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Brothers Lucien and Paschase to Brother Francois, l'Arche d'Alliance, 18 November 1845

LO 56


Brothers Lucien and Paschase were members of the 13th group of Marists to leave for Oceania. Lucien (Jean Francois-Regis Magnhaudier 1816-1873) had studied for the priesthood before applying to join the Brothers of Saint Paul-Trois-Chateaux in February 1841. He became a Brother of Mary when the two congregations united the following year, and made his perpetual profession on 8 September 1844. Paschase (Jean Saint-Martin 1819-1853), a tailor by trade, had by contrast, become interested in the religious life during his military service, and appears to have tried several congregations before approaching the Marists in Lyon. Colin sent him to the Hermitage where he entered the novitiate in April 1845 and made profession at the beginning of November, shortly before setting out for Oceania. The other members of this group were Fr Georges Collomb, who was to be Epalle's coadjutor, Frs Villien, Crey, Meriais, Padel, Vachon, Verne, and Mugniery, and Brs Optat, Gerard, and Joseph Muraour, a coadjutor. Eight of them were destined for Central Oceania and the other five for Epalle's Vicariate of Melanesia and Micronesia. With them, for the first time, was a woman, Marie-Francoise Perroton, 49 years old, a lay volunteer who had worked for the Propagation of the Faith in Lyon and was to become the pioneer of the Sisters of the Missions of the Society of Mary in the Pacific. She had received little encouragement from Colin to go to the missions, and was to receive even less from Bataillon when she appeared on his doorstep a year or so later.

On Friday 14 November they all attended Mass in the church of Notre Dame du Havre said by the famous Abbe Desgenettes of Notre Dame des Victoires in Paris. The next day they joined their ship, the "Arche d'Alliance" and left Le Havre. This vessel, on its maiden voyage, belonged to the recently founded Societe Francaise de l'Oceanie, a venture sponsored by the Marists and backed by a wealthy shipowner from Le Havre, Victor Marziou. The company's purpose was to trade between Europe and the islands of the Pacific and at the same time facilitate travel and communication for the missionaries of the region. The captain was a naval officer on special leave, Commander Auguste Marceau (1806-1851), a fervent Catholic who ran his ship like a monastery (Hosie 102). Once they were in the Channel, a schooner came up with 150 barrels of gunpowder the French government was sending to its forces in Tahiti and the Marquesas. From the 18th to the 23rd of November they were forced to lie in shelter off Portsmouth until the wind turned in their favour.

The second vessel of the Societe, the "Stella del Mare", did not leave France until the end of October 1847. It was the last, since the company folded a year later.

Text of the Letter

Very honoured D(irector) G(eneral),
After leaving Le Havre on the 15th we were so buffeted on the Channel for four days we have been forced to take shelter off the Isle of Wight, in sight of Portsmouth. On Saturday night, the day we boarded, almost all the crew were seasick. On Sunday we heard Mass lying on our beds. Br Gerard was wrung out, and he is still in that state. Br Optat has been more fortunate. Paschase and Lucien have scarcely known what the trouble was, except for the noises being made around them. We are not complaining, though, quite the contrary! How good Mary is to have tested us. Besides there are not enough dishes; it is necessary to leave them for the most afflicted. We know that Fr Degenette (sic) of Notre Dame des Victoires, who celebrated Mass for us at Le Havre, promised us the demons would not look kindly on us and were sure to make war on us. He prophesied very truly. Our captain, who has sailed the seas for 17 years, said last evening he had never experienced such a contrary wind. Twice he tried in vain to regain the French coast, twice we found ourselves driven, despite all our efforts, towards the English one. We will be here until it pleases divine Providence to send us better weather.
Our ship is loaded with 150 barrels of gunpowder for the government, which means all ports are closed to us. On the 18th, although the sea was rough, an English steamer came out to call on us. Its pilot came aboard to direct us and, a moment later, the agents of the French consul, employed by the Britannic government, arrived to pay us a visit. They left after only two hours, promising to return at 3 o'clock to collect our mail. We thought we would give you the pleasure by sending you this first little note. Br Paschase was discovered to be in possession of prohibited goods. This annoyed our excellent commander and he would probably have put him off at Cherbourg if we had been able to anchor there. Our priests have all suffered from seasickness, especially Frs Verne and Villien. Although a sailor, Fr Padel has not been spared either. We spent a week at the hospice of Le Havre where we received very good treatment. There were 14 Marists, 11 Jesuits, 4 of the Holy Ghost order, all waiting to leave. As you see, we gained nothing by being the first to leave.
Please pray, very reverend Brother, and have prayers said that our prospects will improve. I left with the regret of not being able to say a last goodbye to dear Br Jean-Baptiste and dear Br Stanislaus. I am sending this to say it once more. We commend ourselves to your prayers. In 3 weeks a second ship of the Oceanian Society will be leaving Le Havre. If you send us some news by it we would be very pleased to receive it. I think you would have to address it to M. Marziou, wholesale merchant, Le Havre, rue de l'Orleem [sic], agent of the Society, who would have it forwarded to us. They are waiting for our letters. We embrace you in Jesus and Mary for all.
Brs Lucien and Paschase.

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