Friday, 20 January 2017

You've Come a Long Way, Baby!

This week we are sharing a letter from an important figure in the history of the Archdiocese, the Honorable James Baby.

The Honorable James Baby
Baby (pronounced Baw-bee) was born in Detroit in 1763 and educated in Quebec. He became a respected businessman in Lower Canada and was appointed to a position in Upper Canada by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe. He served in various roles but was eventually appointed to Inspector General in 1815, when he moved to York.    

As a French Catholic in York, his options for practicing his faith were limited. Though land had been obtained by trustees for the Catholic community in the early years of the century, no church had been built, and visits by priests were infrequent. In 1821, Baby and the other trustees sold the original property and obtained ten acres near modern-day Queen and Parliament Streets. It was up to Baby to raise funds for and oversee the building of the first church between Sandwich and Kingston, which opened its doors in 1822 as St. Paul's.

Though he wrote many letters to Bishop Macdonell, we chose to share this pivotal moment in York's Catholic history, in which Baby tells the bishop that the land is being cleared for the new church. It is strange to think of ten acres of land in downtown Toronto needing to be cleared of trees, but that's how it was at the time!

My Dear Lord,

It gives me pleasure to be able to inform you that what was in contemplation during your stay here has been matured since your departure. His Excellency has been pleased to sanction (indeed confirmed) the recommendation of the Council upon the petition presented in your name and Trustees in behalf of the Roman Catholics of this place and its vicinity. The ground (two blocks each of 5 acres as per the plan you saw) are granted. They were estimated at £20 per acre - £200 in the whole on the annual payment of interest or rent. This sum to be redeemed at the option or pleasure of the Trustees. I hope I have not erred in comprising Ten instead of Five acres: we may relinquish the other five if it is thought advisable. For my part I have no hesitation to say that I would prefer taking the whole than the one half for I have no doubt that at no distant period the extra five will be found not only very valuable but most useful, particularly if you should be enabled to mature your plan of erecting a public school for young girls.  

The ground or spot where the church or chapel is intended to be erected is getting cleared: there will be tomorrow a Bee or collection of people to forward the work. In a few days I shall take steps to contract for the materials as well as for the undertaking of the building, the dimensions of which I will take take care not to be too contracted nor to exceed much our expected means.

I hope you have continued in good health and that you have reached your home in a comfortable manner.

I have been a good deal indisposed ever since the next Thursday after your departure from this place. I am however getting better.

I beg to subscribe myself with the most sincere respect.

My Dear Lord, your most obedient humble servant

J Baby

M AB01.02
Bishop Macdonell Fonds

The church that Baby built was the spiritual home for Toronto Catholics until St. Michael's Cathedral was built in the 1840s. It was the site of one of the earliest Catholic schools in the city, which still exists today. Though the building has since been replaced, St. Paul's is still an active parish serving downtown Toronto almost 200 years later. Baby's vision of a place for Catholics to gather and worship has endured. With his help, Toronto's Catholic community flourished and grew to be what it is today.

Old St. Paul's Church, Power Street

Photo published in The Story of St. Paul's Parish, Toronto, by Rev. E. Kelly, 1922, p. 45.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Bless you!

It's wintertime, and that often means an increase in the number of colds and other illnesses that can leave us feeling miserable for a few days or even weeks. Updating one's Facebook status has become the common way of informing friends and strangers alike, sometimes in a very detailed manner, that a sickness and its corresponding frustration are present. People have not changed much over time in this regard. This week, we are featuring correspondence covering a range of ailments and how the writers handled the unfortunate situations in which they found themselves.

Some people intend to follow doctor's orders to rest:

"I deeply regret that I cannot enjoy your kind hospitality this evening as I am suffering from a nasty cold & a sore throat & in view of the meeting tonight the Dr. has advised me to remain indoors."

Letter from Thomas H. Grattan Esmonde to Abp. Lynch,
December 28, 1887

L AH32.115
Archbishop Lynch fonds

Or consider taking a sick day:

"I am at present under the weather with a heavy cold which took hold of me last week, and which seems to be developing instead of diminishing. If it does not relax its grip before next Tuesday, I shall not venture to go to Toronto."

Letter from William S. Macdonell to Abp. McEvay,
March 17, 1909

ME AF04.15
Archbishop McEvay fonds

Others, however, continue to work:

"Sick ten days bad cold[.] I endorse letter[.] Keep me posted on events[.]"

