Remembering the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

St. Mark’s Convent in Prescott, Ontario


The Fall of 1918 was a tumultuous time as the First World War wasn’t over yet, but soldiers were starting to arrive home from Europe bringing with them an unwelcome guest – the Spanish Influenza. In Ontario alone, there were 300,000 cases of the flu and approximately 10,000 people died. The majority of those who died were previously healthy adults between the ages of 20 and 40.

The worst wave of Influenza in Ontario was from mid-October to mid-November 1918. Many school boards closed schools and churches canceled masses. In Prescott, schools were closed on October 16th and didn’t reopen until November 11th. According to the Annals of St. Mark’s Convent in Prescott “the churches as well as the schools are closed which makes the trial doubly hard without the consolations of Religion…The church was opened on Nov. 10th.”

Teaching Sisters in Prescott were also asked to nurse during the epidemic. At the same time as two sisters were away nursing, three sisters at the convent in Prescott became ill with Influenza, which meant that “Sisters Mary Bernadine and Mary Pius were the only Sisters remaining [in Prescott] to care for the sick and perform domestic duties.” 

Numerous Sisters of Providence were stricken by the flu, at least 25 at the House of Providence in Kingston alone, and one sister died. According to her necrology Sr. Mary Remigius (Catherine Egan) was “appointed to Arnprior Sept. 1st 1918. Little did the dear Sister dream that she was so soon to receive the reward of her labours. This was the year that the “Spanish Flu” was to make such havoc among the people. It came to the school the last of September, both pupils and teachers were taken down. Sister had a very bad attack. Not improving, the Superior of the Convent thought better to bring her to the Mother House, which she did October 16th.” She died at the House of Providence (which was then the Mother House) on December 4th, 1918. She was 32 years old.