1- The first diocesan structures (1604-1817)
With the founding of Acadia and the arrival of the first acadian colonies in 1604, began the implementation of christianity in this small part of North America. In fact, history reveals that both a Catholic priest and a Protestant minister were part of the first expedition lead by DeMonts and Champlain.
In the beginning, the Maritimes answered to the French episcopate in matters of religious affairs but in 1658 Rome created an apostolic curacy with its seat in Quebec city and having jurisdiction over all French holdings in North America. Bishop François Montmorency-Laval was its titular.
With the rapid development of New France, the apostolic curacy became the Diocese of Quebec in 1674. For this reason, the Maritimes, including the territory known as ''Acadie'' would answer to the Diocese of Quebec until 1817. All nominations of missionaries for the Maritimes as well as any questions regarding religious affairs, were dealt with in Quebec. In 1685, Bishop Saint-Vallier, vicar general and bishop designate to sucede Bishop Laval, made a first episcopal visit to the Maritimes.
The first British settlers, consisting mainly of Irish and Scottish, arrived after the transfer of the Maritimes to the British in 1763. The Catholic church in the Maritimes thus became multicultural.
2- The apostolic curacy of Halifax and the suffragan bishopric of Charlottetown (1817-1819)
In 1817, Rome decided to create an apostolic curacy in Halifax and have it lead by Bishop Edmund Burke, a missionary of Irish descent. Two years later, in 1819, the Vatican created the suffragan bishopric of Charlottetown with a territory extending into New Brunswick as well as on Prince Edward Island. Father Angus McEachern, of Scottish descent, became its titular. Since he was a suffragan bishop, his titular answered to another diocese for certain religious and administrative questions, which is this case was the Diocese of Quebec.
3- The dioceses of Saint John and Chatham (1842-1860)
The Diocese of Charlottetown was no longer suffragan of the Diocese of Quebec and became autonomous in 1829. Later, in 1842, New Brunswick was no longer under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Charlottetown. The Holy See in Rome decided to create a diocese in New Brunswick with the bishop's seat in Fredericton as chosen by Father William Dollard, a priest of Irish descent who then became its titular. However, in 1853 the bishop's seat was transferred to Saint John and was designated as Bishopric of Saint John.
During the 1830s and 1840s, francophone priests working in the Maritimes had let it be known that it would be good that one of their own be named bishop for the region. In 1842, thirteen priests from New Brunswick met in Chatham to suggest the name of the person they felt most worthy to be named bishop for the Diocese of New Brunswick. Two names received the same number of votes: Father Antoine Gagnon and Father William Dollard. The chair cast the deciding vote in favour of Bishop Dollard.
In 1860 Rome created another diocese for New Brunswick in Chatham with a territory covering most of the East and North of the province. Bishop James Rogers, also of Irish descent, became its first titular.
4- Acadians want a bishop (1880-1912)
As early as 1880-1890 there is a movement in favor of having an Acadian bishop and also the creation of a diocese which would mainly be composed of Catholic francophones. Several presentations were made in the Maritimes, in Ottawa and even to the Vatican.
It is imperative to understand that the Acadians had started founding their own ''national'' institutions since the early 1860s. These included newspapers, colleges, representative institutions (the National Acadian Society founded in 1881) as well as symbols such as a national holiday (August 15th), a flag, a national anthem (Ave Maris Stella), and a slogan: ''Strength in numbers''. The Episcopal question was argued against this backdrop of national pride amongst Acadians.
In order to respond to this very legitimate request from the Acadians, Pope Pius X named Fr Édouard LeBlanc as Bishop of Saint John in 1912. Bishop LeBlanc became the first Acadian bishop for the Maritimes. Also, in 1920, Rome named another Acadian priest, Bishop Patrice-Alexandre Chiasson, as bishop of Chatham. The Diocese of Chatham had a majority of French parishioners on its territory which probably prompted this nomination.
5- The Archdiocese of Moncton (1936)
These nominations were enough to instigate bishops LeBlanc (Saint-Jean) and Chiasson (Chatham) to petition for the creation of a diocese in Moncton. Their argument was based on the constant growth of the Catholic population compared to the Protestants in the Diocese of Saint John.
Further, the bishops maintained that the creation of an archdiocese in Moncton would increase the prestige of Catholics in government circles and would favour a better school system since all are aware of the important role played by the Church in matters of education. Interestingly enough, both bishops never really mentioned the language issue.
On February 18, 1935, Bishop Édouard LeBlanc passed away in Saint John and in January 1936, Bishop O'Donnell of Halifax also passed away. These circumstances were conducive to a restructuring of the diocesan organisation by the Church of Rome.
On March 18, 1936, the Vatican announced the creation of the Archdiocese of Moncton and immediately nominated Bishop Patrice Bray, a Eudist priest of Irish descent to the the Diocese of Saint John.
On Sunday August 30, 1936, Bishop P.A. Bray came to Moncton to read the pontifical decree creating a new ecclesiastical province in New Brunswick as well as the new Archdiocese of Moncton. On December 1st of that year, Rome informed Bishop Arthur Melanson, an Acadian, that he would be the first Archbishop of Moncton.
The installation of the new archbishop was held in Moncton on February 22, 1937 in the basement of the Assumption church with fifteen bishops and archbishops attending as well as two hundred priests and a crowd of onlookers.
In 1986, while the Archdiocese of Moncton celebrated its 50th anniversary, there were 50 Catholic parishes led by Bishop Donat Chiasson, the third archbishop of Moncton.
6. the Coat of Arms of the new Archdiocese of Moncton:
The monogram M.A. with the star above and the crescent moon below represents the Blessed Virgin in her Assumption: Maria Assumpta; the patron of the archdiocese of Moncton. The moon serves are her pedestal, in accordance with Saint John's vision in Pathmos: "Mulier amieta sole et luna pedibus ejus" (Rev.XIl-1). The star recalls the next part of the text "et in capite ejus corona stellarum duodecim", the first verse of the liturgical hymn: "Ave Maris Stella".
The antique vessel that fills most of the of the lower half comes from the coat of arms of the province of New Brunswick, the province where the archdiocese is located.
The main masthead with its double crosses represents the metropolitan Church with its two suffragans, St. John and Chatham/Bathurst, represented by the two smaller mastheads located at the front and at the back of the vessel.
The white sail attached to the main masthead and swelled by the wind shows that it is from Rome. From the sovereign power handed over to the successors of Saint Peter and symbolized by the keys, that the new Church received its order to daringly set to sea, the "due in altum" that is at the origin of all the miraculous catches and of all the developments God wants in the Christian society. On the sides of the vessel is a row of seven oars. The number seven represents the seven sacraments, the channels of grace, with which the soul of the christian navigates without danger through the dangerous wordly sea.
The golden dove with its seven rays reminds us that the Holy Spirit watches over the Church, inspires and guides Her with his gifts.
The arms are topped with the archepiscopal cross accompanied by a mitre and staff. At the bottom, two palm branches. The crest is topped with the archepiscopal hat.
The motto Ut videntes Jesum means "As if we could see Jesus!"