Farewell to Karl Stähli †

Pater Stähli Karl (Tschalaway) ist ein Mitglied der Missionsgesellschaft Bethlehem Immensee SMB / Schweiz im Einsatz in Taiwan.Born   7.2.1937
Joining the SMB   23. 9. 1958
Ordination 21.3.1964
Assigned to info team SMB  1964-1967
Mandarin Studies in Xinzhu  1967-1969
Pastor in Daxi, Hualian Diocese  1969-1972
Advanced training at the EAPI, Manila  1973-1974
Pastor in Luye, Hualian Diocese  1974-1975
Pastor in Guanshan Hualian Diocese  1975-1983
Pastor in Taoyuan, Gaoxiong Diocese  1978-1983
Assigned to info team SMB   1983-1985
Pastor in Taoyuan, Gaoxiong Diocese   1985-2017
Deceased   18.3.2017

Everyone called him Chalaway, after the refrain of a song that was popular during his studies. It suited him, he spread a pleasant atmosphere. It is not easy to summarize how I  experienced Chalaway, but I will try.

A Life to the Full

I believe he really lived a life to the full. In 1967 we traveled together on a six-week voyage from Marseille around Africa to Keelung, Taiwan. In his first Christmas letter, he then wrote of the several hundred-hectare wide market in Dakar, of the benches on the beach of Durban with the inscription “Whites only” and the concert on the bamboo organ in Manila.

As for all of us, studying the Chinese language was a hard nut to crack. He had a very good memory, but he would rather have chatted with the people on the street or in a family, rather than sitting at a school bench.

His first mission was then in Daxi, a Paiwan community. At that time there was no dictionary of this language, but he could look at peoples’ mouths and thus learned their native language. After his first home leave, he continued his education at the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila where he made friends for life.

Back in Taiwan, Karl worked in the parish of Luye, where he had his first contact with the Bunun people. After three years he was entrusted with the much larger parish of Guanshan, with the whole Haiduan commune. There Bunun was spoken which is why Karl learned the language of this native people to devote himself entirely to their pastoral care.

When a Bunun priest became pastor in Guanshan, the future Cardinal Shan invited Karl to his diocese of Gaoxiong as pastor for the mountain village of Taoyuan because they still had no priest from their own tribe. Karl was the first priest to live in the parish. It took quite a time, however, until these mountain people had confidence in him. Once he told me quite happily that he had now been given a traditional costume as they understood his Bunun,

The two main villages of his parish Taoyuan (Peach-Grove) and Meishan (Plum-Mountain) really grew to his heart, especially the people there. He also appreciated the hot springs there, until the typhoon Morakot 2009, robbed him of this health source. But of the 30 years in the parish, he also lived for two years in the village Erjituan, 1100m above sea level, where it is mist-free for only for a few days a year and built up a community there. This climate and also his isolation there, was very hard to take, even for a cheerful soul such as Chalaway,

A Happy Life

We all knew Chalaway as a cheerful soul, and indeed he was. But it is good to know that this was not a matter of course. He once told me, “The time before eight o’clock in the morning belongs to me and the Good Lord.” He was a cheerful soul with depth. For example, at one of our recollection days he chose the theme “The Clown”. He showed how Jesus understood how to rejoice with the cheerful and to weep with the suffering. I think that was also Chalaway’s strength. He was very understanding, could feel empathy. This made him very sensitive, even if he did not show it. He enjoyed being appreciated and praised and suffered when he did not experience it.

Chalaway could really rejoice: “look, isn’t this beautiful!” he could exclaim when we went through a gorgeous landscape. I also learned a bit from him how to enjoy life. With a good glass of wine, we could tell each other stories a whole night long and improve the world – which he much appreciated. Why else would he have travelled from his parish for five hours to Taidong, if not because of this sharing?

A life for others

If anyone was in need, nothing was too much for Karl to help. How often did he pick me up at Gaoxiong and bring me back again? And how many patients did he bring to the hospital, any time of the day or night. He always had time for others. For one of the villages where he regularly celebrated Mass once a month, it took him two hours one way by car. There were only about half a dozen believers in this village, but he also wanted to be their pastor.

What Karl was very concerned about was the future of the families and especially the children. He found benefactors in Taiwan and Switzerland, who paid the school fees for the middle school for these children. For this they will be grateful for a lifetime.

The last five days, when he was already in a coma, I was privileged to accompany him in the hospital. I didn’t count the number of visitors, but on some days there were certainly over a hundred. They were praying at his bedside, singing the bunun hymns he had so often practiced with them. A young family with two babies came and the young mother said she owed him her education. Four students were at first somewhat embarrassed, but then they sang a Chinese song for him and said, “We love you. Jiāyóu (make an all-out effort!) ”

Now Chalaway has gone from us, and I firmly believe that the life that Jesus has promised to His disciples is now the life into which Karl is going.

His last illness
Requiem in Gaoxiong
Farewell in Taidong
Guardian angel of the Bunun