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Br Emery to Br Francois, Sydney, 19 April 1859

LO 79

Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS


This letter is dated the day Rocher, superior of Villa Maria, left for a holiday in France. The brothers, who found him, in Champagnat’s words, ‘a true father’, looked forward to his return. He arrived back in January 1861, but his health continued to deteriorate and he left again for Europe in April 1864, this time for good (Hosie 118).

Although he was a good tailor, Emery obviously felt he was called to a more active apostolic life, as his requests to Louis-Marie at the Hermitage and to Bataillon on his visit show [2]. At Villa Maria, too, he proved restless, and when Bataillon, looking for staff for his college at Clydesdale, approached the brothers, he was happy to volunteer. Poupinel had not been informed and was not pleased with the bishop’s recruiting campaign, but found protest pointless (Hosie 112).

Emery remarks on Poupinel’s attitude to the Life of Father Champagnat written by Jean-Baptiste [4]. Poupinel had read this, at least the first volume, when it appeared in 1856, and obviously shared the reservations Favre expressed in a letter to Francois of 17 September 1856 (OM 2. 763-4). They were particularly concerned about the critical portrayals of the parish priest of La Valla in Champagnat’s time, since deceased, and of the man behind the original Marist project, Jean-Claude Courveille, now a Benedictine monk at Solemnes. In the light of these criticisms, modifications were made, but the first copies of the work to reach the Pacific evidently did not contain them.

One of Emery’s first projects after arriving back in the Pacific was to renew contact with his former mission of New Zealand. Thus he had news of Claude-Marie, Basile, and Florentin, as well as of those at Villa Maria and elsewhere. There were some seven brothers at the procure at this time and seven priests, including Marie-Nizier’s companion, Grezel, in Sydney for health reasons. Bataillon was also in residence there after his return from Europe. He had just purchased a ship for his vicariate, a 165 ton schooner he renamed the ‘Caroline’ after the Countess de Grandville who donated the money to buy it. It proved an expensive venture and had to be sold three years later (Hosie 172-3).

A copy can be found on pages 36 to 39 of the cahier in the AFM, No 2.

Text of the Letter

Very Reverend Brother Superior,
It has taken me a long time to write but as I had nothing special to write about, I waited until the departure of our good Fr Rocher. There is a true father for the Brothers. He lives up to the title perfectly. Oh, how we love this good Father. We have never met one so good and hope he will return soon as he promised us.
I am still working with the needle, but alas! My poor stomach is giving me real trouble. I believe it will not be long before I am released from this wretched life – so much the better. It’s a curious thing; the more I do to be freed from my tailor’s occupation, the more I find myself tied to it. At the Hermitage I did what I could with dear Br Assistant to be discharged of it. When I spoke to Monsignor about returning here, it was in the hope I wouldn’t be working as a tailor any more. Well, quite the opposite. I am up to my neck in work, so much so that I will never escape from it, I will just have to fade away.
I am constantly afflicted by nervous colic. That is my worst misery, it makes me disgusted with life, and tries me in the crucible of tribulation. Sometimes the good God gives me some relief so that I might not lose courage, for at times it grips me so savagely I would like to die. However, in general I am content because I am conscious of my fear of sin, and since I work as much as I can, I do not waste my time. That is what gives me great confidence. I hope that after so many vicissitudes the good God will show me mercy.
Fr Poupinel has not judged it suitable to send the Brothers the life of our pious Founder – he thought it had been corrected. He wanted to read it in public and send it to all the Fathers, but when he saw it he changed his mind. Ha! He was annoyed and didn’t want anyone to read it. He is very annoyed with dear Br Jean-Baptiste – the latter will certainly not be getting his vote for canonization. It causes great pain that he has not given this consolation to us Brothers.
Br Claude-Marie is still obsessed with the wish of returning to France. I wrote to him on arrival and that caused him to confide in me like an old friend. Then I wrote to him 2 long letters in which I used all my zeal and eloquence to persuade him to persevere in the missions until death. It seems I have succeeded for the time being, for he is asking me for clothes, since they don’t want him to leave. He is still in Nelson. The good Br Basile has also written to me recently; he is still with Br Florentin at Hauriri. He tells me he is beginning to grow old, he has rheumatism in the arms. They have a good number of animals, 60 cattle, 4 horses, a big herd of pigs, a fine stock-yard, a big new house. This good Brother has always been filled with zeal and dedication; he has always been a model for the Brothers. It is a long time since I had news of Brs Elie-Regis and Euloge. They are at Wanganui, but there is no communication with the other places.
I think a letter from Your Reverence would give them great pleasure. These dear Brothers certainly deserve consideration for their trials and sufferings, for they are good champions of Christ. They stand firm on the battlefield and do not abandon their post, as I did. If your fatherly affection prompts you to offer them this consolation, as I don’t doubt you do, you could have at least 3 copies of the letter made, as they are at 3 different stations quite a distance from one another.
The Brothers in the tropics are all quite well. We have received news of them recently. Br Marie-Nizier is always the good Brother. His priest is here at the Procure for health reasons and loves him as himself. Good Br Gennade charges me to present his profound respect. He is in sound health, always happy, and always full of dedication. Br Augule charges me with the same commission. He is making shoes by the dozen. His workshop is next to mine, he sings the whole day long. There are 7 of us Brothers at the Procure, as many Fathers, and we are as united as if we formed one family.
Monsignor Bataillon is also here. He has at last purchased his ship. He leaves after Easter.
I close by commending myself to your prayers so that I might make a good death.
I am with profound respect and entire submission,
Your very humble and obedient servant,
Br Emery

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