New 1918 Pandemic Documentation: Passionist seminarian Pius Buchele (1897-1920) dies in Scranton, PA and is buried in Pittsburgh, PA.

Home / New 1918 Pandemic Documentation: Passionist seminarian Pius Buchele (1897-1920) dies in Scranton, PA and is buried in Pittsburgh, PA.

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]

Passionist seminarian Pius Buchele 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 In 1918 Confrater Pius Buchele, C.P., St. Paul of the Cross Province (1897-1920) died as a result of the Spanish Influenza Pandemic while he was a young seminarian the Passionist community at St. Ann’s Monastery, Scranton, Pennsylvania. It is interesting to see, that when he first became ill, an attempt was made to save his life by sending him to the White Haven sanitarium not far from the city of Scranton. Unfortunately, his health did not improve, and it was determined that it was best that he be sent back to St. Ann’s monastery where he later died. He is buried at the Passionist cemetery at St. Paul’s Monastery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The historical image included in this historical essay is his gravestone. While the monastery chronicles state he had tuberculosis, his obituary stated he died from the flu epidemic.  

All the citations are from the Retreat of St. Ann’s Chronicles Vol 1. 1900-1927, Scranton, Pennsylvania.

1920. p. 137

Transcribed as follows:

“January 24 Confrater Pius who has been poorly for some time – a return of tuberculosis left the Monastery for White Haven where it is hoped he might better improve under supervised treatment.”

1920. p. 138 transcribed as follows:

“March 15. Confrater Pius returned home from White Haven. Reports from doctors decided there was no hope for recovery & decided was [illegible] home at home with the Brethren.”

1920. p. 139

On the morning of April 7, whilst the students

were taking their coffee, good Confrater Pius entered his agony. In a short while all were summoned to his room & the Rector leading the prayers the prayers for the dying were recited. After a short struggle the end came peacefully. The body was then embalmed and shipped to Pittsburgh for burial. Fr. Director Leo [Smith, C.P., 1882-1948] accompanied the body. Confrater Pius was a promising student & was apparently full of strength. During the flu epidemic of he was a victim & because of that developed pneumonia. Later a symptom of tuberculosis manifested themselves & his decline was [illegible]. For a while he was at the White Haven Sanitarium but the vectors developed he was beyond all hope. He was brought to the monastery.  

Complete Buchele website obituary is as follows

PART THREE is the archival document

(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)