The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's was erected as a Vicariate Apostolic by Pope Pius VI on December 5, 1795. This new Vicariate was placed under the care of Reverend James O'Donel, O.F.M., who later became the first Bishop of Newfoundland. In June 1847, St. John's was established as a Diocese. Internal evidence suggests that the Reverend Michael Howley, the first native born Bishop of the Archdiocese was instrumental in laying the foundation of the Archdiocesan Archives. He was a renowned historian, writer, lecturer, poet and people's advocate who preserved not only his own papers, but the papers and documents of the earlier Catholic bishops in Newfoundland.
Mandates/Sources of authority
It is the responsibility of the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. John's under Canon Law (the law of the Church) to maintain a diocesan archives where documents concerning the spiritual and temporal affairs of this diocese are stored. The purpose for maintaining the archives is to centralize, organize, preserve, protect and make available the records and materials which pertain to the origin, history, spirit, and growth of the Archdiocese. Where applicable, Canon Law shall govern the maintenance, organization and preservation, or use of the Archdiocesan Archives. Where Canon Law does not apply approved policies set out in the Policies and Procedures manual adopted in April 1994 shall govern.