Peter Chanel bigraphy, stories - Catholic priest, missionary, and martyr

Peter Chanel : biography

12 July 1803 - 28 April 1841

Saint Peter Chanel (12 July 1803 – 28 April 1841), born Pierre Louis Marie Chanel, was a Catholic priest, missionary, and martyr.

Life

Early years

Chanel was born in 1803 in the hamlet of La Potière near Cuet in the area of Belley, Ain département, France. Son of Claude-François Chanel and Marie-Anne Sibellas he was the fifth of eight children. From about the age of 7 to 12 he worked as a shepherd. The local parish priest persuaded his parents to allow Peter to attend a small school the priest had started. After some schooling at a local school Saint-Didier-d'Aussiat his piety and intelligence attracted the attention of a visiting priest from Cras, Fr. Trompier, and he was put into Church-sponsored education at Cras in the autumn of 1814. He made his first communion on 23 March 1817.

It was from that time that his attraction for the missions abroad began. His interest was the result of reading letters from missionaries sent back by Bishop DuBourg from America. He later said, "It was that year that I formed the idea of going to the foreign missions." In 1819 he entered the minor seminary at Meximieux where he won several awards and class prizes in Latin, Christian doctrine and speech, he went to Belley in 1823, and the major seminary at Brou in 1824.

He was ordained on 15 July 1827 and spent a brief time as an assistant priest at Ambérieu. At Ambérieu he also read letters from a former curate from that parish who was at that time a missionary in India. There he met Claude Bret, who was to become his friend and also one of the first Marist Missionaries. The following year, Chanel applied to the Bishop of Belley for permission to go to the missions. His application was not accepted and instead he was appointed for the next three years as parish priest of the parish of Crozet, which he revitalized in that short time.

His zeal was widely respected, and his care, particularly of those in the parish that were sick, won the hearts of the locals. During this time, Chanel heard of a group of Diocesan Priests who were hopeful of starting a religious order to be dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Marist and missionary

In 1831, at the age of twenty-eight, Chanel joined the forming Society of Mary (Marists), who would concentrate on local missions and foreign missionary work. Instead of selecting him as a missionary, however, the Marists used his talents as the spiritual director at the Seminary of Belley, where he stayed for five years. In 1833, he accompanied Fr. Jean-Claude Colin to Rome to seek approval of the nascent Society. In 1836, the Marists, finally formally approved by Pope Gregory XVI, were asked to send missionaries to the territory of the South West Pacific. Chanel, professed a Marist on 24 September 1836, was made the superior of a band of seven Marist missionaries that set out on 24 December from Le Havre. They were accompanied by Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier who was to become the first Bishop of New Zealand.

Chanel traveled first to the Canary Islands (8 January 1837), where he friend, Fr. Claude Bret caught a flu-like virus which led to his death at sea (20 March 1837. Next Chanel traveled to Valparaiso (28 June), where the French Picpus Fathers who had care of the Vicariate of Eastern Oceania had their base. His third and fourth stops were in Gambier (13 September) and in Tahiti (21 September), where the group transferred to the Raiatea. In that ship they set sail (23 October) to drop off two missionaries at Wallis, the main seat of the mission in Tonga. The missionaries arrived at Vava’u but weren't welcome and thus continued their journey to Futuna. Pierre Chanel went to neighboring Futuna, accompanied by a French lay brother Marie-Nizier Delorme. They arrived on 8 November 1837 with an English Protestant layman named Thomas Boag who had been resident on the island and had joined them at Tonga seeking passage to Futuna.

Martyrdom

The group was initially well received by Futuna's king, Niuliki. Fr. Peter struggled to learn the language and mastered it. Despite little apparent success and severe want, he maintained endless patience and courage. It was a difficult mission, coping with isolation, different foods and customs, but eventually beginning to bear some fruit. A few natives had been baptized while a few more were being instructed. King Niuliki believed that Christianity would undermine his authority as high priest and king. When his son, Meitala, sought to be baptized, the king sent a favoured warrior, his son-in-law, Musumusu, to "do whatever was necessary" to resolve the problem. Musumusu initially went to Meitala and the two fought. Musumusu, injured in the fracas, went to Chanel feigning need of medical attention. While Chanel tended him, a group of others ransacked his house. Musumusu took an axe and clubbed Chanel to death. Chanel died on April 28, 1841.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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