. Vincent de Paul

Friday, 13 September 2019

Give the gift of a Papal Blessing

Having a difficult time coming up with a wedding or birthday gift? Are you attending a baptism, first communication, or confirmation soon? You can celebrate these special occasions by gifting the recipient a Papal Blessing.

A Papal Blessing, or "Benediction Papalis", is a meaningful way to commemorate a moment in your or your loved one's life. While the blessing itself is invisible to the eye, it is memorialized in a parchment certificate containing the name(s) of the recipients, the papal seal, and the current Pope's photograph. These one of a kind parchment certificates are hand-painted and can be kept for years to come.

Last week, ARCAT received this Papal Blessing from the former Catholic Information Centre located at 830 Bathurst Street.

Papal Blessing for Reverend Father Francis Stone, C.S.P., the priests and laity engaged in the work of the Catholic Information Centre, Toronto, Canada.

January 27, 1964

Artifacts Special Collections
AF 393

The Catholic Information Centre (also known as the Paulist Ministry Centre) was dedicated and opened in 1958 under the direction of Fr. Francis Stone, C.S.P. It was occupied by the Paulist Fathers until they returned back to the United States in June 2015.

This Papal Blessing was granted in 1964 and features a photograph of Pope Paul VI. Note the beautiful hand-painted details:

For more information on how to request a Papal Blessing, click here.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Canon Law: Freedom and Authority in the Catholic Church

The Church can be very personal; it is with us from birth, to marriage, to death, and helps us to develop our relationship with God. But the Church is also a large, complex, global institution. It has a lot of moving parts involving over a billion people and almost 3000 dioceses. With so much going on, how do you make sure that each of the Catholic Faithful have their rights under the Church protected and know their responsibilities?

It is for this reason that we have the Code of Canon Law. In 1983 St. Pope John Paul II wrote,
"...a Code of Canon Law is absolutely necessary for the Church. Since the Church is established in the form of a social and visible unit, it needs rules, so that its hierarchical and organic structure may be visible; that its exercise of the functions divinely entrusted to it, particularly of sacred power and of the administration of the sacraments, is properly ordered; that the mutual relationships of Christ's faithful are reconciled in justice based on charity, with the rights of each safeguarded and defined; and lastly, that the common initiatives which are undertaken so that christian life may be ever more perfectly carried out, are supported, strengthened and promoted by canonical laws."

Commemorative booklet  produced for the 50th anniversary of the 1917 Code of Canon Law.


PO RC476.10
Archbishop Pocock Fonds

The 1983 Code of Canon Law is a seven part collection of rules and norms dealing with every aspect of life in the Church. Everything from Church governance to sacraments to punishments is covered. For example, regarding archives Canon 486 states,
"§1. All documents which regard the diocese or parishes must be protected with the greatest care.
§2. In every curia there is to be erected in a safe place a diocesan archive, or record storage area, in which instruments and written documents which pertain to the spiritual and temporal affairs of the diocese are to be safeguarded after being properly filled and diligently secured.
§3. An inventory, or catalog, of the documents which are contained in the archive is to be kept with a brief synopsis of each written document."
The early rules of the Church came from scripture and from the teachings of the apostles. Over the centuries, additional laws were added from various sources such as Papal teachings and ecumenical councils. These laws were collected systematically after the year 1000, but weren't codified until 1917, when the first Code of Canon Law was promulgated by Pope Benedict XV. When the Second Vatican Council was announced, the intention to revise the Code was also announced, and the new and current version was promulgated in 1983 by St. Pope John Paul II.

Dioceses are also able to make rules for the Catholics in their jurisdiction. Here in the archives, we have a handwritten copy of Archbishop Lynch's rules for Toronto. He wrote,
"Rules are necessary in every station and calling in life. The mechanic or merchant who works without rule and order is certain of failure and ruin. Ignorance of rule is a fruitful source of many fatal mistakes, as contempt of the rule itself."
"It has been our most ardent wish, since our Lord imposed on my weak shoulders the heavy and formidable burden of the Episcopacy to establish in the diocese certain rules of Canon law suitable to our condition, and to embody them in diocesan constitutions. After visiting all the missions of the diocese, even the most remote, and some of the most important places several times, we thought this an opportune time to confirm and promulgate those statutes. We have compiled them 1. from the statutes of the first diocesan synod held by the illustrious and most Reverend Dr. Power the first Bishop of Toronto 2. From the pastoral letters and instructions of our venerable and saintly predecessor Rt. Rev. Dr. de Charbonnel 3. From the decrees of the councils of Quebec 4. From the general canons and decrees of the church, adopted and arranged by holy and zealous Bishops, and given to their churches to be observed. A few which are expression of years of the sacred ministry have suggested to our minds, and some by our own beloved clergy.


HO 03.22
Holograph Collection

Just like civil law, Church law has lawyers. A Canon Lawyer, or Canonist, has an advanced degree in the study of canon law. Canon Lawyers work in various positions in the Church, helping to interpret and apply the law for Catholics so that things are done in the right way. For example, Canon Lawyers working in marriage tribunals decide whether marriages are valid according to the Code when annulments are sought.

Even if they don't have the advanced degree, priests and bishops need to know about Canon Law. Bishop Power's notes on Canonistics are here in the archives:

Index to Bishop Power's student notes, including a section on the Crime of Simony.


