On February 29th the Diocese of Hamilton will celebrate its 160th Anniversary! The Diocese was established in 1856 by Pope Pius IX as a division of the Archdiocese of Toronto, in order to meet the needs of a rapidly growing Catholic community in Ontario. The Diocese of Hamilton has flourished through the leadership of its Bishops and the faith of its clergy, religious communities, and dedicated parishioners.
The Bishop Farrell Archives maintains documents of historical significance to the history of the Diocese of Hamilton. Included in our collection is the papal bull for the establishment of the diocese. This is the letter, issued by Pope Pius IX, validating the foundation of the diocese and outlining the physical boundaries of its jurisdiction. Another important letter in our collection is the papal bull announcing the appointment of Most Reverend John Farrell, as the first bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton. Both documents will be on display at the Mass celebrating the 160th anniversary of the diocese.
The Mass, at which we will welcome His Grace, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, the Apostolic Nunzio to Canada, will be held at 11:00 a.m. on February 28th at the Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King.
Papal Bull Founding of the Diocese of Hamilton, February 29, 1856
The boundaries of the diocese are outlined as including: Wentworth, Haldimand, Brant, Halton, Waterloo, Wellington, Grey, Bruce, Manitoulin Island, the mission of Sault St. Marie, the missions of Lake Superior, and as far north as Bytown (Ottawa, Ontario) and St. Boniface (Winnipeg, Manitoba), with the See of the diocese fixed in the City of Hamilton.
Papal Bull Appointment of Bishop John Farrell, February 29, 1856
In this letter, Bishop Farrell announces to the people of the Diocese of Hamilton that, by papal dictate, the See of this diocese will be fixed in the City of Hamilton. He then urges all to support each other in charity and holy devotion. Lastly, he sets out four decrees for the functioning of the diocese; the first being the patronage of the diocese under the Virgin Mary.
(Bishop Farrell's Pastoral Letter from May 1856 is currently on display in the Bishop Farrell Library & Archives)
The Rev. Clergy of the Diocese of Hamilton, 1894
Bishop John Farrell was the first bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton, installed on May 24, 1856 in Hamilton’s St. Mary’s Church. There were estimated to be 28,000 Catholics in the region, with 9 parishes and 16 missions. There were only 4 priests and 3 Sisters of St. Joseph to help with this ministry.
Bishop Joseph Ryan was the bishop, the sixth for the Diocese of Hamilton. He was installed on October 19, 1937. Bishop Ryan was a “true son” of the diocese, having been born and educated in the Diocese of Hamilton. The diocese was comprised of 86 parishes, 28 missions, and 112,000 Catholics. There were 223 active priests, 9 religious congregations of men, and 10 religious congregations of women.
Bishop Douglas Crosby is the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton, having been installed on November 8, 2010. The Hamilton Diocese has grown to become the second largest English-speaking Roman Catholic Diocese in Canada. There are currently 124 parishes, 22 missions, and over 600,000 Catholics. We have 151 active priests, 13 religious congregations of men, and 13 religious congregations of women. There are 39 permanent deacons in the diocese.
Throughout the years, the Diocese of Hamilton has celebrated its anniversaries through special events, publications, and videos. Below are three histories of the Diocese of Hamilton, published for anniversary celebrations.
50th Anniversary of the Diocese of Hamilton
Illustrated History of the Diocese of Hamilton, 1906 (missing pages 47-48)
100th Anniversary of the Diocese of Hamilton
The Canadian Register – Hamilton Diocesan Centennial Edition 1856 – 1956
150th Anniversary of the Diocese of Hamilton
150 Years: Diocese of Hamilton 1856 – 2006, Produced by Frank Lilliman
(Both the Illustrated History of the Diocese of Hamilton and the Canadian Register - Hamilton Diocesan Centennial Edition are currently on display in the Bishop Farrell Library & Archives. The DVD 150 Years: Diocese of Hamilton 1856 - 2006 is available for loan through the Library)
The Diocese of Hamilton and the Diocese of London were founded as divisions of the Archdiocese of Toronto. In a letter dated June 3, 1854, the Bishops of Quebec petitioned Rome, seeking creation of these two new dioceses. The second Bishop of Toronto, Right Reverend Armand de Charbonnel, found the task of administering to his large diocese a considerable burden and felt that the best interests of the Catholics under his care were not being met. This appeal was met on February 29, 1856 by Pope Pius IX.
Letter requesting two new dioceses, in London and Hamilton, be separated from the Diocese of Toronto. The large population in the province and the growth in Niagara, which necessitated an unachievable level of pastoral care, are given as reasons for this appeal. A description of the territories that each new diocese would encompass is then provided. The Bishops of Quebec offer Rev. John Farrell as candidate for the episcopacy of the Diocese of Hamilton and Rev. Adolphus Pinsonneault as the candidate for the Diocese of London.
A notation is written below the letter, stating that the petition for the establishment of the dioceses of London and Hamilton, with everything duly noted, was accepted by Rome. Signed and dated: J.F. Cardinal Franzoni, Prefect, July 7, 1855. (His Eminence Cardinal Franzoni was the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of Faith)
(The ledger containing the correspondence petitioning Rome for the dioceses of London and Hamilton is currently on display in the Bishop Farrell Library & Archives)
The 160th Anniversary Mass will be held at 11:00 a.m. on February 28th at the Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King, at which we will welcome His Grace, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, the Apostolic Nunzio.