1918 influenza epidemic: Sisters of Compassion involvement recalled

The Sisters of Compassion’ involvement during the 1918 influenza pandemic is remembered in a temporary exhibition.

The exhibition is open from 11 November 2018 – 31 March 2019 at Our Lady’s Home of Compassion at Island Bay in Wellington.

Eight Sisters of Compassion responded. As the disease worsened they were joined by a further eight sisters. The cases were so severe that very thorough organisation was required to cope with the crisis.

Sister Clotilde was placed in charge of the sisters and was given authority to have the worst cases admitted to hospital.

She had a motorcycle with side-car reserved for her use. Boy Scouts were placed at her service to take messages to the depot or to her sisters.

By the end of the first week, the sisters moved from Island Bay to Berhampore where their nursing skills were badly needed.

About this time Father Gilbert, acting on the advice of Doctor McEvedy, closed St Patrick’s College and sent the boarders home.

Two college dormitories were offered to the Minister of Health as an emergency hospital and were placed under the direction of the Sisters of Compassion.

The hospital was open for one month. There were 48 beds, and the sisters and volunteers nursed 91 men of every denomination. 54 survived and 37 died.

Many of the sisters contracted influenza and during their illness meals were provided by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

Sister Natalie, who was in charge of the nursery at the Home, caught the flu when visiting her brother. She was the only sister to die from influenza.

Suzanne Aubert was in Rome during this period and the flu was one of the reasons which delayed her return to New Zealand.

She wrote that she was happy with the work the sisters were doing in caring for the sick.

The Exhibition is on display at the Home of Compassion at 2 Rhine Street (off Murray Street), Island Bay, Wellington, from Tuesday to Saturday 10am-3pm. Click here to see exceptions.


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News category: New Zealand.

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