Father Theodor Amstad, SJ
Father of the Settlers



Scott 1346 Fr. Amstad on his  mule
BRAZIL, 1974, Ethnic & Migration Influences in Brazil, Scott 1346
German immigration stamp: a typical German house and Fr. Amstad on his mount

Fr. Amstad, SJ, known as the "Father of the Settlers," was born in Beckenried in Switzerland on November 9, 1851, the son of a merchant. Jesuits had been thrown out of Switzerland four years earlier and constitutionally banned there from 1874 until 1973. In his diary Amstad wrote, "Dad lived a life of labor for the good of his family, for society, for God, the Church and the faith. Mom was a mother for the poor in our area." Amstad was a 13th-generation direct descendant of St. Nicholas of Flüe the patron saint of Switzerland. Amstad entered the Jesuits, was ordained September 8, 1883 in England, and was sent in 1885 to serve the German settlers around Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state of Brazil.

For 38 years, on the back of his little mule, he crossed vast regions of Rio Grande do Sul, founding cooperatives, agricultural unions, hospitals, asylums, schools, magazines, parishes and new cities like Cerro Largo and Santo Cristo. He founded the Jesuit seminary in Pareci Novo which has since been declared part of the cultural and historical heritage of Rio Grande do Sul. One of his most important accomplishments was founding the first cooperative credit union in Brazil in 1902, from which arose a whole series of others in Bom Princípio, Lageado, São José do Herval, Santa Cruz do Sul, Venâncio Aires, Cerro Largo, etc., until by 1964 there were 62 of them. A monument honoring him in New Petrópolis reads "To the Founder of the Cooperative Credit System in Brazil - In memory of Fr. Theodor Amstad, SJ, Father of the Settlers." The cause for his beatification was begun in 2000.