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Br Claude-Marie to Francis Redwood, Nelson, 1 May 1856


Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS


On 19 March Claude-Marie wrote a letter to Br Francois in which he included another for Redwood written in English (rf letter of 12 October 1856 MBAA). He entrusted them to the young Mr Smith, a recent convert and acquaintance of the Redwoods, who was going to Europe on business. According to the October letter, Smith got only as far as Sydney. He posted the letters there but while Redwood's can still be found among his papers, there is no trace of the one to Francois in the brothers' archives. Claude-Marie gives his reason for writing this letter only a month or so later in [4]. It was enclosed with a letter from another of Frank's friends, Daniel O'Sullivan. Frank himself spent May in St Chamond in the infirmary (letter of 12 October).

The opening of Nelson College earlier that year dealt a heavy blow to Garin's college which was depending on the support of the town's wealthier Protestant families. In addition, the colonial government proposed to establish free primary education for the poor. With the taxpayers subsidising education, Catholics were being asked to pay twice, for the government schools and for their own. 'Our school...' complains Claude-Marie in his earlier letter, 'is on the brink of being closed down entirely.' The injustice was not rectified until the Integration Act over a century later.

Among the boarders were more of Frank's relatives, his nephews Joe and Alfred, sons of his eldest brother, Henry, and Austin Ward, son of his sister, Martha. Austin was keen to follow his uncle's example, and so was Alfred, according to another letter a few years later (rf L 123). But neither of them followed through with their plan. Claude-Marie was proposing Frank organise a collection among his fellow-students to help purchase items for the church, but it was to be several years before this often repeated proposal bore any fruit.

This letter from the Ward collection carries the address: Via England, Mr Francis William Mary Redwood, Student at the College of St Mary in St Chamond. France. Loire. In the March letter, Claude-Marie congratulates Frank on having added Mary to his name, so he must have received the sacrament of Confirmation in 1855.

Text of the Letter

Very dear friend,
I am afraid I may be irritating you by writing so often. Doubtless you received the letter I wrote you on 20 January 1856 and the one I gave Mr Smith on his departure for Europe and included in a letter I addressed to the very reverend Br Francois asking him to pass it on to you. The letter was dated the 19 March, feast of St Joseph. It should not take long to reach you together with one from Dan.
My complaints in my last letter were only too well founded. All told we have had only 15 or so children at our school (if we are still running one). The reason for this is that a college has just been opened opposite our establishment. All the children from good families will be accepted there. So goodbye to our French and Latin classes. But that isn't all. In June the Government is taking over the primary schools, which are to be free. But all the Catholic householders (although they won't be sending their children very likely, since the teaching will be all Protestant) and the Protestant ones, those who have children and those who don't, all without exception, even Fr Garin, will be obliged to pay towards the Protestant schools, which teach error. All, I repeat, are forced to contribute a pound a year. Consider that closely and you will see if I wasn't right to complain about injustice!!! So you can see that with all the classes being free, all the Protestant children who were coming to us before will now go elsewhere.
Mrs Bolton has been in the country since Easter Monday. No one knows what has become of Mr Bolton. Isn't she the beloved daughter of the cross?[1] Joe is with her as well as all the other children.
Joe and Alfred Redwood are here boarding with Austin Ward. It is mainly because of the latter that I have taken the liberty of writing you this letter. I find in Austin such good dispositions I would very much wish the good God would grant him the same graces as you, my very dear friend. I ask you, therefore, to write him a short letter showing him the happiness of being consecrated to God in such a holy vocation, etc. etc. He told me one day that he wished, he hoped to see you in France one day. I replied: Ah! What a joy for Frank and what happiness for you, my dear Austin. How pleased I would be myself. There is much more value in being a shepherd of souls than of a flock of sheep in Wairau.
The lovely month of May supplies you with flowers for decorating Mary's altars. Here it is the opposite. We commence our winter. Pray to that tender Mother, dear friend, for my needs are very great.
Your father and mother are talking in 4 or 5 years of spending their last years in retirement at 'home' (England?) and so having the consolation and pleasure of seeing you. It appears Charles would have to accompany them, and once they are settled in, he will return to look after the farm with Tom.
If Mr Smith presents you with a list of items we would like very much for our chapel, and you know how poor it is, I beg you not to treat it lightly. By your zeal for the glory of God, try to do everything possible to make a contribution towards the expenses by a subscription, you and your fervent fellow-students and pious friends. How joyful it would be if you had the good fortune of obtaining some pretty ornaments, etc. etc. for our chapel!!!
Goodbye, very dear friend. Once again don't forget the one who has the honour of being
your very humble servant,
Br Claude-Marie.


  1. The italics indicate the words are in English in the original.

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