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Br Marie-Nizier (Jean-Marie Delorme) to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Futuna, 10 Dec 1844

Clisby Letter 51. Girard doc. 353

Introdution and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS


When Bataillon visited Futuna in June 1844, he divided the island into two parishes, one centred on Poi, the place of Chanel's martyrdom, in the district of Tua, the other at Nuku in the western district of Sigave. Servant was in charge of the former, Favier in charge of the latter. John-Victor Favier (1816 - 1887), a Marist since 1842, worked on Futuna from the time of his arrival there in 1844 to 1848, when he was assigned to Rotuma. He was replaced there at the end of 1850 and went on to Fiji the following year. Marie-Nizier divided his time equally between the two parishes. He now had a heavier workload than he had had with Chanel, and the two priests had different priorities. In his letter to Pompallier of 12 November 1842 (APM), he mentions excessive manual work which prevented him sometimes from reciting his Office and taking his evening catechism classes (Ronzon 53).

This letter is obviously complementary to the one of October 6 (L 49) which was sent at the same time, and continues the treatment of the missionaries' way of life begun towards the end of that letter [19]. What prompted the thought of military service mentioned in the postscript [10] is a matter of conjecture. The problem for the Brothers, anyway, had been completely disposed of by the union of the Brothers of Mary with those of St Paul-Trois-Chateaux two years before (rf L 52 following), though this would be as yet unknown to Marie-Nizier. He was presumably sent the requested information since the matter is not raised again in his correspondence. As for the books requested [11], he had to wait some five years before he could report he had received a copy of the Brothers' Rule (rf L 84), and his letters show he often had to repeat his requests for books, as well as for other items.

The translation is from a typescript in a collection of copies of the Brother's correspondence in the AFM. The originals are in the APM.

Text of the Letter

Very reverend Father,
Divine Providence has just accorded me an unexpected favour. I had left after sunset to go to Fr Favier's. I had to cross some almost impassable places, and I was not even halfway when a message arrived from Fr Favier telling me I need not come. I am using what is left of the night before the ship departs to finish these little news items I wanted to send you.
Our occupations on the missions are as many and as varied as the different needs that arise. I am not at all a cabinetmaker yet I have had to make chairs, doors, and other little things. One must be laundryman, tailor, sacristan, in short everything circumstances require, and sometimes even make things one has never seen done. I say that, having been obliged to completely renovate a chasuble and its accessories and give it a cross of a different colour. The scarcity of soutanes for the priests has forced us to utilise a sheet to make one for Fr Servant. He has to wear it all white as we can't get a dye that lasts. It was an experiment on my part - I had never made one by myself before.[1] Now Fr Favier is insisting on having a white soutane too. You can see how many my occupations are, especially considering I am the only one for two establishments.
Perhaps the only good I am doing on Futuna is helping the priests learn something of the language.
If I continue to go about as I have been going almost all the time I have been on Futuna, the shoemakers would not be competing for my custom, for I always go barefoot. If you want to ask me why, I would reply it is because I have no shoes. It was certainly a penance in the beginning to walk across reefs nearly as sharp as needles, and over rocks as rugged as one can imagine, but now I hardly notice.
You can get washbasins here much more easily and cheaply than in France; half a coconut shell makes one. The one I use is 43 centimetres in circumference. I have a little table made of bamboo tied tightly together and a bed of the same construction with some mats spread over it.
For the great feasts we have made some lights for the church. It's true we can't make use of lamps as we would like. They are simply half coconuts filled with oil with wicks made from coconut leaf fibre with a little cotton wrapped around them. Yet they produce a very pure light and the number adds to the beauty. We have had almost 450 to 460 lit at a time.
I am now going to give you a brief sketch of the main trials, spiritual and material, I have had to put up with. I have been subject to violent assaults on the part of my spiritual enemies and still am. But I suppose we will be free of those only in heaven.
As for the material ones, when the mission was first re-established, the administration was divided into two parts; one priest responsible for the spiritual and the other for the material. The division has sometimes led to differences of opinion which have caused me concern and justifiable irritation, for it happens that one Father tells me to do a thing and the other forbids it. I am filled with regret at times, especially at the memory of Fr Chanel; my three and a half years spent with him amid hardships seem less substantial than a dream. I have at times almost regretted not having arrived on the scene of the Father's torments the day he was martyred.[2]
There, my very reverend Father, are the main things I had to communicate to you. I dare to ask you to be kind enough to send me a reply.
While awaiting that happy moment I have the honour of being, now and in the future, always with respect and obedience, my very reverend Father, your very humble and submissive son in J(esus) and M(ary),
Br MarieNizier.
PS This is possibly just a childish idea that comes to mind, but if it is not a question of privileged information, I would like to know - as far as you judge it appropriate - if there are any difficulties in my regard concerning the laws of military service.
There are some books I would like to have. They are: a copy of Collot's catechism, a copy of the Lyon or Belley catechism, Royamount's abridged version of the Holy Bible, the abridged form of Sacred History by question and answer, and a copy of the Rule.


  1. Marie-Nizier's father was a tailor and as a boy he must have picked up the rudiments of the trade from him.
  2. He had expressed the same sentiments in almost exactly the same words in a letter two years earlier to Monsignor Pompallier (12 Nov. 1842): "I can assure you, My Lord, as the good natives tell me sometimes: 'I will never forget Fr Chanel.' Oh, no! Three and a half years with the Reverend Father have seemed to me less than a dream ... and all my life, were it prolonged by a century, I would keep his memory engraved deeply in my heart ... I have, at times, almost regretted not having arrived at the place of Fr Chanel's martyrdom the day he received his glorious crown." (PC 129). In the original, these words are written in Futunan. They were, perhaps, only for the Bishop's eyes, since Servant, his superior and censor of the letter, had not as yet learnt the language. (so Ronzon 53).

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