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James Charles McGuigan

James Charles McGuigan

Catholic cardinal
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Catholic cardinal
Countries Canada
Occupations Catholic priest
Gender male
Birth November 26, 1894 (Hunter River, Prince Edward Island, Queens County, Prince Edward Island, Canada)
Death April 8, 1974 (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
Education Laval University, The Catholic University of America
The details

James Charles McGuigan (November 26, 1894 – April 8, 1974) was a Canadian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Toronto from 1934 to 1971, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1946 by Pope Pius XII.


James Charles McGuigan was born in Hunter River, Prince Edward Island, to George Hugh McGuigan and his wife Anne Monaghan. Baptized by Fr. Ronald MacDonald, he received his first Communion from Msgr. Jean Chaisson and his confirmation from Bishop James Charles McDonald. After attending Prince of Wales College and Saint Dunstan's University (where he obtained the Governor General's Academic Medal) in Charlottetown, McGuigan studied at Laval University (receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1914) and the Grand Seminary (earning doctorates in philosophy and theology in 1918) in Quebec City.

McGuigan was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Louis James O'Leary on May 26, 1918, and then taught at St. Dunstan's University for a year before serving as private secretary to Bishop Henry Joseph O'Leary until 1922, when he was named diocesan chancellor of Edmonton. Becoming vicar general of the same in 1923, McGuigan was named rector of St. Joseph's Cathedral in 1924. He took a post-graduate course in 1927 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., from where he obtained his doctorate in canon law. He was raised to the rank of a Protonotary Apostolic on September 13, 1927, and later made the rector of the newly established St. Joseph's Seminary that same year.

On January 30, 1930, he was appointed Archbishop of Regina by Pope Pius XI. At age 35, McGuigan was the youngest archbishop in the Church. He received his episcopal consecration on the following May 15 from Archbishop Henry O'Leary, with Archbishop Arthur Béliveau and Bishop John Kidd serving as co-consecrators, in St. Joseph's Cathedral.

He was later named Archbishop of Toronto on December 22, 1934, and was created Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria del Popolo by Pope Pius XII in the consistory of February 18, 1946. He thus became the first English-speaking cardinal from Canada. As Toronto's archbishop, McGuigan reduced the overall debt of the diocese and was also responsible for creating the Diocese of St. Catharines.

After participating in the 1958 papal conclave, the Cardinal's heavy workload took a toll on his health and he was forced to pass on some of his duties to his coadjutor, Philip Francis Pocock, in 1961. He attended the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965, and suffered a severe stroke there. McGuigan served as a cardinal elector in the conclave of 1963, and finally retired as Archbishop of Toronto on March 30, 1971, after a period of thirty-six years.

He died from a heart attack in Toronto, at age 79. He is buried in the priests' plot at St. Augustine's Seminary.


  • At only five years old, he decided to become a priest, telling his mother, "When I get big I shall preach big".
  • McGuigan held western Canada's first regional Eucharistic Congress, promoted the Catholic youth movement, and founded the Catholic Federated Charities.
  • He received an honorary doctorate in letters from Niagara University (1942), the University of Toronto (1948), and Dalhousie University (1952).
  • James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School in North York, Toronto is named in his honour
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