Telegram from Bp. Cleary to Abp. Walsh,
February 14, 1885

W AB02.02
Archbishop Walsh fonds

Some people blame the weather or a pesky draft for their illness:

"I regret to have to inform your Grace that the Bishop contracted a very severe cold, whilst looking after the works going on in the Cathedral. The weather is cold, and the windows being entirely open in the Church, removed in fact, for the placing of the stained-glass, his Lordship who could not absent himself lest a mistake might be made, took the inevitable cold and the kidneys have been seized by it, so that Senator Sullivan has insisted on his remaining at home for some days at least, until the present symptoms pass away by care and rest."

Letter from Rev. Thomas Kelly to Abp. Lynch,
October 27, 1886

L AD01.141
Archbishop Lynch fonds

Sometimes a person suffers from something more serious than a regular cold and is quite distressed:

"You will observe from my hand-writing that some great change has taken place in my constitution. ... About a month ago, I became the victim of acute rheumatism, the pain of which continued to become more and more intense until Sunday evening, the 29th ultimo it shot from the left shoulder through the heart and so prostrated me that my medical advisers believed I would not survive until morning. ... My general health is improving, but the left arm still continues to suffer excruciating pain, and is, since the Sunday just named, entirely useless."

Letter from Canon John Woods to Bp. de Charbonnel,
Trinity Sunday, 1859

C AB15.22
Bishop de Charbonnel fonds

And we all have at least one friend who provides way too much information:

"Here I am, all alone, my companions gone along last night to Charlottetown, leaving me sick in the hotel. But, thanks to God, I am usually cheerful in sickness, and I take to giving you an account of myself. ... The night before St. James' day, having dined on fish, I got cramps and diarrhea -- Irish cholera -- which continued for six days. I was four days in Westport without eating a morsel of food during that period of exhausting flux. ... My leg has been sore since Tuesday night and I required help to walk. I believed it to be the sting of a spider or 'black fly' in the shin. I expected all to be well in a few days, I did not intend accompanying my guests beyond Montreal, as I was unable to walk, and the pain was intense; but they coerced me and I agreed to proceed. But during dinner here last evening ... I suffered more pain than before and found the leg inflamed more. ... I sent for Dr. Hingston who declared my ailment to be erysipelas, which demands absolute rest for the leg and medicinal treatment for myself."

First four pages of letter from Bp. Cleary to Abp. Lynch,
August 8, 1885

L AD 01.130
Archbishop Lynch fonds

We hope this week's blog finds you all in good health. Take care of yourselves!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Connecting With All the Principal Cities and Towns

Do you remember what it was like the first time you got an email? Suddenly, you had the ability to send and receive messages from the other side of the world nearly instantaneously. Perhaps you would have felt the same if you were living in the 1840s and received a telegram for the first time. In a world where information only moved as fast as you could carry it, receiving a message from a distant place on the same day it was sent would have been mind-blowing.

On this day in 1838, Samuel Morse and his partner Alfred Vail demonstrated their electric telegraph to their financial backer, who was anxious for results. The message they sent was "a patient waiter is no loser." Six years later, they sent the message "what hath God wrought" from Washington to Baltimore using their now-famous code. Within another few years, telegraph lines were being built all over the world. Railway companies were a natural fit to be in the telegraph business because they already had land cleared connecting major cities. By the late 1860s, cables successfully crossed the Atlantic to connect Eastern Canada and Great Britain.

Telegrams were a great way to send messages that needed to be delivered quickly. They were generally short, as payment was by the word. Here in the Archives, we have over 100 years' worth of examples.

Our earliest example is an 1856 message sent from Bishop Phelan of Kingston to Bishop de Charbonnel:

"I approve of the petition for Arrears in Question. Bishop Phelan"

April 5, 1856

C AB12.30
Bishop de Charbonnel Fonds

In 1864 Sir John A. Macdonald telegraphed Bishop Lynch from Quebec:
"Private - arrangements will be made to give Freeman seven hundred dollars tomorrow."

