Much attention has been given to the victims of the R.M.S. Titanic and the loss of life that morning of April 15, 1912. Of the 2,227 people on board, 750 survived and 1,522 died.
Of the four ships that searched the Atlantic – Mackay-Bennett (April 17-30), Minia (April 22-May 6), Montmagny (May 6-19), and Algerine/Florizel (May 15-June 11) – 119 victims were buried at sea and 209 were brought to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Of this latter number 150 deceased were interred in “Titanic burial areas” in Halifax: at Mount Olivet Roman Catholic Cemetery (19 burials), Fairview Cemetery (121 burials), and Baron von Hirsch Jewish Cemetery in Halifax (10 burials).
On May 3 at 9:30 a.m. a service for the Roman Catholic dead of the Titanic was conducted at St. Mary Cathedral in Halifax, Nova Scotia. After the liturgy the deceased were removed to Mount Olivet Roman Catholic Cemetery, where the interment was conducted at 4 p.m.
Being a former member of the Titanic Historical Society, I spent some time in 1984 at Mount Olivet Roman Catholic Cemetery Halifax, Nova Scotia, reflecting on the enormity of this event. I stood before the grave of J. Fred Clarke, who played bass in the Titanic’s band. This was only one year before the Titanic wreckage was discovered.
I visited Fairview Cemetery, which has the grave of John Hume, violinist in the Titanic’s band whose memorial is similar as those today, rather than a stone with only a number on it as in the Catholic cemetery.
The Cunard line contributes to some extent to the upkeep of the graves, having taken over this duty at the time of the merger with the White Star Line. Years later in the 1980s I would visit Lichfield, UK to see a monument erected to E.J. Smith in 1914, Captain of the Titanic whose remains were never found.
The feast of the Resurrection of Christ is the high point of the Christian year. It celebrates Christ’s triumph over death and the cross in His Resurrection.
Easter makes us especially thankful for the gift of eternal life that Christ our Lord gives to our faithfully departed. Perhaps a visit to their place of rest in our Catholic cemeteries and our Mass intentions offered for them make this a time of special prayer and rejoicing.
May the Lord walk with us closely in this time of Easter as we memorialize those buried and entombed, as well as those buried at sea.
By Monsignor William Baver, diocesan Director of Cemeteries, and pastor of SS. Simon and Jude, Bethlehem and Our Lady Help of Christians, Allentown.