Father Donat W. Chatigny, MM
Born: May 4, 1904
Ordained: June 17, 1934
Died: December 29, 2003
Father Donat Chatigny died on December 29, 2003 at St. Teresa’s Residence. He was 99 years old and a Maryknoll priest for 69 years.
Donat Chatigny was born at Danby Station, a small hamlet in the county of Drummond, Province of Quebec, Canada, on May 4, 1904. He is the twelfth and last child of Philias and Delina Fredette Chatigny, who were blessed with nine boys and three girls, of which two died in infancy. He learned his ABCs in the small school in Danby Station. At the age of 15 he came to live in Amesbury, Massachusetts, where, for a few years, he worked for the automobile factories.
He read about missionaries in the world, and in 1923, now 19 years old, he happened to go to confession to a Dominican Father who asked him if he would like to become a missioner. With the affirmative answer, the Father wrote to Father James A. Walsh for a possible admittance into the Society. He was admitted and on September 26, 1923 went to the newly built college at Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, the Venard. After five years of studies there, in 1928 he went to Maryknoll Seminary, in Ossining, New York to continue his studies for the priesthood. On June 17, 1934 he was ordained a priest at Maryknoll, New York.
After ordination, Father Chatigny was assigned to the Maryknoll Mission in Kongmoon, South China. He immediately traveled to San Francisco and from there to Portland, Oregon, where he boarded a ship on the way to Japan and China, arriving in Hong Kong in September 1934. After a few days, he and other classmates went to the cathedral in Canton and were warmly received by the French Bishop. After language studies in Yeungchong he became assistant pastor of Tungchen for a short time and then pastor of the Chikkai mission. Father wrote, “I stayed in Chikkai for six years. At this mission there was a small orphanage where abandoned babies were received. Most of these were newborn babies. We tried to give them good care, but since we did not have milk, and no mothers to feed them, most of them died after a few days. Thus during my stay at that mission I may have baptized seven or eight hundred infants, who died and are now in Heaven to pray for me, and where I hope to see them some day.”
In 1949, the Communists took over China, invading the town of Chikkai and placing the priest there under house arrest.On March 25, 1953, the Communists appointed a man to lead the priest to Hong Kong, thus setting him free. On April 5th, Father Chatigny was able to board a ship on his way home via Europe, visiting many places along the way.
Father Donat had a wonderful sense of humor. Traveling by ship, he wrote, “œI met two Good Shepherd Sisters who were going to Paris to attend their General Chapter. These two Sisters were Irish. They were glad to see me, a priest, and they asked me where I came from. I told them that I was born outside of Dublin. They were happy to hear this, thinking that I was Irish. I never told them how far outside of Dublin I was born. Canada, about 4000 miles away. It was not a lie on my part, for Canada is truly outside of Dublin.”
In 1954, he returned to work as a missioner in Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa. Father Chatigny served faithfully and zealously as pastor of the parishes in Nanchuang, Tougen, Nanchong and Tsao Chiao. Father Chatigny returned to the United States and Maryknoll, New York in April 1970 and took up residence at St. Teresa’s. However, in August 1973, while remaining a member of the SSU, Father Chatigny was granted permission to return to work in Taiwan. Father moved to the Taichung Center House, and while completing a Chinese-English dictionary, served as Chaplain for the Maryknoll Sisters. In 1976, he moved to a mission station in Miaoli and remained at this post until August 1979 when he returned to the United States and to Maryknoll Residence in Los Altos, California. Father Chatigny lived there until October 17, 1989 when the Lomo Prieta earthquake severely damaged the Residence building and he moved to St. Teresa’s Residence at Maryknoll, New York. For more details, one may read Father Chatigny’s book entitled Missionary Experiences and Travels.
Wake services were held at 4:30 p.m. on December 30, 2003 at St. Teresa’s, with Father Thomas McDonnell officiating, and at 7:30 p.m. in Queen of Apostles Chapel at Maryknoll Center where Father Richard Callahan officiated and Father John McKernan read the biography. Mass of Christian Burial was concelebrated in Queen of Apostles Chapel on December 31, 2003 at 11:00 a.m. Father Lionel Bouffard was Principal Celebrant and Father Joseph Heim homilist. Burial followed in Maryknoll Society Cemetery with Father Clyde Phillips conducting the graveside service. A Memorial Service was held at Maryknoll Center on May 4, 2004.