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November 11, 1918: War and Pandemic

Posted on November 11, 2020, by Regina Drey SL

Shown here is St. Mary’s Academy chapel, where Sisters of Loretto would have had Mass Nov. 11, 1918, the day World War I was declared over.

Note from the Editor of St. Mary’s Academy Newsletter: Veterans Day occurs on November 11 every year in the United States in honor of the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918 that signaled the end of World War I, known as Armistice Day. 

Thanks to an entry in the SMA annals 102 years ago, we can experience the mix of emotions on Nov. 11, 1918, the day World War I ended. Interestingly, its opening phrase “class work was not resumed” points to another reality we can relate to today.

The unnamed sister annalist wrote, “However, on Nov. 11th, class work was not resumed; a few minutes before 1 o’clock a.m. the blowing of whistles, the firing of guns and the ringing of church bells announced to sleeping Denver that the terrible World War was at an end. 

“The City Mayor proclaimed the day one of general rejoicing.  The Sisters arose and repaired to the Chapel to sing the ‘Te Deum;’ they then returned to bed but few slept.  Many of them had had brothers in the war and those who had not wept before, wept now for joy.  The Holy Mass this morning was surely one of Thanksgiving to the “God of the Armies” who has given strength to ‘Our Boys’ ‘over there’, and to the Allied Army ‘to put down the proud and to make the world safe for democracy.’  The lighted candles on the altar, the chapel ablaze with electric lights and the beautiful singing of the choir — all manifested this inward joy.  At the end of Holy Mass all rose when the choir sang as never before ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’ ”

Some years later Sister Lilliana Owens’ Denver’s Pioneer Academy explains the world was experiencing a devastating pandemic. The Board of Health had closed all private and public schools in October because the 1918 Flu Pandemic, sometimes called Spanish Influence, was raging in Denver and throughout the entire country.  Although there were no cases at SMA, the school closed on Oct. 8 and was slated to open on November 11. Instead, the day was one of thanksgiving and prayer.

More than a century later we pray for peace and an end to COVID-19.

(Editor’s Note: This blog post by Regina Drey SL first appeared in St. Mary’s Academy Newsletter Nov. 11, 2020. She graciously allowed us to share it here. The blog post on SMA’s website may be viewed at https://www.stmarys.academy/d/~board/regina/post/november-11-1918- war-and-pandemic-by-regina-drey-sl.


Regina Drey SL

Regina is historian/director of Loretto projects at St. Mary’s Academy in Englewood, Colo.
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