Canadian Oblate dies in 1918 Pandemic
Fr. Augustine Suffa, OMI
I was at St. Mary’s parish in Regina, SK from 1978 to 1984. In the old parish records there was the name of Fr. Augustine Suffa, O.M.I. Recently a story about the 1918 to 1920 Spanish Flu (which killed 50 to 100 million worldwide) mentioned the many deaths in Regina on October 13, 1918 and that all the burials were in Regina, except for the priest who was buried at Lebret, where there was an Oblate scholasticate. It also mentioned that, nearby to St.Mary’s, the St. Joseph’s School was closed (as were all schools) and turned into a temporary overflow hospital (Regina General Hospital is almost next door). 330 died in Regina, 5,018 in Saskatchewan.
On a farewell visit to the now sold St. Mary’s Residence at Battleford on May 21, 2020, we also visited the nearby Oblate cemetery and I noticed that his remains had been reburied there (probably when the new St. Mary’s Province established St. Thomas College, later St. Charles Scholasticate, on the site and started a cemetery). His headstone indicates the dates 1872 to 1918 making him only 46. The O.M.I. Necrologium gives his vow and ordination dates as 93 94 98.
St. Peters Bote, Catholic weekly newspaper published in Muenster, SK, in the issue of Wed. October 23, 1918, has a large photo of him on the cover page with the caption: The Rev. Father Augustine Suffa , O .M .I . Born in Bavaria forty six years ago, ordained priest in Rome, Apr. 9,1898, in Canada since 1900, Pastor of St Mary’s Church, Regina, since 1903. Director General of the Catholic Volksverein since 1911. Died Oct 13, 1918.
Page 4 under the heading Exequies for Father Suffa gives an extensive account of his funeral including this: On Tuesday Oct. 15, a Solemn Requiem High Mass was celebrated in St. Mary’s Church, Regina, by Very Rev. Father Beys, Provincial of the Oblates for Manitoba. His Grace the Archbishop assisted in Pontificals at the throne and gave the final absolution. Rev. Father Funke of Holdfast delivered the sermon in German and very many times audible sobs were heard in the congregation. Those who understood the sermon declared it to be a masterpiece of oratory. He said that Fr. Suffa was called to the deathbed of a parishioner who asked for him. Earthly warnings of contagion were not considered by Father Suffa—duty called him. He contracted the disease and died— a martyr to his priestly duty. Father Funke concluded his most eloquent address by asking his hearers to pray for their deceased pastor; to continue the spirit of unity and love inculcated by him and to prepare to meet him in eternity.
His Grace delivered a sermon in English referring to the great work of the dead priest and the very great loss sustained by the church in western Canada. Fr. Suffa was one of His Grace’s advisors and the Archbishop spoke feelingly of the void left by his death.
Besides Abbot Bruno, O. S. B , Father Grandin, Provincial of the Oblates for Alberta, and the former Provincial, Father Magnail,O.M I., of St. Boniface, there were about 20 priests in the sanctuary. In the evening at 9 o’clock the body was accompanied in procession to the G.T.P. station, whence it was sent to Lebret, where the internment took place the following morning. R. I. P.
St. Eugene de Mazenod as a young priest almost gave his life ministering to victims of sickness, and attributed his recovery to the constant day and night prayers of his youth group. While there may have been Oblate victims of Covid-19 in other countries, I have not yet heard of any in Canada. We pray that the Lord will keep us all safe.
http://sho-islandora-live.usask.ca/islandora St. Peters Bote
http://omiap.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/50th-Anniversary-Book-full-ENG.pdf Connected with St. Mary’s Parish in Grayson, SK 1902-1905
By Joseph Jacek, OMI