Lynch, John Joseph (1816–88), catholic archbishop of Toronto, was born 6 February 1816 in Annynonum, in the Fermanagh part of Clones parish, son of schoolmaster James Lynch and Ann Lynch (née Connolly). He received his primary education at a school privately run by a TCD graduate in Lucan, Co. Dublin, and then attended the Academy of St Joseph in Clondalkin where he helped educate the younger students, an experience that encouraged him to consider a vocation.
In 1835, he was the first student to sleep in the newly opened Vincentian (or Lazarist) St Vincent's College in Castleknock. He continued his tradition of firsts on becoming the first postulant from Castleknock College to enter the Lazarist seminary of Saint-Lazare in Paris (1839); he took his vows in 1841 for the Congregation of the Priests of the Mission (Vincentians). Returning to Ireland in 1842, he became dean of discipline at Castleknock College until 1843, the year he was ordained a priest in Maynooth by Archbishop Daniel Murray (qv) of Dublin. He remained in various missionary capacities in Ireland until his wish to join the North American mission was fulfilled, and he was sent to Texas as a ‘saddlebag missionary’ in 1846 to minister to soldiers returning from the Mexican War. On contracting malaria, he was assigned to a Lazarist institution, St Mary of the Barrens, in Perryville, Missouri, to convalesce. There, he was appointed rector of the seminary (1849–56). In 1857, Bishop John Timon of Buffalo, a fellow Vincentian, invited Lynch to establish a seminary in the diocese. Lynch founded the Lazarist seminary of Our Lady of the Angels (later Niagara University) at Niagara Falls, New York and developed a reputation as an effective administrator and a priest of great charity.
His success in building the seminary brought him to the attention of the hierarchy, and he was consecrated coadjutor bishop of Toronto at St Michael's Cathedral on 20 November 1859; he succeeded Comte Armand de Charbonnel as bishop on 26 April 1860. In 1862, he was appointed prelate assistant to the papal throne. While Lynch was attending the Vatican Council in Rome in spring 1870, Pope Pius IX appointed him the first archbishop of Toronto (15 March 1870). He was installed on 11 September 1870.
During his tenure in Toronto, Lynch focused on increasing parochial education and on charitable institutions. To help administer these services, Lynch brought the Redemptorist fathers, the Carmelite sisters, the Sisters of the Precious Blood and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd to Toronto. Concerned with the reception and adjustment of Irish catholic immigrant labourers to Toronto, a city in the heartland of Canada's Orange order, Lynch had to work for their welfare in a hostile environment complicated by periodic economic depression. He encouraged temperance among the Irish in his diocese. A conservative whose theology was formed by the devotional revolution, Lynch insisted on clerical discipline: the enforcement of church regulations, temperance, financial probity and obedience from the laity as well as from the clergy. He was particularly concerned about any behaviour, such as boisterous conduct at wakes and funerals, that would elicit criticism from the city's other denominations. Frequently challenged by Toronto protestants, Lynch wrote Questions and objections concerning catholic doctrine and practice: answered by John Joseph Lynch, archbishop of Toronto (1877) to explain and defend the catholic church, and regularly gave Sunday night lectures at the cathedral that were well attended by protestants as well as the city's catholic community.
Lynch supported Irish home rule but opposed physical force nationalism. When Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa (qv) visited Toronto on St Patrick's Day 1878, Lynch barred him from entering the cathedral. Lynch, like his fellow bishops in Boston and New York, was drawn into controversies over a separate catholic school system, but in Lynch's case his adversaries, in the last decade of his life, were members of Toronto's catholic laity seeking greater autonomy in secular affairs.
When Lynch returned to Ireland in 1879 to preside at the consecration of the Castleknock College chapel, he took the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Knock, Co. Mayo, and claimed that his gout was cured by the application of plaster from the wall of the Knock shrine. Despite failing health, Lynch remained as archbishop until his death in Toronto on 12 May 1888. He is buried in the garden of St Michael's Cathedral. His papers are held in the archives of the archdiocese of Toronto.