September 30, 1864

L AF02.10
Archbishop Lynch Fonds

In 1874 Archbishop Lynch received a message imparting the apostolic blessing of Pope Pius IX: 

June 20, 1874

L AH19.10
Archbishop Lynch Fonds

In 1885 Bishop Walsh of London congratulated Archbishop Lynch on the anniversary of his consecration as Coadjutor Bishop of Toronto:

"Accept my heartfelt congratulations for your feast & warmest wishes for your health & happiness"

November 20, 1885

L AD03.27
 Archbishop Lynch Fonds

In 1891 Archbishop Walsh received a transatlantic telegram from France with news of Bishop
de Charbonnel's death:

"Monseigneur de Charbonnel trépassé ce matin 10 heures"

March 29, 1891

W AB04.16
Archbishop Walsh Fonds

In 1903 Archbishop O'Connor received news of the death of Pope Leo XIII from the Apostolic Delegate in Ottawa:

"With great sorrow I announce to you death of Holy Father. Notify suffragans."

July 20, 1903

O AB05.09
Archbishop O'Connor Fonds

This telegram arrived on the day of Archbishop McEvay's death in 1911 with the blessings of Pope Pius X:

"Beatissimus pater petitam apostolical benedictionen in articulo mortis ex toto corde impertitur"

May 10, 1911

ME AA02.39
Archbishop McEvay Fonds

In 1922 Archbishop McNeil received news of the death of Pope Benedict XV:

"It is my plainful duty announce you Holy Father died January twenty second six o'clock morning Rome time please order prayers repose of his soul."

January 22, 1922

MN DS24.01
Archbishop McNeil Fonds

In 1937 Archbishop McGuigan was congratulated for his Cathedral renovations:

"Please accept my warmest congratulations on the completion of your latest effort for God's greater glory I should love to be with you tomorrow for the opening of your splendidly restored cathedral give my greetings to Bishop Kidd may God's providence continue to crown you[r] every work with success"

September 11, 1937

MG FA03.58
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

In 1944 Archbishop McGuigan received a telegram from Cardinal Villeneuve in Quebec with the text of a statement that was issued to call for Rome to be spared from destruction:

March 3, 1944

SW GC01.123
Second World War Collection

In 1956 Cardinal McGuigan received a request for information about Catholic schools in Ontario from the Archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand. A message from the other side of the world:

"At state educational enquiry here statement made 30-0/0 Catholics Ontario contract out of Catholic schools system prefer attend state scholls stop Grateful airmail comment urgent"

October 3 1956

MG DA42.27
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

In 1963 Cardinal McGuigan sent word to Archbishop Pocock from Rome with news of the newly elected Pope's greetings to Toronto:

"First words Pope Paul Six to me I send great blessing to Toronto without distinction race colour creed"

June 21, 1963

PO VA04.15
Archbishop Pocock Fonds

And the latest example we could find was sent sometime between 1969 and 1971:

"As president I offered full CCC support for combined appeal for Pakistani relief launched by eight Canadian organizations to be announced at Montreal and Toronto news conferences Wednesday A.M. CCODP will act on behalf of Catholic Church. Details to follow"


PO DP01.379
Archbishop Pocock Fonds

Next time you read a text message, think what it would have been like if that note had been hand-delivered to you by someone from the Montreal Telegraph Company. There's something romantic about it! Amazingly enough, there are still telegram services in existence. They work a bit differently, but the concept is still the same!

Bonus video: "A Telegram for America" -- a history of Western Union.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Happy New Year!

It is hard to believe that another year is almost over. Though people have been exchanging new year's wishes for centuries, it has become increasingly more common for people to do so on social media than in actual writing. This week, we are featuring new year's wishes to four archbishops and a cardinal in printed or handwritten formats, all from long before Facebook and Twitter were even thought to be possible. This selection even includes some items from before the word computer meant "calculating machine" as opposed to simply "one who calculates."

