Born at Socourt (Vosges), August 26, 1829.
Taking of the habit at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, August 14, 1853.
Perpetual oblation at Nancy, February 28, 1858. (no. 452)
Died at Dinant, March 4, 1908.
Nicolas Chounavel, brother of Father Constant Chounavel, a missionary in Ceylon, was born August 26, 1829 at Socourt in the diocese of Saint-Dié, the son of Christine Pierron and of Joseph Chounavel, a cooper. He began his novitiate at Notre-Dame de l’Osier on August 14, 1853. He remained there for only a few months in 1853. In his notes, Father Vandenberghe, the master of novices, wrote concerning this brother: “1853, August, N. Chounavel has very upright motivations, a great desire to do the right thing; very docile, good health, cheerful disposition; September, he is growing a great deal in his prayer life, very regular in his observance, makes efforts to correct his hastiness of temper; October, his character is mellowing, less brusque; November, deep prayer life, does his work well.”
According to the Personnel Register 1862-1863, Brother Chounavel was sent to Aix during his novitiate at the beginning of 1854, then to Notre-Dame de Cléry in the diocese of Orléans where he made his first vows in 1854 and his quinquennial vows in 1855. He remained for two years at Nancy where he made his perpetual oblation before Bishop de Mazenod on February 28, 1858. He was then sent to Paris when this house was founded in 1859 and remained there as sacristan until the Oblates were chased out in 1904.
Very little is said of him, except for the period of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 and on the occasion of the Commune in 1871. In 1870, all the men over forty years of age were conscripted. Brother Chounavel was placed in a company of non-armed non-mobile troops. He was with the unskilled laborers on the pick and shovel brigade and attended military drill twice a day. (Missions O.M.I., 1870, p. 462, 475 and 1872, p. 546) Under the regime of the Commune in 1871, Brother Chounavel acted as custodian of the General House with Father Pierre Aubert. Father Louis Soullier who wrote the history of the General House during the war and under the regime of the Commune in 1870-1871 (Missions O.M.I., 1872, p. 533-671) wrote this about Brothers Chounavel and Rousenq: “At this point, I must give witness to the whole Congregation concerning the courageous conduct of these worthy brothers. They were God’s providence for the General House. Even though they were aware that they were exposed to the greatest dangers, the idea never entered their heads to leave their post where their fearless fidelity quite as much as their religious honor had stationed them. The Congregation could not have expected them to do more than they did.(p. 614)
On the occasion of the expulsions in 1904, Brother Chounavel was sent to Dinant in Belgium. On February 28, 1908 they celebrated his fifty years of oblation. On the evening of the feast, he became a victim of the flu epidemic. He died on March 4 of 1908 at 78 years of age. Father Adolphe Dru, the superior, wrote concerning him: “The services rendered, his regular observance and the holiness of this worthy religious had won the hearts of everyone [...] He received the sacraments with a keen faith, never for an instant losing his grip on his rosary, never complained, and, without stress, in complete peace, he surrendered his soul to God. For 48 years, this worthy brother served as sacristan and God knows with what care he carried out his duties. As a result, he spent his life before the altar. It was before the altar that death struck him down. It was there that he went forth to seek his reward.”
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Oblate General Archives in Rome. Birth certificate; oblation formula, Nancy, February 28, 1858; some ten letters received for the celebration of his fifty years of oblation; one letter to Father Fabre, to Father Soullier and to Father Tatin; four small notebooks, handwritten: prayers to the Holy Cross, to the Blessed Virgin, promises of the Sacred Heart, some reflections on Saint Joseph (about 150 p.)