Most Reverend Charles Leo Nelligan, D.D.


Born: August 20, 1894
June 7, 1925
Nominated Bishop of Pembroke: August 16, 1937
Consecrated: October 28, 1937
Named Military Ordinary Canadian Armed Forces: September 20, 1939
Retired: May 18, 1945
Died Bishop Emeritus of Pembroke: March 31, 1974

Most Reverened Charles Nelligan was born at Tignish, PEI, August 20, 1894. He was schooled at Wales College and the Normal School in Charlottetown. He taught school in PEI and for a time in Saskatchewan. During World War I, he had a part in military life as an instructor in musketry. After he received his BA at St. Dunstan’s University, Charlottetown, he entered the Grand Séminaire de Québec in 1921 and was ordained a priest on June 7, 1925. Archbishop Henry O’Leary of Edmonton, who was the previous Bishop of Charlottetown, attracted a number of young priests to go west to work in a diocese that was short of vocations. Father Nelligan became assistant at St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Edmonton, in 1925, Rector of the Cathedral in 1928, and Vicar General of the Diocese in 1930.

He was appointed Bishop of Pembroke August 16, 1937, and was consecrated bishop in Edmonton on October 28, 1937 by Archbishop O’Leary. He was installed as third Bishop of Pembroke on November 11, 1937. Following in the footsteps of Bishop Ryan, he urged the continuance of the Forty Hours Devotion and the use of the best methods of catechetical instruction. He was a frequent visitor of classrooms in the diocese, making the students think about their religion and entertaining the children by his stories and jokes that nevertheless conveyed and important point.

On October 2, 1939, after the outbreak of World War II, Bishop Nelligan was appointed Chaplain General of the Canadian Armed Forces by Pope Piux XII. As Chaplain General, he held the rank of Brigadier General. He continued the dual role in the Forces and as Bishop of Pembroke until August 10, 1944. Monsignor Clark, his secretary, related how hectic these years were, with much travelling from place to place and lack of proper rest. On account of illness, he retired from the Armed Forces, and on May 8, 1945, he resigned as Bishop of Pembroke. He was then appointed Titular Bishop of Fenice. After his health returned, Bishop Nelligan joined the faculty of Assumption College (now University of Windsor) in January 1947, lecturing in religion, French literature, and history.

In 1962, he relinquished his professional duties to attend the Second Vatican Council. Following the Council, he was active in assisting the bishops of London and Detroit in celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation and delivering numerous addresses, a gift for which he received international acclaim during his professional life.

He died in Windsor on March 31, 1974. A concelebrated Funeral Mass was offered in Windsor by Most Reverend G. Emmett Carter, Bishop of London, as principal celebrant. Most Reverend J.R. Windle, Bishop of Pembroke, was one of the concelebrants and delivered the homily. The burial was in Windsor.

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