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Brother Marie-Nizier to Father Champagnat. Le Havre. 8 November 1836

(CPC 89-90)


Br Marie-Nizier (Jean-Marie Delorme 1817-1874) entered the Hermitage in 1833 and was perpetually professed in 1836. He was the youngest of the Marist missionaries for Polynesia (so called because it included the western islands of that region of the Pacific). Br Michel and he left the Hermitage for Lyon after the Brothers' retreat. While in Lyon he had to go to his home, about 20 kilometres south of the city, to obtain from his father his permission in writing to apply for a passport as he was still a minor. On October 15, the day before they left for Paris, Fathers Chanel and Bataillon and Brothers Michel and Marie-Nizier after Mass in the sanctuary of Our Lady at Fourvieres commended, themselves and their fellow missionaries to the protection of Mary. Marie-Nizier was in Paris for less than a week before going with Chanel and Bataillon to Le Havre where they stayed with Mme Dodard at her hotel in Ingouville near the harbour. Pierre-Marie Chanel (1803-1841), Pompallier's vicar and superior of the Marists in the group, was, with Marie-Nizier, to found the mission on Futuna and die there, the first martyr of Oceania. Pierre Bataillon (1810-1877), who established the mission on Wallis (Uvea) with Joseph-Xavier, became the first Vicar Apostolic of Central Oceania. Among their companions at Mme Dodard's were members of the Society of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, commonly known as the Picpus Society from the location of their general house in Paris. This Society had had charge of the vicariate of Eastern Oceania since 1833.

Text of the Letter

Dear very reverend Father,
I wanted to write to you from Paris but couldn't as the time I had there was too short. After we left the Hermitage we stayed in Lyon until the following Sunday. During that time I had to go to St Laurent d'Agny to get my father's permission, have it approved by the mayor, and obtain from him an application to the Prefect for a passport to Oceania for me. On Saturday I assisted at a ceremony at Our Lady of Fourviere. A very beautiful gilt heart was hung around the neck of the statue of the Blessed Virgin. There are a number there already but this is the most beautiful - you can read the words - “Missionaries of Polynesia” - underneath. Inside it we inserted a slip of paper on which were written the names of all those going to Polynesia. Those sent out in future will do the same. It is to be devoutly hoped that it is pleasing for Mary to find her heart filled with the names of her children - there may be thousands in that very heart one day.
On Sunday we left for Paris at 7 o'clock in the morning. We were warmly welcomed by the Superior of the Foreign Missions [Fr Jean Antoine Dubois]. We have nothing to complain about in the way they treated us there.
On the 25th October Frs Chanel and Bataillon left for Le Havre to purchase some supplies. I went with them. Monsignor will come on the 10 November with the other priests and Brothers. Boarding is scheduled for the 12th or 13th of November depending on the weather; it has been put off till then because the captain's merchandise has not all arrived and the weather is not good. We are staying with a good lady, a widow, who is happy to put up missionaries going to foreign lands. She asks for no compensation since she does it for the good God. We are not the first - she has taken in another 16. There are 4 members of the Picpus Order travelling on the same ship with us; they are going to eastern Oceania. Some of them may remain at Valparaiso where they have a house.
We have been to visit the various docks of Le Havre. The American ships are the finest we have seen. I have had a particularly close look at the layout of the ship taking us to Valparaiso. It is certainly not the largest, but it is very clean and pretty and reckoned a good sailing ship. Everything was new to me - the three tall masts towering as high as the eye can see, the rope ladders for climbing - these especially caught my attention. And below deck there are little cabins, about 5 feet [1] long and 2-1/2 feet wide, around quite a large room (that's the dining room). Each cabin accommodates 2 persons and on each side is a bed set up in the form of a shelf attached to the bulkhead of the ship. In the cabin over the head there is a casement window 1/2 a foot long and 2 inches wide. These are some of the things I noticed.
We have tried to measure with our eyes the immense distances separating us from our unfortunate savages, but in the far distance the sea seems to merge with the sky and hides the lands from view. We desire so much to see them so we can bring them knowledge of the true God.
I bless the Lord for condescending to grant my prayer in choosing me from among so many Brothers to accompany these zealous Marist missionaries going to carry the light of the Gospel among the savages. As for you, dear Father, I cannot express the gratitude I feel in my heart when I consider how you have seconded God's plans for me.
Rest assured, my dear Father, of my devotion and sincere gratitude.
Br Marie-Nizier


  1. At that period the French foot was a measure equivalent to 13 modern inches.

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