History of the Diocese of Hamilton:  War Years


Bishop Ryan High School
Bishop Ryan, Mayor Lloyd Jackson, and T.J. McKenna at the Ground-Breaking of Bishop Ryan High School

During the First World War (1914 to 1918) and the Second World War (1939 to 1945) our people volunteered in large numbers for the military and our priests served as chaplains. After both wars there was extensive suburban expansion around the big cities. Many new churches were built. Their architectural style differed substantially from that of the traditional 19th century Gothic structures.

Of particular importance to the diocese, during the post-Second-World War era was the episcopacy of Bishop Joseph Francis Ryan. A true native son, he was the bishop of Hamilton from 1937 to 1973. During the 1950s and 1960s there was a major influx of immigrants from war-devastated Europe and a very high birth rate from Canada. Bishop Ryan opened more than 50 new parishes, thus doubling their existing number. Bishop Ryan was also very influential in the expansion of the new school systems both on the practical front of assisting in the building of many new schools and also on the political front, in obtaining more rights and funding for Catholic education, at all levels, from the Ontario government. Many new religious orders also entered the diocese during this same period, a time of exceptionally numerous vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Devoted to the contemplative life were the Precious Blood Sisters who established a presence in Hamilton in 1946, followed by the Carmelite Sisters in Kitchener in 1952. Many religious communities came to work specifically with the poor and downtrodden such as the Sisters of Social Service and the Brothers of the Good Shepherd.

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