History of the Archdiocese

Part I

The Catholic Church in Manitoba to 1916

The history of the Catholic parishes of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg goes back to at least the 1820s, when the first chapel was built in what became St. François Xavier. By 1916, the region that became the Archdiocese of Winnipeg included 39 parishes as well as over 30 missions. There were also several Catholic hospitals, schools, and communities of religious already established.

Part II

Events Leading to the Formation of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg

In the 1890s and onward, the Catholic population of Southern Manitoba began to increase and diversify. The number of Catholic parishes serving ethnic communities who did not speak French increased in proportion, and some of the English-speaking Catholics in Winnipeg petitioned the Archbishop of St. Boniface for additional parishes with Irish or English priests, an English-language Catholic college, and a primarily English-speaking suffragan bishop. While the first two items were considered, the third was refused.

Part III

Formation of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg

Amidst language and culture politics that were affecting the Canadian population as a whole, a 1906 petition regarding the requests of the English-speaking Catholics was sent to the Vatican. Eventually, after boundary considerations were assessed, on 4 December 1915 the Archdiocese of Winnipeg was erected. Rather than being set up as a suffragan diocese, it became an Archdiocese immediately subject to the Holy See.

Part IV

The Archdiocese of Winnipeg, 1916-1952

Archbishop Alfred A. Sinnott, D.D. was named the first Archbishop of Winnipeg, and was installed on 24 December 1916. He selected St. Mary’s parish as the Cathedral and consecrated it as such in December 1918. Archbishop Sinnott worked actively to expand the services of the Archdiocese, and during his time as Archbishop one college, 90 churches, 7 hospitals, and 3 orphanages were founded.
In 1944, Most Reverend Gerald Murray, C.Ss.R, D.D., then bishop of Saskatoon, was appointed as Sinnott’s coadjutor bishop. However, Archbishop Sinnott did not wish to step back from leading the Archdiocese independently. As a result, Bishop Murray worked out of St. Ignatius Church until his death in 1951. Archbishop Sinnott resigned in 1952 and passed away in 1954.

Part V

The Archdiocese of Winnipeg, 1952-2000

Most Reverend Philip Pocock, D.D. was appointed as the second coadjutor bishop in 1951, and became the Second Archbishop of Winnipeg in 1952. After Archbishop Pocock was appointed Archbishop of Toronto in 1961, Most Reverend George Flahiff, C.S.B., D.D, became Archbishop of Winnipeg. Involved in all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Flahiff worked to establish the changes of Vatican II within the Archdiocese. He oversaw the 50th anniversary of the Archdiocese in 1965 and became Western Canada’s first Cardinal in 1969. Upon his retirement in 1982, Most Reverend Adam J. Exner, O.M.I., D.D. was appointed as the fourth Archbishop of Winnipeg after having served as Bishop of Kamloops. After Archbishop Exner’s appointment to become Archbishop of Vancouver in 1991, the Most Reverend Leonard James Wall, S.T.D., D.D. (formerly Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto) became Archbishop of Winnipeg from 1992 until his retirement in 2000.

Part VI

The Archdiocese of Winnipeg, 2000-2014

During the Jubilee year in 2000, the people of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg welcomed their sixth Archbishop, the Most Reverend V. James Weisgerber, Ph.L., S.T.L., D.D., who had previously served as Bishop of Saskatoon. His time as Archbishop included the beginning of the work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, following the signing of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement which had a profound impact on various Christian denominations and Indigenous nations across Canada. In 2009 Archbishop Weisgerber, then president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, joined with Chief Phil Fontaine, then National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, to lead a delegation of indigenous as well as Catholic church delegates to Rome to meet with Pope Benedict. Archbishop Weisgerber retired as Archbishop in 2013, which was followed by the appointment of Most Reverend Archbishop Richard Joseph Gagnon as the seventh Archbishop of Winnipeg, installed in January 2014 after having served as Bishop of Victoria.