Father Silvan Latour, C.P., St. Paul of the Cross Province (1891-1933)

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Born Augustine Latour on May 9, 1891 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was the son of Augustine and Catherine Holl. After attending local grammar schools, Father Latour began to work for a printing establishment. After some time Father Latour decided to enter the Passionists. He went to the Passionist Preparatory Seminary in August 1910 which was then at St. Mary’s Monastery, Dunkirk, New York. From there he went to novitiate in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He professed his vows on May 26, 1912. Gifted, he went through theological studies but it became apparent that he was plagued by increasing deafness.

Ordained on December 18, 1920, Father Latour, due to the deafness was assigned, much to his personal sadness, to the staff of the newly established Sign Magazine. Latour, along with Passionist Fathers Theodore Noonan, Matthais Mayou, Harold Purcell, and Cuthbert O’Gara were members of the original staff. The magazine offices were located in the workman’s house on the St. Michael’s Monastery, West Hoboken, New Jersey. Eventually this became known as the Hotel DeGink. In those first years the wrapping of the magazine was done by the Passionist seminarian students in the basement of St. Michael’s Monastery.

Father Latour grew in his responsibilities along with Sign’s success. He became business manager and mission procurator for the newly established Passionist mission to China. Father Latour’s attention to business was a key point in the early development of the monthly periodical. Each day, often at the expense of his own diet and sleep, he brought his zeal to the office of Sign Magazine. He had a good rapport with employees.

Father Latour raised thousands of dollars for the China missions. He became known for his “Penny-a-Day-Beggar” request which asked for mission donation for each day of Advent and Lent. He fostered “Gemma’s League of Prayer” which was an association of those who would carry out a systematic campaign of united prayer to ask for blessings upon their members and, in particular, prayers for the conversion of China and the success of the Passionist missionaries there. He also promoted the Passionist Associates. This society obtained the spiritual benefits of the Congregation as a result of their donations to the Passionist foreign missions. Likewise, the Archconfraternity of the Passion was another special devotion. He was particularly concerned that the Archconfraternity, for which Sign Magazine was the official organ, was losing its appeal. Father Latour continually reminded the Passionists and public of the importance of this devotion in the life of the Passionist Congregation. At the same time, he paid attention to correspondence from people who wrote the magazine. In essence, the magazine became the Passionist mission platform for his preaching. Just before the Depression of the 1930s Sign had a subscription list of 109,000.

He was well-respected by Passionist and laity alike. During the last two years of his life his health began to take a turn for the worse. He was beset by ulcers but he could not be cured after a trip to St. Mary’s Hospital at Hoboken, New Jersey. Throughout the Christmas season of 1932 he worked with patient intensity even as he continued to lose weight. After Christmas he went to Holy Cross Prep School in Dunkirk, New York where he suffered a mild stroke. He then returned to St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken. His blood pressure did not improve. The Passionists thought of sending him to Lourdes for a cure. That being impractical, he was sent, accompanied by China missionary on furlough Father Paul Ubinger, C.P. to Miami Beach, Florida with the hope that the climate would improve his health. From March to September 1933 Father Latour remained in bed at St. Francis Hospital, Miami Beach. Father Latour died on September 2 1933 in the presence of Father William Cavanugh, C.P., who had been sent to Florida when Father Ubinger returned to China. Sadly, when the Father Latour’s body returned to St. Michael’s Monastery, Union City there was no public wake. His funeral was attended by many priests and the public.