Three Catholic priests among those lost in Titanic tragedy

I heard a historian say that for people in 1912 the loss of more than 1,500 innocent lives when the Titanic went down April 15 was for them a tragedy akin to the monumental loss of life this nation experienced in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Poster from Titanic exhibit now on display at National Geographic in Washington.

Commemorations, remembrances and exhibits abound on this 100th anniversary of the great “unsinkable” ship’s infamous voyage. Stories about it are everywhere, too, including in the Catholic press. Check out the story in the April 15 issue of Our Sunday Visitor  headlined “Priestly heroes of the Titanic,” which relates the role three Catholic priests — a Lithuanian, a German and an Englishman — had “in bringing comfort to the passengers of the doomed ship.” OSV also has a small sidebar about another Catholic who came to the aid of passengers and survived the peril — Margaret “Molly” Brown, a Denver philanthropist. Born Margaret Tobin to Irish Catholic immigrants in Missouri, she moved to Leadville, Colo., at age 18. There she met and married a man who had made his fortune in the mines, Jim “J.J.” Brown. They later made their home in Denver. The couple’s Victorian house was almost lost to demolition but was rescued by preservationists in the late 1960s. It was restored it to its grandeur and established as the Molly Brown House Museum. The website tells Molly’s whole story. Also take a look at the blog on that site called “Chasing Molly,” by museum docent Janet Kalstrom, writing from aboard the Titanic memorial cruise.

Earlier this week Catholic News Service carried a story about a Jesuit, Father Frank Browne, who as a seminarian took photographs aboard the Titanic, capturing images of its opulent accomodations as well as its passengers as it sailed from Southhampton, England, to Cherbourg, France, and on to Queenstown, Ireland. He took the last image of the captain, Edward Smith, and he took a photo of the ship leaving port from Queenstown for the last time to head to New York.

As our story says, before the ship left he sent a telegram to his provincial seeking permission to remain on board for the rest of the voyage. But the brusque answer in a reply telegram was: “Get off that ship.” A collection of his photos, “Father Browne’s Titanic Album,” has been reprinted for the centennial.

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