Br Marie-Nizier (Jean-Marie Delorme) to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Futuna, 20 September 1850
APM OW 208 Delorme, Marie-Nizier
Clisby Letter 86. Girard doc. 939
Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS
Before the salutation at the beginning of this letter, Marie-Nizier has written: “To the Very Rev Fr Colin, Superior General (for his eyes only)” (LMN p 77). The confidential nature is dictated by the brother’s complaints about his position vis-à-vis the procure on Wallis and his immediate superior, Fr Servant, which make up the bulk of the letter [5-11).
Bataillon had established the policy in his vicariate of dividing up parcels of food and other supplies arriving from overseas at the central station on Wallis and apportioning them to the other stations according to the number of personnel. In Marie-Nizier’s case, since he was officially no longer on the staff in Futuna, having been transferred to Wallis at the end of 1849 (rf L 81), that meant he was not included in the calculations and had to fend for himself. At the same time, he was expected to continue his work for the mission, in carpentry especially in this instance, without being able to buy the necessary tools [7,8].
In the first case, he was the victim of a policy which was causing hardship not only for individuals but for entire missions. Joseph-Xavier had already experienced its effects (rf L 73). It appears to have applied right across the board. This would explain why Marie-Nizier should have received only one of the books recently sent him, the Brothers’ Rule of 1837 . Although he has learned from three different sources that they have all reached Wallis, he informs Colin in December that he does not expect they will pass the “customs” there (letter of 18 December 1850 LMN p 79). On a grander scale the Marists of Tonga accused the bishop of devoting most of the resources of the vicariate to the development of the establishments on Wallis to the detriment of the other stations of the region (Duriez-Toutain p 8). This was one of the reasons behind Colin’s refusal to send any more men to Oceania after 1849.
In the second case, it is rather question of personal differences between Marie-Nizier and Servant. The latter’s conduct towards the brother might be a consequence of his steadily deteriorating health – he was quite deaf and increasingly subject to attacks of fever and elephantiasis. But the resignation to the Divine Will he claims in his diary (rf Goulter p 10) does not appear to have been accompanied by a corresponding patience with his subordinates.
Marie-Nizier shared his feelings of discouragment not only with Colin and Dubreuil during his brief visitation, but also with Poupinel who, in a letter of November 1859, reports that the brother had been “treated very poorly by Fr Servant” (rf LMN p 19 n 1. Ronzon concludes that the brother’s letters to Pompallier of November 1842 reproduced here shows the relationship was a strained one from the start). He appears, however, to have got on very well with Grezel who had moved from the Hermitage to take over the second parish on Futuna
The request Marie-Nizier made to Poupinel  was for the book on the apparitions at La Salette which Joseph also expressed an interest in (rf prec. letter), as well as some water from a spring at the site and a fragment from the rock on which Our Lady was seen to be sitting (letter of 19 September 1850, LMN 75-6). In a postscript he adds: “If you could send me too the books the brothers of the Hermitage have printed: canticles, grammar, spelling exercises, dictations, etc; if, with the Very Rev Father General’s permission, it were possible to add “The Religious Man”, the book of spelling mistakes and all their corrections, I would receive it all with great joy.” (LMN 76). It would appear, then, he is repeating the request he made to Br Francois at the end of his letter to the Hermitage in June 1846 (L 64 ).
Text of the Letter
- Very Reverend Father,
- Although it is only about 5 months since I wrote to you, I cannot let pass a further opportunity to show you some sign of life.
- In the short spell since Frs Dezest and Sage arrived from Wallis, the former for the college and the later for Rotuma, I have read your general letter. I don’t know how to express my gratitude for the fatherly care with which you think of me. The books you have had sent to me have not yet arrived, except for the Rule of the Brothers. I am expecting the others on the first occasion some one comes from Wallis.
- I will not mention here the new colony of Caledonians who have come with some Fathers of the Bishop of Amata’s vicariate. Those priests will doubtlessly keep you up to date with everything that concerns them.
- Nothing in particular about Futuna comes to mind for me to let you know about.
- But, at the same time, I cannot resist the need to open my heart to you about certain things that have been a cause of some discouragement to me. I must warn you though, my Reverend Father, that I am not telling you anything out of animosity or hatred. I am simply expressing things as they are. Please give me your advice on the situation.
- I don’t know if I am regarded as not being subject to human needs, or as not belonging to the mission, but it is a fact that in almost all the distributions of things for common use in the Futuna mission, such as paper, pens, ink, etc. my share has always been zero. Just recently we were sent provisions from Wallis – sugar, sea biscuit, flour, eau de vie, etc. all divided up according to the number of individuals. Nothing was sent for me because I was supposed to be transferred, but as the sailing did not take place, I was given profuse promises that a share would be sent for me at the earliest opportunity. A ship has come from Wallis since, but of the provisions, not one crumb. Still, I was allowed to buy a little biscuit on board a ship.
- The principle has been established that each station should try to be self-sufficient. To conform with this, a request was made by the establishment where I am for some tools, particularly for carpentry; the cost for everything would have been about 100 francs. The response was that there was no need for them, that there was no need for a chair to sit on. And they had just brought from Sydney, for the college, various items for 1000 francs. (But there they are in need of everything …..)
- Since His Lordship is not here, one is forced to approach his representative to obtain help. All the response one gets is: Sort it out yourself. If one asks for the purchase of things useful for doing the various tasks, the response is: You don’t need them …. and the refusal is accompanied by the harshest words.
- I have been cut to the depths of my heart by this way of acting. In making this representation, I am only complying with the urgent recommendation of Fr Dubreul.
- If you think it good, very reverend Father, that the money set aside in France for buying my shoes should be used for purchasing the main carpenter’s tools (for my present establishment), I am quite willing to go without for some time.
- I repeat, very reverend Father, it is not out of bitterness or resentment that I am giving you these little details. I am brought to it by the sorrow I feel at this constant refusal for things which are not at all personal, and which I cannot see an end to.
- Please be so good as to give me a reply, my very reverend Father.
- I have written to my benefactor, M Brosse.  * If you approve the requests I made him I will be very happy, but if you judge it fitting not to allow them, I will be happy just the same. I have never had any intention other than to conform entirely to your decisions. I have also made a request of the reverend Father Poupinel, but that is subject to your approval.
- Accept, my very reverend Father, the assurance of my profound respect, and my appeal that you remember me in your prayers and at the Holy Sacrifice.
- I have the honour of being my very Reverend Father,
- Your very humble and submissive son in Jesus and Mary,
- Br Marie Nizier.
- PS. I have forgotten to ask your approval for a commission I asked my sister to do in a letter to her.
- Jean-Pierre Brosse of Saint Laurent d’Agny had paid the fees for the novitiate of Marie-Nizier as well as for his younger brothers who did not stay in the Institute. He continued to show an interest in him until his death in 1867 (LMN 65 n.2).
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