November 5th 1943 - Paul Chastonay SJ
† in Bern
Father de Chastonay came from an old knight family, which can be shown to have existed up to 1250. In the sixteenth century it had emigrated for reasons of belief into Wallis which had retained the Catholic faith. There, in the Château de Chastonay in Siders, Paul was born on September 13th 1870.
His father Victor was politically active as Member of Parliament of the democrats. To his mother, Madame Gabriella, he owes his genuine Catholic, vigorous piety.
After his High School studies in the neighbouring Sitten, in Fribourg, and in the last year in Einsiedeln, he began his higher studies as student of law. The reason why he changed already after two terms to theology is not known. At the same time he entered on October 10th 1891 the Society of Jesus. It is also unknown why he did not enter the French Province but the German one. The noviciate was at that time in Blyenbeck, in Dutch Limburg. Duke Francis Egon of Hoensbrock owned there a big mansion which he made available to the Jesuits who had been exiled from Germany. In 1904 the mansion was given back to the family Hoensbrock.
Magister for the novices was Father Moritz Meschler, who came also from the canton Wallis. At the age of thirty seven he became Magister for fourteen years (1867-1881) and anew for seven years (1885-1892). In 1872 Meschler was called as Assistant of the German Assistency to Rome. He remained it for fourteen years. His successor as Magister was Father Ernst Thill, who came from Volkmarsen (Hessen), and had as secular priest entered the Society of Jesus on October 2nd 1883. Father Thill too was an excellent Magister. Father Friedrich Muckermann wrote in his biography (p. 34f) about him:
'Father Thill was a decidedly handsome man with marked features and big shining eyes. He had an enchanting voice, a sonorous bass, and cultivated manners. A magical power was radiated by him, and he held the bridles of education firmly in his hand ... We were overwhelmed by the opulence of his teaching. It was the rendering of a tradition which was tied with the name of the unforgettable Father Meschler. We were lucky to grow up just in that tradition, and above all to make our own the image of Christ of that ingenious spiritual director. Father Till was the right man to pass on a bit of the enchantment of Meschler's personality. He was a man in whom severity and mildness had entered into that beautiful union which is so important for the education.'
After the study of the humaniora and of philosophy Paul made for four years his Interstice as Prefect in Feldkirch. As theologian he was ordained priest on August 28th 1904 by Bishop Drehmann of Roermond. After his tertianship he came for one years as Socius of Magister Thill to Exaten, and took in 1907 his place. In the first years he was also rector of the house.
Quite beneficial was his work as minister for students and graduates in Zurich. He co-operated also with the University Extension (adult education classes), and preached radio sermons. His experience, intelligence, and mental superiority were very helpful for him. He succeeded also in gaining a foothold in Bern until Father Paul Reinert in 1931 took over the work with the students there. For more than fifteen years (1921-1936) he was provincial of the 'Missio Helvetica'. He was positively integrated into the beginnings of the Apologetic Institute.
Despite of all work he was active as writer, both in the area of religious literature as well as of religious poetry with a regional background.
Father General Ledochowski esteemed Father Chastonay highly, and asked his advice repeatedly. In 1938 he called him also to the twenty third General Congregation to Rome. Already in 1923 he accompanied as 'elector' of the South German Province Father Provincial Bea to Rome. But Father Ledochowski did not conceal from him that he thought too democratically.
On November 25th 1915 Father Chastonay was appointed rector of the Collegium Maximum in Valkenburg, although his health was weakened. Late in 1917 he went for recovery to his Wallis homeland without saying good-bye in Valkenburg.
He devoted himself to further pastoral and literary activities. So his book about the constitutions of the Society of Jesus was published in 1938.
Because of his chronic bronchial catarrh he spent many winters in his Wallis homeland, so also in 1942/43 - in the hope of relaxation by the Ticino sun. About ten days before his death he suffered a virulent abdominal influenza. An angina pectoris brought the end. He has found his last resting-place in the Family Tomb in Siders.
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