23. St. Noel Chabanel, Seattle University

St. Noel Chabanel
Seattle University, 1891

Seattle, Washington

Saint Noel Chabanal (1613-1649) was born in Sauges, Southern France. When he was seventeen he entered the Society of Jesus at Toulouse. After he was ordained a priest, he taught for a few years in the Jesuit college in Toulouse. In 1643 he went to Quebec, with the intention of becoming a missionary among the native people in Canada. Noel studied the Indian languages under the veteran Jesuit missionary John de Brébeuf, who, like Noel, would become a martyr.

Unlike his mentor, Noel Chabanal found that he had a great distaste for the language and customs of the native peoples. For this reason, his superior was willing to send him back to France, but Noel decided that he would remain for the rest of his life among the natives. As it turned out, he did not have long to live because the Iroquois were constantly attacking the villages of the various tribes with whom the missionaries lived.

The saint had only recently joined another Jesuit among the Petuin people when it became clear that the Iroquois were about to destroy the village where the Jesuits were staying. Noel was sent back to Quebec, but became separated from the group of natives with whom he was travelling. He happened to meet a former Christian who had developed a personal hatred for the missionaries. This man killed Noel with a blow from a tomahawk.

St. Noel is depicted in the red vestments worn at Masses for martyrs. His hands are chained, and hanging from them are three large circular links joined by a triangle –symbol of the Trinity. Below are two flint-stone knives with rawhide handles that suggest his years of service among the native people of Canada.

The top half of the shield of Seattle University contains the Loyola and Oñaz coats of arms, representing the families of St. Ignatius’ parents: the wolves in sable on grey for the Loyola’s, the stripes of red and gold for the Oñaz family. The lower half of the shield has three symbols: a crescent moon for the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the mother of Jesus, under whose patronage the University was founded; an evergreen tree for the traditional tree of knowledge and for the University’s work in the state of Washington whose symbol is the evergreen; and an Indian tepee representing Chief Seattle for whom both the city and the University are named. The inscription reads: Seattle University, Seattle; the foundation date is 1891. The school colors are scarlet and white.

Noel Chabanel - Seattle University