New 1918 Pandemic Documentation: Passionist Frs. Godfrey Holbein, C.P. in Scranton. PA and Victor Koch in Baltimore MD. and the Pandemic.

Home / New 1918 Pandemic Documentation: Passionist Frs. Godfrey Holbein, C.P. in Scranton. PA and Victor Koch in Baltimore MD. and the Pandemic.

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]

New 1918 Pandemic Documentation: Passionist Frs. Godfrey Holbein, C.P. in Scranton. PA and Victor Koch in Baltimore MD. 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 Events

In 1918, the Retreat of St. Ann’s Chronicles Vol 1. 1900-1927, Scranton, Pennsylvania described how seminarian Godfrey Holbein came down and survived the Spanish Influenza,

“1919. Jan 5 The grip or ‘flu’ entered the monastery again on this day taking hold of Father Richard, Confr[ater] Godfrey [Holbein] was also a victim. Thank God both were around again after a few days or so.” [Note that the above-mentioned Godfrey Holbein was ordained in 1923 and was assigned to China where he and Passionist Fathers Walter Coveyou and Clement Seybold were all murdered by Hunan province bandits on April 24, 1929.]

Also, biographical summary of Father Victor Koch, C.P., St. Paul of the Cross Province (1873-1955) tells of his relationship to the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic in Baltimore. Father Koch was ordained a priest on September 19, 1896. Father Koch was a missionary, pastor, and religious superior. He was a curate priest at the Passionist parishes in Cincinnati, Ohio and West Hoboken, New Jersey. In 1905 he became pastor at the Passionist parish at St. Paul’s, Kansas. From 1914 to 1920 he was pastor at St. Joseph’s Monastery parish, Baltimore, Maryland where he built an addition to the parish school and served the people during the flu .For more on Victor Koch, C.P. go to

PART THREE: to view a copy of the actual archival document om Godfrey Holbein 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)