Br Joseph-Xavier to Br Francois, Villa Maria, 12 March 1859
Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS
The 1857 ruling also lead to the development of the procure in Sydney and the expansion of its resources. More abundant stores of goods for the missions were needed and a more efficient supply system had to be installed. Further personnel were also envisaged, particularly brothers who could make clothes, shoes, etc. and teach young islanders their trades. To a certain extent these moves had been anticipated by the building programmes at Villa Maria which enlarged the living quarters in 1856 and produced the new church in 1857. Thus when Emery and Augule arrived in March 1858 they already had workshops waiting for them.
The brothers also brought with them copies of the newly published ‘Life of Father Champagnat’. Joseph was fortunate enough to be among the first missionaries to read this work which Avit describes as of a “simple, correct and very attractive” style and which the brothers were very pleased with (AA 215). But the annalist also mentions that some of the fathers were not so pleased with it, and these included Poupinel, as Emery reports in a letter written only a month after this one (rf L 141 and Introduction for the reasons for the fathers’ displeasure). Joseph does not appear to have shared their feelings . There were also copies of the Rule, the 1852 one (not that of 1837 which Champagnat had promised to send Joseph) and the Manual of Piety (1855), more commonly known as the Principles of Christian and Religious Perfection. It is not clear why Emery should have taken back from Joseph the copy of the Rule he had been given in Francois’ name.
The idea of the brothers at the procure training young islanders in their trades had been proposed by Bataillon to Francois already in 1853 (rf L 105). Emery and Augule already had their apprentices, a Futunan and a Tokelauan. The Marists had been involved with the inhabitants of the Tokelau group (called the Clarence islands after the Duke of Clarence by the first English captain to visit then in 1791) since the arrival in Uvea in October 1846 of a number of survivors of a great cyclone which had devastated their islands. By 1859 the island of Nukunonu was almost entirely Catholic.
As for Joseph himself, he had been appointed by Grezel, in the name of King Alphonse, consul general for Futuna (Frederic Angleviel, Les Missions a Wallis et Futuna au XIXe siecle, Bordeaux-Talance, 1994, p 159).
A manuscript copy of this letter is to be found in cahier 2 (pp 31-32) in the AFM.
Text of the Letter
- Very Reverend Brother,
- I have been wanting to write to you for a long time. I can’t think what negligence of mine has kept me from it until now. I am still at the Procure and still keeping reasonable health at present. I don’t think I will be returning to the Centre among the savages I love so much, because my maladies would soon return. I will probably finish my days at Villa Maria, but if the good God decides otherwise, let his holy will be done. I don’t know, very dear Brother, how to thank you and let you know how grateful I am for all your consideration for us.
- Through dear Brothers Emery and Augule I have received the life of our Very Reverend Fr Champagnat. It gave me great pleasure; I have found it very edifying. I was grieved to learn one of the Brothers of the first group to Oceania has left us. I also received the Manual of Piety and that has also given me much pleasure. I find it very edifying. These are the only books of the Society I have, apart from the Christian Manual the good Father gave me on my departure. He promised me a copy of the Rule when it was printed, but I have not received one yet. Good Br Emery, after giving me one from you, reverend Brother, took it off me again to send to New Zealand, which caused me some annoyance. I thank you for the circulars you have been kind enough to send me. They give me great pleasure. If you can send me any other books of the Society, very reverend Brother, I will be very pleased to get them. They will be precious reminders, recalling to me the beautiful days spent at the Hermitage.
- I cannot give you much news about the islands except for dear Br Marie-Nizier who has just written. He is always very happy and in good health and always much loved. As for the Brothers in the Navigators and Fiji, we have had no news of them since Fr Poupinel made his visit. However, it seems all goes well with them. The mission of Tonga has had great difficulties but it is beginning to improve. Everything here is going well. Gennade, Emery and Augule send their respects. They are well. Br Emery has some trouble with his stomach. Time does not hang on their hands. Br Emery has as companion a native from Futuna; he is sewing quite well already. Br Augule has a Tokelauan from the Clarence Islands who helps him a lot in making shoes.
- I finish, my very reverend Brother, by commending myself to your prayers and those of all the Brothers.
- I salute you in Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and remain always your very devoted and obedient servant.
- Luzy, Brother J-X. s.m.
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