Most Reverend Bernard J. McLaughlin was born in North Tonawanda on November 19, 1912. He was the son of the late Michael Henry McLaughlin and Mary Agnes Curran McLaughlin. He was baptized in Ascension Church in North Tonawanda.
The McLaughlin family later moved to Visitation Parish in Buffalo where attended the parish school. In 1925, he entered the Diocesan Preparatory Seminary, and was a member of the first graduation class. Five years later he matriculated at the Urban College for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome. He was ordained a priest in St. John Lateran Basilica, Vatican City, on December 21, 1935. The Bishop continued his studies in Rome for another six months before returning to Buffalo.
On August 14, 1936, he was named as assistant at St. Joseph New Cathedral, where he remained until June 1942, when he was appointed secretary of the diocesan Tribunal, the start of 46 years of service in diocesan administration. On May 31, 1946, the future bishop was appointed assistant chancellor and soon after became vice chancellor. He became chancellor of the diocese on December 16, 1953.
In November 1950, he was selected to establish the new parish of Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Buffalo’s West Side. While still continuing his duties at the Chancery, he was transferred from Coronation to the pastorate of Blessed Sacrament Parish, Kenmore, in June 1961. In 1972, he was named pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Kenmore.
Bishop McLaughlin received several honors from the Vatican. On April 6, 1950, Pope Pius XII made him a Private Chamberlain with the title of Very Reverend Monsignor. Three years later he was raised to the rank of Domestic Prelate with the title of Right Reverend Monsignor. On December 4, 1967, Pope Paul made him a Prothonotary Apostolic. In addition to his work as chancellor, Bishop McLaughlin was been a member of the board of diocesan Consultors and a vicar general.
He also served as an advocate of the diocesan Tribunal; professor of Labor Ethics at the Diocesan Labor Management College, and founder of several parish Labor schools. He also served as chaplain of the Catholic Guild for the Blind, and was a secretary of the Diocesan Synod.
On September 14, 1968, he was made a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City by Archbishop Terence Cooke.
On January 6, 1969, accompanied by Buffalo’s auxiliary bishop, Bishop Pius A. Benincasa, Bishop McLaughlin was elevated to the episcopacy in ceremonies in St. Peter’s Basilica, mother church of Christendom. Pope Paul VI added a new distinction when he invited the bishop-elect to Rome. This was the first time that a diocesan priest from Buffalo was ordained a bishop by a pope. He was given the title of Titular Bishop of Mottola.
Pope John Paul II accepted Bishop McLaughlin’s letter of retirement on January 15, 1988. Church law requires bishops to submit their letters of retirement from administration on their 75th birthday. When his retirement was accepted, he became Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Buffalo.
During his retirement years, Bishop McLaughlin continued to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation, and also represented the diocese at various functions.