Br Jacques to Br Francois, Valparaiso, 1 February 1845
The tenth group of Marists, destined for Central Oceania, left Brest in mid-October 1844 on the corvette,"L'Heroine". It comprised two priests, Frs Francois-Ferdinand Junillon and Theodore Violette, and two coadjutors, Brs Charles Edouard Aubert and Jacques Peloux. Jacques (1818-1863) entered the Society in 1843. The Register of Coadjutors places him at the Hermitage for his novitiate on 29 July 1843, but there is no direct reference to him in the PFM records of that period. However, as both his letters and other sources indicate, he spent at least part of his formation at the Hermitage, apparently sent there by Colin. Colin was still sending some of his brothers to the Hermitage for this purpose as late as 1845 (presuming the date of the following has been recorded correctly). Francois wrote to him on the 9 February 1845: "We will be pleased to receive the Brother you wish to confide to us for a certain time and will do our best to form him well" (CSG 1. 396). What is certain is that Jacques made his vows on 17 September 1844 with Charles Aubert at Belley, only a month before the two left for the missions.
The warship called in at Tenerife and Valparaiso before reaching its destination at Tahiti where the French had established their main naval base in the Pacific. From there the missionaries had to make their own way to Wallis, arriving at the centre of the vicariate in May.
The Picpus fathers had established a mission in the Marquesas on Vaituhi in 1838. By the beginning of 1845, now centred on Nukuhiva, it was becoming the centre of a little theocracy modelled on their highly successful mission in the Gambiers, itself influenced by the Jesuit reductions of Paraguay a century or so before. In the meantime, in 1843, France had annexed the Marquesas, and in September the same year also proclaimed Tahiti a protectorate. But while the inhabitants of the former islands offered no resistance, those of the latter were considerably less happy, and guerilla warfare broke out in 1844, ending only at the end of 1846. Jacques was from St Bonnet-le-Troncey, near the birthplace of the Colins, about halfway between the Loire and Saone Rivers, northeast of Roanne. Although the Brothers never had a school there, the town and its hamlets provided some vocations, as this letter indicates .
Text of the Letter
- Very dear Brother,
- I am sitting down today to write to you according to the promise I made you to send some news at the first opportunity. There is a ship on the point of setting sail for France and I am taking advantage of the fact.
- It is very consoling for a poor Brother to open his heart to that of his Brother, a Brother I have loved so much and whom I will continue to love, not only during this life but, I like to believe, for all eternity. Now I am separated from you by such immense distances, very dear Brother, allow me to make use of the only means of communication left to give you some little details of my voyage, until I can send you news of my posting.
- Having left Brest on the 17 October, we reached Tenerife on the 3 November without experiencing anything more trying than a bout of sea-sickness. For me, this lasted barely an hour, but our priests and the other Brother had a harder time of it. From the time of leaving the gulf of Gascony to arriving at the said island we had the best weather possible. The sky has a purity and a variety of colours you would say were borrowed from the rainbow, especially in the morning and the evening, at sunrise and sunset, but there is such variety that the eye, overwhelmed, finds endless scope for diversion, and the soul matter for profound meditation.
- Now a few words on what we found edifying on the ship and glorious for the faith. During the entire crossing our priests have been able to say holy Mass nearly every Sunday and, very frequently, on weekdays as well. The commander attended with many of the officers and a very large number of sailors. The Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent we began a novena in honour of the Immaculate Conception. The next day, Sunday, more than 150 sailors came to ask the Fathers to give them a miraculous medal, and on the 8th day of the feast everyone on board had one. Some of them received holy communion that day led by the first officer, who sets the example not only on Sundays but every time he can be present at holy communion. We had the same example on the solemnity of Christmas when, at midnight Mass, 17 persons received holy communion, 5 of them for the first time, after our Fathers had given them a thorough preparation. But what the crew found most surprising and we most consoling was that we were able to celebrate these feasts solemnly at Cape Horn where the sea poses so many obstacles on account of the storms usually raging there.
- We were then at 18 degrees latitude and it was only on New Year's Day that we rounded the Cape, being always at a distance of 7 or 8 degrees. Nine degrees further and we would not have seen sunrise or sunset at all, since it is summer down here now. Still, we went far enough to observe some very curious sights. Among others, the rising and the setting of the sun, beginning to become visible to us about 3 o'clock in the morning and leaving us at 9 o'clock at night, leaving behind or preceded by a twilight so beautiful and bright that we could read by it as late as 11 o'clock at night and as early as 1 o'clock in the morning. And you, my dear Brother, at the Hermitage, you can only distinguish objects at 5 o'clock in the evening by means of a lamp.
- We have been a month at Valparaiso now. We have not noticed time dragging since we have been staying with the Picpus missionaries and they have taken very good care of us since we arrived. They are building a house and I have done a little work, carpentry, painting, etc. We have just received some very good news, which will certainly please you too, and that is that the king and queen of the Marquesas have just become converts. Not only that, but the converts from the neighbouring islands have come to proclaim them as their true Christian monarchs.  Tomorrow, the 2 February, we are setting sail for Taiti (sic) without knowing when we will leave there. The admiral hasn't been able to promise to take us as far as Wallis. It was only after serious discussion our Fathers decided to set sail for a land which offers us so few resources, but in the end we are abandoning ourselves into the hands of divine Providence.
- I am running out of time. I will finish my letter by asking you to continue to pray for us. We have no doubt that it is because of your good prayers and those of the whole society of Mary that we have been so fortunate on our 4000 league passage. For my part, I will never forget you. Please pass on my very humble respects to Fr Matricon and the very honourable Brothers Louis Marie and Jean Baptiste, and my very sincere good wishes to the Brothers from St Bonnet as well as all the Brothers of the Society.
- Accept the tender and sincere embrace of one who is, and will always be,
- Your very devoted and affectionate Brother,
- Br Jacques Peloux.
- Your very devoted and affectionate Brother,
- The Brother referred to may be Paschase who entered the novitiate at the Hermitage in April 1845. But if so, he did not return to the Fathers being professed as a PFM in November (rf L. 58).
- Cor S.M. Rademaker SSCC. The Catholic Mission in the Cook Islands 1894-1994. (Bavel, the Netherlands 1994) pp 20-1.
- the word 'monarchs' has been added as most likely to complete the sense. Jacques' sentence ends with "...Christians."
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