Titanic’s Catholic priests

Recalled on 100th anniversary

The following comes from an April 17 story on Catholic News Agency.

Three Catholic priests, including one hailed by Pope Saint Pius X as a martyr for the faith, were among the victims of the Titanic disaster remembered during its 100th anniversary on April 14-15.

All three of the European-born priests – Father Juozas Montvila of Lithuania, Father Josef Peruschitz, O.S.B. of Bavaria, and English rector Father Thomas Byles – are said to have declined lifeboats in order to offer spiritual aid to travelers who perished in the shipwreck, which claimed 1503 lives. 

An eyewitness account of the 1912 sinking, published in the Jesuit journal America, described how “all the Catholics on board desired the assistance of priests with the greatest fervor.”

The priests led passengers in recitation of the Rosary, and “aroused those condemned to die to say acts of contrition and prepare themselves to meet the face of God.” According to the eyewitness, they were “engaged continuously giving general absolution to those who were about to die.”

Fr. Byles and Fr. Peruschitz had offered Mass on the morning of Sunday, April 14, only hours before the supposedly “unsinkable” ship struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic.

Prior to the crash, both men had preached sermons on humanity’s need for the spiritual “lifeboat” offered by Jesus Christ amid the dangers of the world.

Born in Yorkshire, England during 1870, Fr. Byles converted to Catholicism from Anglicanism in 1894. He ministered to Catholics on the Titanic while traveling to the U.S. for the wedding of his brother, who had also entered the Church.

After Fr. Byles’ death in the shipwreck, St. Pius X reportedly described him as a “martyr.” A plaque at his onetime parish recalls his “heroic death in the disaster,” after “earnestly devoting his last moments to the religious consolation of his fellow passengers.”

Fr. Peruschitz was also described by eyewitnesses as declining a place on the lifeboats. The Bavarian priest-monk, born in 1871, was traveling on the Titanic to take up his new position as principal of a Benedictine high school in Minnesota.

His body, like those of the other two priests, was not recovered. A memorial at his onetime monastery in Bavaria reads: “May Joseph Peruschitz rest in peace, who on the ship Titanic piously sacrificed himself.”

The youngest of the three priests, Fr. Juozas Montvila, was born in 1885. Ordained in 1908, he secretly ministered to Eastern Catholics in Lithuania, whose faith had been outlawed by authorities of the Russian Empire.

Under government pressure, Fr. Montvila was forced to leave the country in order to continue his priestly ministry. He boarded the Titanic in Southhampton, England, with the intention of emigrating to the U.S.

Reports from the sinking ship recounted how the Byzantine-rite priest “served his calling to the very end.” Since then, there have been efforts toward his canonization.

To read original story Click here.

 

READER COMMENTS

Posted Thursday, April 19, 2012 5:15 AM By JMJ
Let us thank God for giving us such Holy Priests and may they be a symbol of God’s Love for each and every one of us, including those that mock our Priests. No greater love, indeed. +JMJ+


Posted Thursday, April 19, 2012 7:16 AM By Abeca Christian
May they rest in peace. I’m grateful that our Lord provided priests to assist the faifhtul. Good article.


Posted Thursday, April 19, 2012 7:16 AM By Carolyn
How interesting an article. I had never heard of these priests before. Glad they were there to assist the people to the end. very heroic.


Posted Thursday, April 19, 2012 8:18 AM By Laurette Elsberry
This makes me think about today’s institutional Catholic Church – in a sense a sinking ship, a victim of modernism, secular humanism, materialism, the fall of too many priests, and the blatant infiltration by homosexuals. We know the Church, God’s institution, will triumph, but in the meantime, as a physical institution it is being seriously damaged. The priests suffering in this modern destruction of the “Titanic”, are the martyrs of the Church today. They are the ones who are marginalized as being not accepting of homosexuality, “choice”, socialism, Obama, etc. Let us pray that they are able to hold up as the dark ocean of the present evils try to pull them down into the abyss.


Posted Thursday, April 19, 2012 8:50 AM By MD
Laurette-I agree that there is much to grieve over today in our modern culture, but I would say it is people within the Church with modernism, secular humanism, materialism, etc., and not the Church herself. Our Lord Himself has promised that she will be unsinkable and that His Holy Spirit will prevail triumphant. We see how much we are loved in the fact that our first pope denied the Lord three times, yet it is on him that the Lord gave the authority of the Church. We have such great hope in the Lord and all of our shortcomings are opportunities for redemption. God Love You.

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