Surviving the “Coffin Ship”

Here’s a story and reflection from one of The Christophers annual “Three Minutes a Day” books:

The Potato Famine of 1848 forced many families, including James and Maggie Fitzpatrick, to flee Ireland. Destitute, the Fitzpatricks and their infant daughter, Phoebe, left for Canada on a “coffin ship,” so named because 20 to 40 percent of passengers perished on the voyage. James and Maggie died, leaving Phoebe an orphan.

A young sailor was ordered to throw Phoebe overboard along with the bodies, as there was no one onboard who would look after the infant and no family awaiting her in Canada. Instead, the young sailor cared for Phoebe for the remainder of the journey and then placed her with a kind French-Canadian family.

Phoebe grew up strong, married and had a family of her own. And though his name is not remembered, the goodness of that young sailor lives on through each generation of Phoebe’s descendents.

Life is God’s free and precious gift. Cherish it. Nurture it.

“Choose life. . . loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and holding fast to Him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20)

Holy Trinity, help us appreciate Your gift of life.

About Tony Rossi

After graduating from St. John's University in New York with degrees in Communications and English, Tony Rossi found a job at the Catholic media organization, The Christophers, that allowed him to indulge his interest in religion, media, and pop culture. He served as The Christophers' TV producer for 11 years, and is currently the host and producer of the organization's radio show/podcast Christopher Closeup, writer and editor of their syndicated Light One Candle column, and producer/scriptwriter of the annual Christopher Awards ceremony.


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