New 1918 Pandemic Documentation: Corpus Christi, Texas

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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]

Corpus Christi, TX Passionists and the 1918 Pandemic. Part One is a short introduction. Part Two describes the historical event. Part 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 On January 20, 1919 Passionist Father Paulinus Doran died from the Spanish influenza pandemic in Corpus Christi, Texas. A copy of his obituary was found in the St. Joseph Monastery Chronicles, Baltimore, Maryland. his obituary. The main facts of the sad story is transcribed below.

The newspaper headline read: “Sad Day in Corpus Christi”; “The Passing of Fathers Sheid and Doran. Brief Sketch of Their Lives” 

After a short intro was the following:

“Both Fathers had been active on assisting the Rt. Rev. Bishop [Paul J. Nussbaum, D.D., C.P] in conducting in a most solemn and devotional manner the Forty Hours Devotion in the Cathedral, when the dreadful war took hold of them. It was the last public declaration of faith of these two esteemed priests in Jesus Christ and in the true words of giving Himself to us in the Eucharistic presence. It was a fitting preparation for the sacrifice of their life which the Lord was so soon to require of them.”

“Whether their illness was due to exposure in connection with the exertions of the Forty Hours Devotion or the influenza germ had previously found a lodging, the Rt Rev. Bishop and the two Fathers began to be ill within a few hours after closing their great Catholic devotion. In the case of Father Doran it pointed so rapidly to pneumonia that he had to be taken to the hospital during the following day. The Bishop and Father Scheid regarded their ailment as nothing worse than a severe cold. The former slowly recovered, but the latter son [sic] developed a case of influenza. When the Rev. Fidelis Muinello, C.P. who had been nursing Father Sheid also took sick with the same affliction, it became necessary to send   both to the Spohn Sanitarium, because all of the Bishop’s household, with the exception of Father Pat Walsh, were then too ill to be up and about. Unfortunately[,] both Fathers were taken down with a severe attack of pneumonia, from which Father Muinello is slowly recovering; but Fathers Doran and Sheid died, the former at 7.05 and the latter at 7.30 on Wednesday morning Jan 15.”

“During the afternoon of the previous day, the Rev. Pat Walsh, C.P. as gently as he could, made known to them that their condition was critical and that the end might not be very far off. True to the life they had lived, the resigned themselves to the sacrifice and deliberately prepared themselves to meet the Judge of all, in whose service they had spent their life. Father Walsh administered the last Sacraments to the two dying priests.”

The biographical summary in the obituary also stated that in his life, Father Doran had faced past illnesses and recovered. Then, since Passionist Paul Joseph Nussbaum had been assigned as Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas in 1914, Father Doran thought the local climate would help him remain in good health. So it was arranged that Doran came in November 1917 to minister at the Cathedral Parish which turned out to be his final last assignment.

PART THREE To view a copy of the actual archival document, click on

Read more: The Passionist Historical Archives website obituary of Father Paulinus Doran, C.P., St. Paul of the Cross Province (1880-1919)

Additionally, a summary of the deaths of Fathers Doran and Shied found on the website of the South Texas Catholic

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