Br Francois to Fr Poupinel, St Genis Laval, 17 January 1859
Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS
In the draft of a letter written to a brother director in France in January 1859 (LFF 334), Francois informs him: “The day I went to the Marist Fathers in Lyon, to wish them a happy New Year, I had a long chat with Fr Yardin, procuror of the Missions of Oceania, and I asked him for some copies of the missionaries’ letters that he has had printed. He gave me some for each of our novitiate houses. I will send you one at the first opportunity. But they are family letters. They should not be made known to the public until they have appeared in the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith.
Fr Poupinel, who, as you know, has been sent as Visitor General of the Missions entrusted to the Society of Mary in Oceania, has written me two very cordial letters, giving me news of those of our Brothers he has seen on his visits. He declares how happy he has been with them and what services the Brothers rend the missions. He tells me, too, that in Sydney they read the prayers prescribed for the success of the approbation of the Institute, that he himself said the Mass when all the Brothers received Holy Communion.
Brs Emery, Augule, and Germanique have also written to me from Sydney announcing they had a pleasant voyage and that they were well and very happy in their new situation.”
When Favre agreed to recommence sending missionaries to the Pacific, he also appointed a visitor general who, despite his very limited powers, could look after the interests of the mission personnel vis-à-vis the vicars apostolic. No one could be more suitable for the post than Victor Poupinel who had been procurator for the missions from the beginning, and had a personal acquaintance with most of those sent out. As far as the brothers from the Hermitage were concerned, he seems to have made them his responsibility even before Francois gratefully confirmed him in this role, as this letter testifies [2,4,6]. Although we no longer possess the letters he wrote in April and November 1858, the nature of their contents is evident from Francois’ reply.
Included with this letter are a number of individual ones to brothers among those he lists in . Of those listed only one has no clear connection with the Hermitage – Gabriel Largardelle. This coadjutor brother (1826-1893), who joined the Society in 1849, came out to the Pacific in 1855 and worked in New Caledonia. Having left the Society in 1874 he re-entered 10 years later, and made perpetual profession again in 1892, a year before his death in France. He was stationed at St Chamond before his appointment to the missions and must have visited the Hermitage during that period. This is probably why Francois included him among the recipients of the circulars.
The defections of Michel and Marie-Augustine  have been treated in earlier letters (rf LL 17, 120:8). The third mentioned, Optat (Pierre Bergillon b. 1821) had only just joined the brothers when he sailed for Oceania at the end of 1845. Having survived all the vicissitudes of the Melanesian mission in the Solomons and on Rook, he found Montrouzier’s monastic regime on Murua too much and was tempted to become a beachcomber (Hosie 77). He sailed for Sydney in September 1850 and must have left the Society soon after.
The translation has been made from a copy of the original, held at Villa Maria, Sydney, obtained from the archives of the Marist brothers at Hunters Hill. The draft is to be found in Lettres de Frere Francois, 2, pages 319-20.
Text of the Letter
- Dear Reverend Father,
- I was most interested to receive the two letters you were good enough to write me from Sydney – one on the 18 April and the other 9 November 1858. I beg you to forgive me for not replying sooner, but the trip to Rome and then the Brothers’ retreats caused this involuntary delay.
- I am very grateful, Reverend Father, for the part you are playing in all that concerns the welfare and advantage of our Society. How happy I was to learn that you were so willing at Villa Maria to say the prescribed prayers and offer Holy Mass for the success of our request for approbation by the Holy See.
- I will say nothing here about my trip to Rome because I think you would prefer to hear about it from the Circular letter I am sending to all our Brothers in Oceania. I have indicated to them there the main events of this noteworthy pilgrimage and what has already been done for us on that occasion.
- I am sending at the same time some individual letters to those of our Brothers who have written to me or whom you mentioned to me as in need of encouragement. It gives me consolation and makes me very happy to see how your presence among them revives their courage and their confidence, how pleased and happy they are with your visits, and how they expect from them the most salutary results for the present and the future.
- Please continue, Reverend Father, to keep me up to date on the conduct and spiritual needs of our Brothers; you will be giving me real pleasure. I have no need to commend them to your care and fatherly solicitude. I have only prayers of thanksgiving to offer in return. Your charity extends even to those who have had the misfortune of separating themselves from their Brothers and returning to the world.
- For my part, I will associate myself as far as I am able with your zeal and charity by sending them letters and Circulars and by recommending them to follow your salutary advice and conform to your wise direction. By acting thus together in the same spirit and for the same end I hope we will have the consolation of supporting and strengthening them more and more in their good dispositions, so that they may do all the good they are capable of and which God asks of them.
- (Here are the names of those to whom I am addressing the Circulars, as members of our Society or having done their novitiate at Our Lady of the Hermitage) Brother Marie-Nizier, Br Florentin, Br Joseph-Xavier Luzy, Br Bertrand, Br Basile, Br Lucien, Br Euloge, Br Claude-Marie, Br Elie-Regis, Br Gennade, Br Jacques Peloux, Br Charise, Br Sorlin, Br M(arie) Gabriel Lagardelle, Br Emeri [sic], Br Augule [LFF Auguste], Br Germanique, Br Abraham and Br Ptolomee.
- I certainly approve of the way Br Euloge wishes to make his will and I am grateful for the concern you have shown for our Institute by getting him to leave it two hundred francs.
- The defection of poor Br Michel certainly grieved me; it did not surprise us much, all the same. But Br Optat’s was a real surprise and shock. I know the good Fr Colin shared my feelings on learning the sad news. As for Br Marie-Augustin’s leaving, that came as a thunderbolt, and the Brother Assistants shared my dismay and affliction. It has been some consolation for us to learn that he is leading a good life and still has warm feelings for the Fathers and the work of the missions.
- These unfortunate subjects must pass some very painful moments in recalling their original state, and their moments of joy, if they have any, can only be mingled with bitterness. Fortunate they if they know how to profit from the time God gives them and follow the inspirations of his grace so as to merit to still have a share in the happiness of their Brothers in heaven. I thank you for all you are doing in their favour.
- The day I went to give New Year greetings to the Fathers in Lyon I had the pleasure of a long conversation with Fr Yardin on the missions of Oceania. He read me a number of interesting passages from letters he had received. He was also kind enough to have copies of the letters printed for each of our Novitiate Houses. Our Brothers listen to the reading with exceptional keenness and attention.
- Fathers Matricon and Lallande, the Brother Assistants, and all the others who know you join with me in offering you, and all the Fathers and Brothers of Oceania, the expression of their sincere best wishes for the new year, and in renewing the assurances of their very cordial affection, and the share they take, through their prayers and goodwill, in all that is done in the missions.
- I am, in a particular way, with special affection and respectful devotion, in intimate union of prayer and works,
- my Reverend Father,
- Your very humble and obedient servant,
- Francois. Sup.
- The words in brackets are not included in the draft (LFF 2. 320).
- Louis Emile Aubrey de la Lande (1811-1899), ordained in 1845, joined the Society in 1853, and spent the rest of his Marist life as chaplain to the brothers at the Hermitage and St Genis Laval (rf L 120 ).
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