Bishop Farrell, the Bishop of Hamilton, wishes Archbishop Lynch "health, happiness and every grace for the new year":

Letter from the Bishop of Hamilton to Abp. Lynch,
December 31, 1872

L AD02.36
Archbishop Lynch fonds

An unknown bishop sent this tiny card (measuring just 2 x 3-¾ in or 5 x 9-½ cm) of new year's greetings to Archbishop McEvay:

ME AA02.01
Archbishop McEvay fonds

R. A. O'Connor, Bishop of Peterborough, offers Archbishop O'Connor "hearty good wishes for a blessed and happy New Year":

Letter from the Bishop of Peterborough to Abp. O'Connor,
December 29, 1900

O AB02.15
Archbishop O'Connor fonds

First and last pages of a letter to Archbishop McNeil from his niece, Sister St. Marie Beatrice, C.N.D., in which she mentions her new year's greetings to him for the year 1932:

Letter from Sr. St. Marie Beatrice, C.N.D., to Abp. McNeil,
January 8, 1932

MN AA03.216
Archbishop McNeil fonds

New year's greeting card from Bishop Charles L. Nelligan of Pembroke, Ontario, with a photograph of the Canadian Overseas Chaplains:

Greeting card from Bp. Charles L. Nelligan,
January 20, 1941
Card. McGuigan's signature is on the left.

Cardinal McGuigan fonds

The staff at ARCAT would like to take this (social media) opportunity to wish you a very happy new year and all the best for a healthy and joyous 2017!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Silent Night, Holy Night

Nativity scene at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Toronto


PH 102/063/02P
ARCAT Photo Collection

Tonight we recall the most beautiful story ever told - a story that is over 1900 years old, and yet that is as fresh and appealing as it was when it was first written by St. Matthew and St. Luke. It is a love story and it is a true story, because it is the story of God's love for man. To bring the story alive to us, a crib is put up in all our churches, made by human hands, in which we find the three persons who were the principal characters: Jesus, lying in a stable manger, Mary, His mother, looking upon her new-born Babe with ineffable love, and Joseph, standing nearby watching over the two precious treasures that God has entrusted to his care. The figures we see are little statuettes, lifeless, but reminds us of the real, living persons who played their parts in the first act of the divine drama, the outcome of which was to be our salvation.

Imagine for a moment that, as you look upon the scene in our miniature replica of the cave at Bethlehem, the three little figures suddenly come to life. What would they say to you, and what would you say to them?

Perhaps you would want an answer to a mystery which you may have wondered about. You would have expected that all Israel, or at least the people of Jerusalem and of Bethlehem would be thronging the cave to hail the Messiah Who had just been born. After all, this Child's birth had been foretold for centuries by the inspired writers of the Old Testament. The whole history of Israel had been one of promise, of warning, of appeal by God. Isaiah had written in prophecy: "A child is born to us, and a Son is given to us, and the government is upon His shoulders; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, God the mighty one, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace." One would have expected after all these prophecies, all this buildup, that the people would have come running to the cave to do Him homage. We would have expected that the whole world would know about His birth, that He would be acclaimed by all nations as the Saviour of the world. That would have been a fitting climax to those centuries of preparation. But this! A weak child born in obscurity, born in a stable, with no one to look after Him except His virgin mother and His foster-father. That was the most disappointing anti-climax to any event that ever occurred in the world.

Yet the kingdom that this divine Infant came to establish on earth was not one of worldly pomp and power, but a kingdom of love and of peace, in which poverty and humility would shine out in all their beauty and loveliness. The world at that time did not understand that, and, as St. John reminds us, when He came unto His own, His own did not receive Him. Does he mean any more to us now than He did to the world of His own time?

The centuries-old custom of exchanging gifts at Christmas is a beautiful one. The first one to give a Christmas gift was God the Father, who so loved the world that He gave His only Son to all men on the first Christmas. As soon as Jesus was born He began to give His gifts of love, self-sacrifice and suffering, first to Mary and Joseph, then to the shepherds who, in their turn, gave what poor gifts they had to offer.

Tonight the divine Infant wants to give each of us gifts that will bring us happiness and contentment, the gift of peace, the gift of love, the gift of a better understanding of His gift of His life that we might have life, of His gift of the sacraments, especially of the sacrament which brings us God's forgiveness and peace of conscience, and of the sacrament of the Eucharist in which He takes up His dwelling within us, uniting us in the most intimate way to Him. He pleads with us, on this His birthday, opening His tiny arms in a most appealing way, that we welcome Him into our hearts. If we can do that, then we will have a happy and holy Christmas, and as He Himself would wish, a Christmas merry in God.

Bishop Francis V. Allen, Christmas 1971
AL SR13.20

Friday, 16 December 2016

The Archdiocese of Toronto: Celebrating 175 Years of Faithful Service

On Saturday, December 17, 2016, the Archdiocese of Toronto will reach 175 years of existence. This incredible milestone will be celebrated throughout the coming year. Read this media release for more information, and check the Archdiocese of Toronto website often for upcoming events.

