Joseph MacNeil was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, on April 15, 1924, the eldest of three children. He studied at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1944 before deciding to enter the Halifax diocesan seminary.He was ordained as a priest on May 23, 1948, and spent the next seven years serving as assistant pastor in three Nova Scotia parishes. MacNeil went on to obtain a Doctorate of Canon Law (J.C.D.) from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome and in 1959 was named administrator of the Diocese of Antigonish following the death of the bishop. He then served a short time as pastor of St. Ninian's Cathedral in Antigonish before being asked to to direct the Extension Department at his alma mater, St. Francis Xavier University, a position he held for nine years. He was appointed Bishop of Saint John in 1969 and installed on July 16 at the age of 45. On September 5, 1973, Joseph N. MacNeil was installed as the fifth Archbishop of Edmonton, and served in that ministry until his retirement in 1999. Along the way, MacNeil has pursued graduate studies in economics at the University of Chicago and received Honorary Doctorates of Law from St. Francis Xavier University (1978), St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick (1980), and the University of Alberta, Edmonton (1982).
Archbishop's Coat of Arms
Heraldry originated about a thousand years ago in Europe, where it was used by the warrior classes as a means of differentiating combatants on the field of battle. As Europe developed and the feudal warrior class disappeared, the practice of identifying one's possessions with personal emblems flourished. Ecclesiastical heraldry grew out of this practice, initially to differentiate between the various degrees of the clerical estate. The Pope and most bishops adopt a personal coat of arms, which today is used primarily to identify communications from their particular office.
“Crescamus In Christum” is expressed in symbols of his crest drawn from the Highland Scottish heraldries of MacNeil and MacLean. As in the heraldic use of the cross-crosslet, the galley, the eagle, the quarters of the shields and crest of the arms, Christ in His Cross has come, founded on the Rock, in and from created nature, into humanity, in the flow of creation, in and under the Holy Spirit, growing and drawing all into the Divine Plan for all nature: the air, the sea, the land and man into Christ.
Crescamus In Christum-(Let us grow into Christ)
Taken from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (Ch. 4:16), where an exhortation for unity takes place.