New 1918 Pandemic Documentation: Baltimore, Maryland

Home / New 1918 Pandemic Documentation: Baltimore, Maryland

Passionists and the 1918 Spanish Pandemic Influenza. By Rob Carbonneau, C.P., Ph.D. Passionist Historian, St. Paul of the Cross Province. March 15, 2020. Email [email protected]

Baltimore Passionists and the 1918 Pandemic. Part One is a short introduction. Part Two describes the historical eventPart Three is the archival document

PART ONE The present 2020 COVID-19 virus has been compared to the 1918 Spanish Influenza. On Friday March 13, I spent the morning digging through the Passionist Historical Archives located within the Special Collections at The University of Scranton. I also delved into the in-house archives at St. Ann’s Monastery, Scranton.

In the days ahead, I will post some historical summaries and supporting documents from the Passionist Historical Archives which will show how the 1918 Pandemic impacted Passionists in Pittsburgh, PA; Brighton, MA, Baltimore, MD, Scranton, PA, Louisville, KY and Corpus Christi, TX. 

You might ask why this is of value? Because, for the foreseeable time, it seems to me that this 2020 Pandemic reminds us that we all have something in common. At this moment what is most certain is uncertainty. The history of the 1918 Influenza reminds us how suffering can suddenly enter our lives. At such times, how do we respond with compassion and care? Such moments do test our faith. At the same time, history reminds us to be humble. History reminds us to be courageous. History reminds us to be wise. History reminds us to respect our common humanity. I suggest that a solemn and sacred understanding of the 1918 Pandemic is a window for us to view this 2020 COVID-19 virus.

This year, as the Passionists celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding (1720-2020), we recall that this pandemic is one of the many ways that the Passion of the Cross is part of everyday life. With faith, let us lift up and carry our personal crosses; when possible let us find creative ways to assist others to carry their cross as well. With confidence, let us as ask God to provide peace and healing for those in need.

PART TWO: the historical event

Baltimore was hit especially hard by the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. St. Joseph’s Monastery Chronicles 1865-1934 offers a moving account.

 “Towards the end of September [1918], a virulent epidemic swept through the country. Medical authorities were of different opinions as to the nature of the disease. It was known as the Spanish influenza. But many doctors disagreed with this diagnosis. The disease found its way into this country through a Boston port where sailors infected with the disease were permitted to disembark without quarantine. It rapidly spread from city to city until it became a pandemic. Philadelphia had the highest death rate, then Baltimore. The disease raged here for a period of six weeks. The most deaths occurred during October. The approximate deaths in Baltimore was 3700. Most of the Brethren [Passionists] became ill and among the boys about one fourth of the number took the disease. All the cases were not serious. In the beginning of the epidemic the entire community – proceeded in procession through the Monastery and around the church reciting the Rosary and offering the prayers of the Ritual of pestilence. For two Sundays the churches of the city were closed by order of the Board of Health. A word of consideration for Brother Robert who came from Boston to nurse the sick of our [Passionist] community. Owing to his care and skill the disease was checked, and at no time were any of the sick in serious danger.”

PART THREE: click here to read the archival document

Brother Robert McCormick, C.P., St. Paul of the Cross Province (1878-1953) might have very well been the Brother nurse who assisted in Baltimore. To learn more. click on

(Should you find this information of interest Please consider sending these reflections on to those you know and join our sign up list at the Passionist Archives website If you wish to support our mission to educate the public on Passionist history please consider donating; large or small, it is of great assistance. May the Passion of Jesus Christ Be Always In Our Heart)