Joseph Thomas McGucken

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The Most Reverend

Joseph Thomas McGucken
Archbishop emeritus of San Francisco
Joseph Thomas McGucken.jpg
McGucken, 1964.
SeeSan Francisco
AppointedFebruary 19, 1962
InstalledApril 3, 1962
Term endedFebruary 16, 1977
PredecessorJohn Joseph Mitty
SuccessorJohn R. Quinn
OrdinationJanuary 15, 1928
ConsecrationMarch 19, 1941
Personal details
Born(1902-03-13)March 13, 1902
Los Angeles, California, United States
DiedOctober 6, 1983(1983-10-06) (aged 81)
San Francisco, California, United States
DenominationRoman Catholic Church
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Joseph Thomas McGucken (March 13, 1902 – October 6, 1983) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Sacramento (1957–62) and Archbishop of San Francisco (1962–77).


Joseph McGucken was born in Los Angeles, California, to Joseph A. and Mary Agnes (née Flynn) McGucken.[1] He attended Polytechnic High School in his native city. He studied engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles for two years before beginning his studies for the priesthood at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park.[2] He continued his studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, from where he obtained a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1928.[1] While in Rome, he was ordained a priest on January 15, 1928.[3]

Following his return to Los Angeles, he served as secretary to Archbishop John Joseph Cantwell from 1929 to 1938.[1] He was named a papal chamberlain by Pope Pius XI in 1937, and served as chancellor of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from 1938 to 1948.[1] He was raised by Pope Pius XII to the rank of domestic prelate in 1939.[1] On February 4, 1941, McGucken was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and Titular Bishop of Sanavus by Pope Pius XII.[3] He received his episcopal consecration on the following March 19 from Archbishop Cantwell, with Bishops Daniel James Gercke and Philip George Scher serving as co-consecrators.[3] In addition to his episcopal duties, he served as pastor at St. Andrew's Church in Pasadena (1944–55) and vicar general of the archdiocese (1948–55).[1]

After 27 years as a priest and bishop in Los Angeles, he was transferred by Pope Pius XII to Sacramento, California in October 1955 to serve as Coadjutor Bishop of Sacramento. The St. Andrew's parish gave Bishop McGucken a gala farewell celebration at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, with a performance by Dennis Day, several choirs, and an Army color guard.[4] Bishop of Sacramento Robert John Armstrong died January 14, 1957. Pope Pius XII appointed Joseph T. McGucken Bishop of Sacramento. His episcopate in Sacramento lasted until 1962, and in his five years as Bishop, he authorized, built or approved for development nine parishes, three high schools, 33 new church buildings and one minor seminary.[5]

After the 1961 death of Archbishop John J. Mitty, Pope John XXIII divided the Archdiocese of San Francisco and in early 1962 created the suffragan sees of Oakland, Stockton and Santa Rosa.

McGucken's former classmate (from the Pontifical North American College) Floyd Lawrence Begin, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio, was named, by Pope John XXIII, the first bishop of Oakland. Auxiliary bishop of San Francisco Hugh A. Donohoe was appointed, by John XXIII, first Bishop of Stockton. The Chancellor of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Monsignor Leo T. Maher, was elevated to episcopal rank by John XXIII and appointed the first bishop of Santa Rosa.

In February 1962, McGucken was appointed Archbishop of San Francisco; he was installed on April 3, 1962. He served 15 years as the Archbishop of San Francisco, retiring in 1977. During his first year as Archbishop, the existing St. Mary's Cathedral, built in 1891, was destroyed by fire. Archbishop McGucken gathered his consultors to begin the process of planning and constructing a new cathedral.

Architectural critic Allan Temko advocated a bold, new cathedral that would reflect San Francisco's status as a major international urban center. Archbishop McGucken added two internationally known architects to his team, Italian-born Pietro Belluschi, Dean of the School of Architecture of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was placed in charge of designs, and Pier Luigi Nervi, an engineering genius from Rome, who took over structural concerns. Archbishop McGucken was in Rome for the Second Vatican Council while the new cathedral was designed.

The strikingly modern design which was presented was met with high praise and has been called the "first cathedral truly of our time and in harmony with the liturgical reforms of the Council."[6]

McGucken's vault at Holy Cross

In 1966, McGucken publicly voiced his support for the efforts of Cesar Chávez to organize farmworkers in California's vineyards, leading one vineyard spokesman to warn that "the Church leaders had better start looking for other financial means to carry out their radical theories."[7]

McGucken retired in 1977 and assumed the title of Archbishop Emeritus and died in October 1983. He is buried in the Archbishops' Crypt at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.

Clashes with Fr Eugene Boyle[edit]

Father Eugene Boyle was a priest directly under McGucken's authority in San Francisco during McGurken's administration as Archbishop. While not antagonistic to Boyle (in fact the two always remained respectful of each other), Boyle and McGucken did clash over a number of issues. Boyle was an explicitly progressive priest during the 1960s and 1970s, spurred on by the developments of the Second Vatican Council. Boyle campaigned on behalf of San Francisco's African American community as well as engaging with the Civil Rights Movement and supporting left-wing political movements in California such as the United Farm Workers and The Black Panther Party. McGurken did not oppose the right for priests such as Boyle to do this, however when Boyle was involved in a number of controversies and conservative sections of the Californian public pushed back against Boyle, McGurken tried to ere on the side of caution and sided against Boyle. The back and forth between Boyle and McGucken would dominate much of McGucken's run as Archbishop of San Francisco.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Curtis, Georgina Pell (1961). The American Catholic Who's Who. XIV. Grosse Pointe, Michigan: Walter Romig.
  2. ^ "J.T. McGucken Dies; Was Coast Archbishop". The New York Times. 1983-10-28.
  3. ^ a b c "Archbishop Joseph Thomas McGucken". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  4. ^ "Public Farewell Reception Scheduled for Bishop McGucken in Pasadena". Los Angeles Times. 1955-11-25.
  5. ^ "The Diocese of Sacramento enjoys a rich history". Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramenton.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-03-20. Retrieved 2005-03-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Victory in the Vineyards". Time. 1966-04-15.

External links[edit]

Episcopal succession[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
John Joseph Mitty
Archbishop of San Francisco
Succeeded by
John R. Quinn
Preceded by
Robert John Armstrong
Bishop of Sacramento
Succeeded by
Alden John Bell