Father Josef Peruschitz (Josip Perušić) OSB, 41, was born Benedikt Peruschitz on 21 March 1871 at Straßlach-Dingharting, district court Wolfratshausen in Bavaria the son of Mathias Peruschitz and Elisabeth Peruschitz, née Neudecker.
Since 1872 he had been living at Dorfen, administration district Erding. From 1882 until 1886 he was a student at Scheyern, and from 1886 until 1890 at the Royal High School in Freising, from which he graduated in August of 1890. He changed from the boys' seminary to the clerical seminary and studied philosophy at the Royal High School in 1890/91. In July 1891 he was admitted to study theology and by 1894, when he submitted his resume to the Scheyern monastery, was in his sixth semester.
On 16 April 1894 he requested admission to the monastery, and it was granted on 26 April. He officially entered on 14 August 1894 as Father Joseph. On 28 April 1895 he was ordained by the Archbishop of Munich-Freising, Antonious von Thoma, at the parish church of Scheyern and was professed as a monk on 24 August 1895. In the monastery he had several teaching and educational jobs, including mathematics, music, physical education, shorthand and prefect.
In 1912 Father Joseph spent Holy Week at the Benedictine cloister St. Augustine in Ramsgate, after which he was en route to Minnesota where he was to be employed at the Swiss Congregation's Benedictine School. He was apparently to be principal of their high school.
He boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a second class passenger (ticket number 237393, £13).
Second Class passenger Ellen Toomey told reporters after the disaster that he, Fr Montvila and Fr Byles said Mass every day on board the Titanic.
Lawrence Beesley recorded the following observations of passengers in the Second Class library:
'In the middle of the room are two Catholic priests, one quietly reading-either English or Irish, and probably the latter-the other, dark, bearded, with a broad-brimmed hat, talking earnestly to a friend in German and evidently explaining some verse in the open Bible before him...'
Of the priests' actions as the Titanic sank an eyewitness in the Catholic magazine America wrote:
"When all the excitement became fearful all the Catholics on board desired the assistance of priests with the greatest fervour. Both priests aroused those condemned to die to say acts of contrition and prepare themselves to meet the face of God. They led the rosary and others answered. The sound of the recitation irritated a few passengers, and some ridiculed those who prayed and started a ring dance around them. The two priests were engaged continuously giving general absolution to those who were about to die. Those entering the lifeboats were consoled with moving words. Some women refused to be separated from their husbands, preferring to die with them. Finally, when no more women were near, some men were allowed into the boats. Father Peruschitz was offered a place which he declined."
Fr Peruschitz died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified. He is remembered with a plaque in the cloister at the Scheyern Monastery. It is inscribed with the words,"May Joseph Peruschitz rest in peace, who on the ship Titanic piously sacrificed himself"
On the portrait above there is a handwritten notice: P. Joseph im Meer ertrunken (the latter in shorthand, which means drowned in the sea)
Taufeintrag Benedict Peruschitz im Taufbuch der Pfarrgemeinde St. Laurentius in Dingharting, Eintrag Nr. 5 1871. (Birth Certificate)
Personalakt für P. Joseph, O.S.B. Scheyern 16/2/06 (Personal File from Scheyern monastery)
(Archiv Jens Ostrowski [AJO] / Courtesy Scheyern monastery)