Bishop Bataillon to Br Francois, Upolu, 2 October 1853
Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS
Colin had taken the opportunity of the brothers’ second general chapter in 1852 to renounce his general supervision of the congregation, thus ending the formal association between the priests’ and brothers’ branches of the Society. As Avit remarks: “Rev Fr Colin transmits this decision in terms not very flattering for the Brothers: ‘ I was told in Rome, he says, that it is not appropriate to yoke the ass with the ox.’” (AA 2: 185). It was not until the third session of the chapter in 1854 that Francois was accorded the title of superior general, but his actual independence of action was recognised long before that, as this letter testifies. Bataillon was hoping he would be more amenable than Colin in responding to requests for brothers for Oceania. But he is surely ingenuous when he suggests the latter had not responded because he had none available. He was well aware Colin had refused to send him any priests or brothers since 1849 because he was not looking after them (rf eg L 69).
Bataillon was not satisfied with the results of his training centres on Wallis and Futuna. He realised that if he wanted Oceanian priests and brothers, he needed to have them trained away from the influence of local customs and traditions. Since at least 1852 he had had his eye on Villa Maria in Sydney (Hosie 108). In his request to Francois, he envisages three brothers, specialists in their trades, living at the procure, working at their trades for the benefit of the mission, and at the same time, training young islanders for that purpose . Unfortunately, as this letter also indicates, he was thinking of their services, and of the procure itself, only in terms of his own vicariate, an approach which was likely to alienate Colin even further. When, however, the services of the procure were augmented a few years later, they did include brother tradesmen with their apprentices.
His Marists did not share the bishop’s confidence that he would obtain brothers. His lengthy postscript presents some of their arguements. They would have heard of Pompallier’s difficulties in Rome, and, in fact, those brothers who had left the Society had been mainly ones under his jurisdiction . Bataillon claimed he was making saints of his. As for the claim that because of their long-awaited authorisation in France in June 1851 (cf Avit 2: 139), and the pressure of demands at home, the congregation was no longer interested in Oceania, he surmises, rightly, that it was without foundation. The sentiments he expresses are those found in Francois’ own letters.
Copies of this letter are found in the collection of 48 letters (OCE 622.51) in the AFM (pages 241-5), and also in a second collection of letters dating from 1846 (pp 180-4). But Bataillon was to get his brothers only after visiting the Hermitage in person on his return to Europe in 1856-1857.
Text of the Letter
- Very Honourable Brother,
- For a long time I have been appealing to the Very Reverend Fr Colin for two or three Brothers we urgently need, but without success. I suspect it is because he has none at his disposal, and that you are probably now solely responsible for the Marist Brothers. It is for this reason that I am approaching you to ask of you this service in aid of the difficult and neglected missions that are ours in Oceania.
- These are the subjects we need:
- 1st. A Brother tailor, and a good one, to make soutanes for the missionaries. He would reside in Sydney at the Procure for our missions. I would send two or three natives there for him to train and then help him do all the sewing needed for the mission. That would be of immense service to the missionaries. Consider that the making of a soutane in Sydney costs about 80 francs. The material is hardly any dearer than in France, but the making of the soutane triples its price, and with the scanty resources at our disposal, it is to be feared we will have great difficulty keeping ourselves in clothing. Whereas, if you grant our missions the favour I am asking here, it would be easy for our confreres to get what they need for clothing.
- 2nd. Another Brother procuror, that is, one who carries out commissions in the town of Sydney. It is hardly fitting for an ecclesiastic to tramp the streets of Sydney part of the year carrying out commissions for the missionaries. Employing a foreign agent, on the other hand, means running up more expenses and frequently running the risk of being cheated. A Brother with the aptitude for this would render us very important service. You would know full well what skills he would need. Above all he would have to know English or have facility in learning it. Then he should have some knowledge of commerce, be active, intelligent, well-mannered, able to assert himself, keep accounts in order, etc. He should be familiar with social customs. If a Brother tailor had these qualities too, he could fill both posts by himself.
- 3rd. A Brother shoemaker who would reside in Sydney, and who, with the help of several natives I would send him, would make the missionaries’ shoes. Having shoes made in Sydney triples the price.
- A Brother printer would be of great use to us. But if we were to receive the three subjects mentioned, they would do if necessary, because the Brother procuror could learn the art of printing in Sydney and could keep the printing going with the help of some young Oceanians he had trained, at the same time as he attended to his business in the procure.
- Observe, I beg you, that these three Brothers are to stay in Sydney at the Procure to train the natives and work with them. This position is nothing out of the ordinary; it differs little from the one the Brothers occupy in France. In consequence, it will suit them better and give you less cause for concern yourself. It is the young Oceanians they will have to instruct and train for the good of the missions. They themselves would be under the direction of the Procurator and kept, it goes without saying, at the expense of the Vicariate. I beg you, very dear and honourable Brother, in the name of Mary, to grant our missions the favour I am asking in this letter, and if you find occasion to accede to my urgent request, brook no delay. Look immediately for the subjects who could fill the posts I mention and arrange with Fr Poupinel to get them to Sydney at the earliest opportunity, via London, I understand, at the expense of the Vicariate of the Centre.
- We need Brothers who are active, strong, of good character and solid piety, that goes without saying. If you grant me the three subjects I ask for, choose them yourself, and I am convinced the choice will be a good one. Once we have those three, it will be a long time before we ask for any more, if ever.
- While awaiting your reply, I beg you to accept the sentiments full of esteem and affection, with which I am, Dear and Honourable Brother,
- Your very humble and obedient servant,
- + P [ierre]. Bishop of Enos.
- Vic. Apost. of Central Oceania.
- Your very humble and obedient servant,
- When I had finished my letter, the confreres with me told me I was wasting my time with you, that Vicars Apostolic had gone in person to ask you for subjects and had come away emptyhanded. What results could a simple letter expect. How frustrating... how really frustrating... But God’s will be done! Allow me to point out that if you have had reason to deplore the misconduct of some of the Brothers who have come out to Oceania, it ‘s not in the Vicariate of the Centre that these misfortunes have taken place. All the Brothers coming from the Hermitage have persevered and are still persevering, thanks be to God, throughout the Vicariate. Three have died, but good deaths, saintly deaths, and could you desire other than to make saints of your Brothers?
- My confreres add that because you have been approved by the Government, your society flourishes, and many bishops and parish priests are making demands on you, and for that reason, you are no longer thinking of Oceania. This report is probably wrong, for who has told you it wasn’t the sufferings, sacrifices, prayers, deaths of the Brothers in Oceania which were the cause of the success the rest of your family reap in Europe. Crosses are what make a work fruitful, and it may be the crosses of Oceania are more efficacious for that than the ones of France. Moreover, it cannot be that the Blessed Virgin, the Mistress of the Society, loves the poor and abandoned children of Oceania less than those you look after in France.
- Excuse my importunity, dear Brother. This is the first request I have addressed on behalf of our missions. If you excuse it willingly, it will be the last.
- In the name of Mary, Queen of Oceania, send me the three Brothers I ask for.
- + P. Bishop of Enos.
- Paschase had died on Lakeba on July 8, but as Bataillon had not yet received the news (rf following letter) he must be including Annet with Attale and Gerard among the Brothers of the Hermitage.
|Previous Letter||Letters from Oceania: 1852-3||Next letter|