Monday, May 11, 2009

A Day Off; Mgr Joseph Thomas Duhamel (1841-1909)

Today was my day off, so I slept in a little, tidied my room a bit, and prepared for some forthcoming talks (such as a homily for the Mass on the day of the March for Life) and events (the centennial of the death of the First Archbishop of Ottawa, Mgr Joseph Thomas Duhamel--see below).


The mother of Fr. Darryl Kennedy, parish priest of St. Margaret Mary Parish, Cumberland and St. Edith Stein Parish, Rockland, who usually celebrates the 12:15 Mass on Mondays at the cathedral, passed away this morning, so I offered the Rector, Msgr. Pat Powers to preside in his stead. A quiet low-key celebration for about 50 of the faithful.

An extraordinary faith leader

This year marks the centennial of the death of the first Archbishop of Ottawa, Joseph Thomas Duhamel who was born in Contrecoeur, QC (near Sorel) on November 6, 1841. With his family he moved to Bytown (later Ottawa) as a child.

Beginning in 1847, the year St. Joseph's College opened under the Oblate Fathers, young Thomas began his studies there (elementary, classical and theological), completing his preparation for priesthood in 1863 and being ordained on December 19th of that year.

Father Duhamel served for a year as curate in Buckingham before becoming pastor of St. Eugene de Prescott on the eastern edge of the diocese for ten years. After the death of Bishop Joseph-Eugene-Bruno Guigues, O.M.I. (1805-1874) in February 1874, Duhamel, though only 33 years old, was named to succeed him. In some ways he had been prepared for the office. For in 1869, he had accompanied Bishop Guigues to the First Vatican Council and served as one of his theological advisor at the Provincial Council of Quebec in 1873.

Duhamel's ministry as bishop and, from June 6, 1886 when Ottawa became an Archdiocese, as archbishop would last close to thirty-five years. He died suddenly of a heart attack on June 5, 1909 during a pastoral visitation of the parish at Casselman (Paroisse Sainte-Euphemie).

When Duhamel began as bishop, Ottawa had 60 parishes, 80 priests and about 100,000 faithful. Though the diocese was twice reduced in size by creation of the Vicariate of Pontiac (now the Pembroke Diocese) in 1882 and of the Vicariate of Haileybury (now the Diocese of Timmins) in 1908, at his death parishes numbered 136, priests 250 and the faithful more than 100,000.

Archbishop Duhamel presided over an extraordinary growth of the church, defended the rights of Catholics to education in their language, and, fluently bilingual, was well-regarded by both Irish and French communities.

Guided by supernatural principles and faithful to Rome, he was a man of humility and affable, taking advice readily. He maintained good relations with governmental and church leaders and was esteemed by his people.

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.



  1. It's very nice and grateful to see this blog and read a little about Mgr. Joseph Thomas Duhamel. He was the foundator of Confaternity of Mary Queen of All Hearts. This confraternity has spread in all over the world, including in my country, Indonesia. Here we have almost 200 members since it started in 2004 in Flores. On the commemoration of his death, June 6 this year, we celebrated mass for the repose of his soul. May this faithful Servant of Christ and His Mother be rest in peace. GOD BLESS!

    1. Dr. Paula duHamel Yellow HornNovember 11, 2013 at 6:05 PM

      Wow, thats my great Uncle you speak of... bless you Indonesia Dr. Paula duHamel Yellow Horn