Pittsburgh Passionists and the 1918 Pandemic

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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]

Pittsburgh 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 Let us now learn how the 1918 pandemic had an impact on the Pittsburgh Passionists.

In 1918 St. Paul’s Monastery Chronicles, as a center of devotion and ministry, reported how “The State and City Health Officials closed the City Churches, Oct 15, 22 and 29th., because of the Spanish Influenza.” Noteworthy was: “This [was] the first time in the history of the Monastery Chapel that its doors were closed for Sunday services. Through God’s Mercy, one of Community was afflicted and recovered.” P. 263.

PART THREE for a copy of the actual archival document, click on the link https://passionistarchives.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Final-Pittsburgh-1918-Flu-documentation-1.pdf

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