One hundred years ago Father Thomas Byles was journeying to New York City aboard the RMS Titanic to say the Mass at his brother William’s wedding.
Born on February 26, 1870, he was the eldest of seven children of a Congregationalist minister. While attending Oxford, from which he graduated in 1894, he converted to Catholicism. Ordained a priest in 1902, he was assigned to be the parish priest at Saint Helen’s in Ongar, Essex in 1905. The parish was poor and had few parishioners, but Father Byles was devoted to them and labored mightily for them until 1912 when he left to answer the call of his brother to celebrate his marriage.
Father Byles did not view his trip on the Titanic as a vacation from his priestly duties. He spent Saturday April 13, hearing confessions, and on Sunday April 14, he said two masses for the second and third class passengers.