From Marist Studies
Jump to: navigation, search

Br Claude-Marie to Francis Redwood, Nelson, 20 February 1855


Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS


Very soon after Viard and his party arrived in Wellington in May 1850, Garin and Claude-Marie were assigned to the settlement of Nelson in the north of the South Island of New Zealand. Pompallier had celebrated the first Mass there on a visit in 1844, and there was a little chapel, opened in 1847. At the time the two Marists arrived, there were about 230 practising Catholics in a population of four and a half thousand Europeans and 900 Maoris.[1] They set about providing a presbytery, a school, opened in the old chapel, and a bigger church. Garin began a boarding school in the presbytery, where Delphin Moreau, who came to join them in July 1851, took classes in French, Latin, and Mathematics. Claude-Marie supervised the boys outside class and helped them with their studies. Redwood, later Marist Archbishop of Wellington, wrote of him in his Reminiscences: "He was in his own language a good scholar, while he also knew Latin. I used to sit beside him in the long studious evenings and while he read his spiritual books, I studied Latin and French. Many a time when I knew not the meaning of a French word or found a puzzle in French grammar, I would ask him the meaning or the solution of the difficulty, and made rapid progress".[2]

Francis Redwood was born in Staffordshire, England, in 1839, the youngest of nine children, and came out to New Zealand with the family at the age of three. He grew up on a farm at Waimea West near Nelson called Stafford Place. He and his brothers were educated privately by their brother-in-law, Joseph Ward, a surveyor and later member of parliament. When Garin opened his school, Francis was one of his first boarders. Since his first communion in 1851 he had thought of becoming a priest. In December 1854 the opportunity arose for him to put this plan into action, with the arrival in Nelson of Comte on his way back to Europe. After a month in Sydney, they left for London, arriving there at the beginning of May, and staying for a week at St Anne's Spitalfields, in the East End. Then they went on to Lyon after a short stop in Paris. Frank would have received this letter in Lyon, where he stayed until the following May. For details about his family and relations, friends and acquaintances mentioned by Claude-Marie in [3], rf Harris (p 6 ff).

Claude-Marie makes mention of his brother living in Lyon. This is probably his younger brother, Jean-Baptiste, professed in the Brothers of the Christian Schools as Brother Rose (FMO 57). He himself had expressed the desire of returning to France, a subject he will return to in later letters (rf eg letter 114 [5]).

This translation has been made from a copy of the original preserved in the archives of the Archdiocese of Wellington made by Br Basil Ward, a great grandson of Joseph Ward, and supplied to the writer in 1992.

Text of the Letter

My dear beloved,[3]
I am including these few lines with the letter the Fathers have written you to let you know of my continuing affection for you. We had no news of you until 7 weeks after your departure from Nelson. What a joy it was for me to learn that your crossing from New Zealand to Sydney had been such a pleasant one, and especially that you had left for France in the company of two priests going to Lyon with you.
My very dear friend, see who it is who leads you by the hand. He has given you courage, which surprised all of us, to leave a father, a mother whose favourite you were, brothers, sisters, relatives, your whole house, without even shedding a tear. You are brave, I assure you, and I hope that God who has begun this work in you will complete it, and that one day you will be the joy and glory of your family. They already admire and respect you. About a month after you left, Mr Ward came to Nelson, and seeing a copy of the 'Garden of the Soul' which had belonged to you and which you had given to James, asked if he could take it back with him to Wairau, saying he was "very fond of reliques" (sic). In brief, all your relatives are happy and grateful to the Lord for the great grace he has granted you. Try then, my very dear friend, to be faithful to such a great Saviour, by great dedication to your spiritual and temporal duties, a punctilious observance of the rules of the house where you are, etc. etc.
Fr Moreau will give you the local news so I will pass over that. You know that Joe Bolton is a boarder here and that Pauley is with the Sisters in Wellington with Kitty Shannon. Dan is a regular farmer with his brother, he is no longer concerned with study. James Tomlinson is here again for some time. He is a good lad. I like him. Every evening he practises the violin. I don't think it will be long before he can play 'Sweet home' like you. Your good , saintly mother is getting better and better and Madam Bolton is now coming to Mass and Vespers. She goes to Mr Fell and Mr Shannon, but she is not very strong yet. Mr Bolton is still with her. It seems that, for the present, he will be going to Wairau only occasionally, so he can be a great help to her. Patrick Corrigan has written twice since he left. He is much better and is thinking of coming back soon to continue his studies, but I think it will be a long time before he can do anything. How neglected our music group is now. No more instruments. Dan is in the country, Peter Franck is leaving for Sydney. Only Jacob and Stophal are left. Goodbye bass, goodbye alto, goodbye second violin. We have never been so poor in all our lives.
I have every reason to believe you have received my letters and have seen my brother. He would have been very pleased to see you because you could give him news of me by word of mouth. I know nothing yet about my returning to France. It is my great desire, but I dare not push it too much for fear of following my own will and having something to blame myself for. The good God knows our desires and our needs. May he act in my regard according to his holy will.
Do not forget to pray a lot for me and tell your friends to do the same, so that the good God will grant me the grace of seeing beautiful France once more. Be sure that one of my first visits will be to see you.
Believe me to be, as long as I live, your very devoted servant,
Br Claude-Marie.


  1. A. Harris, The Beauty of Your House. The Nelson Catholic Parish, 1994, page 24. (Harris)
  2. Br Adrian Scott, I Remember. A Journal of Hope, 1985, Part 3, p 11.
  3. In English in the original

Previous Letter Letters from Oceania: 1854-5 Next letter