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Spanish flu claimed two young priests with zeal

by Geraldine McGloin Contributor
May 1, 2012

It was a somber afternoon in Corpus Christi in January 1919. Spanish influenza had claimed yet more victims. Members of the Rotary Club gathered at Maxwell P. Dunne’s funeral parlor and escorted the bodies of two of the town’s young priests to the small Cathedral where Bishop Paul Nussbaum, CP celebrated a High Mass.

Father John H. Schied
was serving as Chancellor when he died of the Spanish Flu in 1919.
Father John H. Schied and Father Paulinus Doran, CP died within minutes of each other in Spohn Sanitarium; victims, most probably of complications of the virulent flu which had struck the city.

The epidemic started in Spain, which gave it its name. It spread over Europe in 1918 arriving in this country in the Atlantic seaboard cities of New York, Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia.  The Spanish flu was the deadliest outbreak of infectious disease in history, killing 20 to 40 million people worldwide. 

In Corpus Christi nearly 500 people were stricken, 21 died within two weeks in October. The epidemic took a heavy toll of the citizens of Corpus Christi particularly during the months of January and February. Many of those stricken recovered, but many died.  There was an average of a funeral a day. The total number of dead in the city is not known.

Some of its symptoms were of the usual flu variety: fever, aches and pains, coughs and general malaise. Some symptoms, however, were unique to this particular strain of influenza, attacking young, healthy men and women with rapid, devastating consequences. The city was practically shut down as the flu was thought to be “crowd disease;” movie theaters, pool halls and other gathering places were feared as possible sources of contagion.

The Rotarians’ escort of the two priests was an indication of the high esteem and respect towards them felt in the city, by both Catholics and non-Catholics. Even City Hall was closed until after the funeral service as a mark of respect to their memory. 

The two men had worked together at the Cathedral parish attending to the spiritual and corporal needs of the people; “both always responded promptly and capably to all patriotic and charitable calls,” the local newspaper reported. They were now linked together in death.

The actual cause of death was said to be pneumonia but as the young men were in the prime of life many felt they were actually flu victims. Both had been sick with undiagnosed respiratory illnesses but continued to celebrate Masses and preside over other spiritual devotions before becoming too ill to continue. 

During the epidemic, the priests were frequently at deathbeds anointing those dying of the disease.  It is certain that a fair amount of contagion existed under those circumstances.

The Southern Messenger of Jan. 30, 1919 reported, “Whether the illness was due to exposure in connection with the exertions of the Forty Hours Devotion or the influenza germ [that] had previously found a lodging in the Rt. Rev. Bishop [Paul Nussbaum], the two Fathers began to be ill within a few hours after closing this great Catholic Devotion.”  Both died a few days later.

Father Schied was a highly educated priest who began life in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  After obtaining his early education in Pennsylvania, he completed his theological training at Louvain University in Belgium where he earned his Doctor of Divinity degree. 

During the time his was at Louvain, he received a letter from Bishop Peter Verdaguer, the Vicar Apostolic of Brownsville. It was an appeal for “laborers for southwest Texas.”  

The bishop asked for an American candidate for the priesthood to come to Texas in a spirit of self-sacrifice. Father Schied responded to the appeal and offered to labor the rest of his days far away from home and family, in a place where the greatest need of the Church was for more and more priests.

The generous young volunteer was cheerfully accepted and ordained for the Vicariate of Brownsville.  Immediately after his ordination in 1911 he came to Texas, going first to Laredo.  A few months after the death of Bishop Verdaguer, Msgr. Claude Jaillet brought him to Corpus Christi and made him his assistant in running St. Patrick’s parish and also Chancellor of the Vicariate.

Father Schied endeared himself to Msgr. Jaillet by his readiness to work and business ability.  After the elevation of the Vicariate to the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Father Schied continued in both offices where his competence and kindly demeanor impressed all who came in contact with him.

The young priest also had time for civic duties.  He had been an honorary member of the Rotary Club since it’s beginning; both he and Father Doran had worked with various American Red Cross programs in the city.  

Father Schied was buried in the Holy Cross section of Rose Hill Cemetery.  The funeral cortege was more than a mile long.

Father Doran was serving as pastor of St. Patrick’s parish at the time of his death.  “A Yankee to the marrow of his bones,” wrote Sister Xavier Holworthy, IWBS of him in her book “A Century of Sacrifice.” 

“The energy and zeal with which Father Paulinus took over his duties as pastor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral was a source of inspiration to his little flock.  Gifted with oratorical eloquence, his sermons moved his people to a deeper appreciation of our Holy Faith, and to a more fervent attendance at services, particularly Holy Mass and the Thursday evening Holy Hour, while the church was filled to capacity during Lent,” Sister Xavier wrote
Father  Paulinus Doran CP
was rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral when he died.
Father Doran was born in Scipio, New York on Aug. 5, 1880.  He was given the religious name Paulinus when he professed his vows as a Passionist in 1900.  He was ordained a priest in 1906 and assigned to St. Mary’s Dunkirk, New York as an assistant pastor.

Scholarly and a gifted speaker, Father Doran was later assigned as vice director of the Passionist Preparatory School.  He was then assigned as a mission preacher in Pittsburgh and Scranton, Pennsylvania and Brighton, Massachusetts.  He later taught classics at St. Joseph’s Monastery in Baltimore, Maryland.

He was again assigned to Brighton where he was asked to preach a series of sermons for non-Catholics. He began to experience health problems and in 1917 he volunteered to work in Corpus Christi as pastor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Bishop Nussbaum, a fellow Passionist who had been assigned bishop there in 1913.  His term as pastor lasted a bare 14 months.

The remains of Father Doran were shipped to New Jersey for internment.  The body was accompanied from Maxwell Dunne Undertaking Parlor to the station by hundreds of men, women and children, bearing mute testimony to the love and affection felt for this man who during the brief time that he had lived among them had established himself in the confidence of the people of the city irrespective of religious belief. 

The two young men joined in life and deaths came from different places and had followed different paths, but were endowed with the same missionary zeal to win souls for Christ.  It led them to the final chapter of their lives. 

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