The Diocese of Toronto was erected and its first bishop Michael Power was named by two briefs issued by Pope Gregory XVI on December 17, 1841.

Brief of Pope Gregory XVI to the Most Rev. Michael Power appointing him the bishop of the new See of Upper Canada.

P RC23.01
Bishop Power Fonds

Brief of Pope Gregory XVI erecting a new See in Upper Canada and allowing Michael Power to choose the episcopal city.

 P RC23.02
Bishop Power Fonds

In honour of this significant anniversary, we thought a compare-and-contrast exercise might be in order.

Popes Then and Now:
1841: Pope Gregory XVI

Painting by Paul Delaroche, 1843
via Wikimedia Commons  

Pope Francis Celebrates Concluding Mass in Philly, September 27, 2015

Photo by Jeffrey Bruno is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

(Arch)Diocesan Boundaries Then and Now:


Bishop Power described the original boundaries of the diocese in his first Pastoral Letter dated May 8, 1842. The full letter is posted on the Our Faith Alive blog.

"The Diocess [sic.] of Toronto comprehends all that part of the former Province of Upper Canada or diocess [sic.] of Kingston to the west of the district of Newcastle, following, from Lake Ontario, the line which separates the Newcastle district from the Home district to lake Muskogo and then drawing a line in a north westerly direction thro' the Muskogo and Moon rivers and lakes to the mouth of the more westerly branch of the Two rivers" which empties itself into the Grand or Ottawa River."

Bishop Power Fonds, P AA06.01

Upper Canada, 1838. The line between the Diocese of Kingston and the Diocese of Toronto followed the line between the Home District and Newcastle District.

From the Economic Atlas of Ontario, 1969
As posted by the Archives of Ontario


The Archdiocese of Toronto stretches from the shores of Lake Ontario north to Georgian Bay covering a total of around 13,000 square kilometres. The current boundaries include the City of Toronto, the regional municipalities of Peel, York and Durham, as well as Simcoe County, and a portion of Dufferin County.

From the Archdiocese of Toronto Website.

Stats Then and Now:


Catholic Population



Number of Parishes



Number of Priests



A lot has changed in 175 years. The boundaries of the Archdiocese have gotten considerably smaller, while the Catholic population has increased exponentially. Mass was originally said in one language (Latin), and now more than 30 languages are used at 1,000 Masses per week. From Muddy York to the GTA, from the Home District to the Golden Horseshoe and beyond, we've come a long way.

Happy Anniversary, Archdiocese of Toronto! We can only imagine what changes, challenges and triumphs you will witness over the next 175 years.

For further information and insights, please see the historical timeline of the Archdiocese of Toronto.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Advent 2016 Day of Confessions

During the week of December 11-17, Cardinal Collins invites you to the Advent 2016 Day of Confessions at your local parish. This day is an opportunity to become spiritually ready for Christmas.

We got to wondering, what did Dr. Butler have to say about confession? James Butler was Archbishop of Cashel in Ireland from 1774-1791. In 1775, he first published a Catechism which was adopted by other Irish bishops and priests. Butler's Catechism saw printings of many editions, and was widely used over the next century. The pocket-sized book used a question-and-answer format to provide simple information about Catholicism to children.

Here in the archives, we have Archbishop Lynch's copy of the 42nd edition.

"A Catechism for the Instruction of Children. By the Most Rev. Dr. Butler"

Butler's Catechism, Forty-Second Edition
ARCAT Rare Book Collection
RB 10

Dr. Butler tells us that Penance is "a sacrament by which the sins we fall into after baptism are forgiven us."

Butler's Catechism, Forty-Second Edition
ARCAT Rare Book Collection
RB 10

On the next page, we learn that contrition is "a hearty sorrow and detestation of sin above all things, because it displeases a God so good in himself, with a firm resolution of sinning no more, and doing all we can to satisfy for our sins, and to amend our lives."

Butler's Catechism, Forty-Second Edition
ARCAT Rare Book Collection
RB 10

The modern answers to these questions can be found on the Archdiocese of Toronto's confession website. Check it out for lots of great resources to help you prepare for your visit to the confessional, including dates and times to visit your local parish.