HO 01.03
Holograph Collection

Cardinal McGuigan earned a Licentiate in Canon Law from Laval University in 1916:

Magisterii seu Licentiae in Jure Canonico Gradum

June 18, 1916

MG AA02.03
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

While the canons themselves aren't particularly lengthy, there is a lot more commentary of Canon Law that helps while applying the law to real situations. For example, the annulment of the marriage of Consuelo Vanderbilt and the Duke of Marlborough was an issue discussed by canonists:

Rev. Stanislaus Woywood, OFM, discusses why the Vanderbilt-Marlborough marriage was invalid.


MN AS22.03
Archbishop McNeil Fonds

While promoting the study of Canon Law to the bishops in 1975, the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education explained and quoted Pope Paul VI,
"While first place is assigned to the spirit and to the interior life, nevertheless belonging organically to the Body of the Church, the presence of the Church authority, and submission to this authority always remain as irreplaceably necessary elements willed by the Divine Founder of the Catholic Church. In the Church freedom and authority are not terms of opposition, but rather values complementing one another. Their mutual cooperation promotes the growth of the community and at the same time the capacity for initiative and enrichment of its single members. In calling attention to the principle of authority and to the necessity for a juridic order, nothing is being taken away from the value of freedom or from the esteem in which it ought to be held. This recalling to authority rather serves to stress the need for a secure and efficacious safeguarding of the goods which all have a right to posses, including the basic one of exercising freedom itself. Only a social system that is well ordered can guarantee liberty adequately. As a matter of fact, what would freedom be worth to an individual if it were not protected by wise and suitable norms?"" (PO RC 555.01)
As a global community of Catholics, we benefit from having 2000 years of legal thought to guide us. It's a subject worth studying!

Friday, 16 August 2019

Director's Cut: Microfilm is the Reel Deal

When I started working at ARCAT, one of the first collections I really had to understand and be able to use was the Parish Sacramental Records on microfilm. This resource contains the information needed to answer the most commonly asked questions received by our office.

In 1964, Baptism, Marriage, Confirmation, First Communion and Death records of each parish in the Archdiocese of Toronto were microfilmed so that copies of these records could be retained by the Chancery. The copies were updated several times between 1964 and 1983. In order to ensure that updates would occur regularly, the Archives began a five year cyclical microfilm program in 1993. The Parish Sacramental Records Microfilm Program ensures that the Archdiocese of Toronto is maintaining a backup copy of our most vital records. You can find out more about the program here.

Photograph of 1863 Baptisms in the original 1850-1901 Baptism and Marriage Register of St. John Chrysostom Parish, Newmarket

Accession 2010-009

ARCAT Staff Photo

Photograph of the microfilm copy created in 1964 of the same page of 1863 Baptisms from the 1850-1901 Baptism and Marriage Register of St. John Chrysostom Parish, Newmarket

ARCAT Staff Photo

Why Microfilm?

We are often asked why we still use microfilm technology for this program with the plethora of digital solutions available. The answers are simple: digital records are even more fragile than the original handwritten registers, and technology is constantly changing.

One analogy I use to illustrate digital fragility is this: imagine taking a pen with a sharp tip and deliberately slashing across a page of a paper sacramental register. You may have marred a letter or two, but overall the information on that page and in the rest of the book will still be completely legible. If you did the same thing to a strip of microfilm, you may have to repair the affected area and you will likely have trouble making out a word or two on the page, but again, overall the information is still intact. Now, imagine slashing a disc or other electronic storage media with a sharp object. You may have gotten lucky and only corrupted one record or one image of a whole page; but, the more likely scenario is that you have rendered the entirety of the information stored on that media inaccessible or indecipherable.

Furthermore, accessing the records becomes increasingly complicated as you upgrade technologies. So many things have to work in order to view electronic records, with the most basic need being electricity; in a power outage, microfilm could, if necessary, be read with a light source and a magnifying glass. The equipment and programs used to create, store, and use digital material change very rapidly and older technologies quickly become obsolete. To save information long term, it needs to be constantly migrated to new digital formats and new hardware. So, if you were to scan a baptism record from today, there is no guarantee that the information from the digital copy will be accessible by the time the child is requesting a copy for their First Communion, let alone their Confirmation or their Marriage perhaps 20 years from now. Sometimes, as in the case of microfilm technology, the simpler solution is the longest lasting.

As with most things in archives (and life for that matter!), context is key. The purpose for creating the copy needs to be the first thing you consider when deciding the method you will use for your program or project. While electronic copies of the records do indeed facilitate the sharing of information for day-to-day administrative purposes, they are not the best solution for long-term storage. The primary purpose of our Parish Sacramental Records Microfilm Program is to create a backup copy of our organization's most vital records, so the copy needs to be considered as stable and viable in the long-term as the original. Microfilm will easily last as long as the original sacramental registers, and it is even harder to destroy than paper.

Another benefit of microfilm is that you are not limited to that format alone once the process is complete. Digitizing microfilm is a fairly simple process with the right scanning equipment. There are dioceses running similar programs who have chosen to have their vendor create both a microfilm copy of the sacramental records as the vital records backup and digital images for simplicity of access at the same time.

One of the most satisfying outcomes of this program is that the Archives staff are able to use the microfilm copies to facilitate searches for sacramental records when individuals don't know where their sacraments took place. For more information on how we conduct searches for a sacramental record, please see here. Our reference statistics consistently show that sacramental records searches make up almost 1/3 of our total reference requests and nearly 50% of our external reference requests.

So, the next time you think analog technology is dead… just remember that when archivists are thinking in the long-term, we aren’t thinking about 5 or 10 years from now. We are considering how to keep important information accessible for as long as possible: as in 500 or 10,000 years from now!

Gillian Hearns, Director of Archives and Privacy Officer, viewing the microfilm.

ARCAT Staff Photo