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Br Abraham to Br Francois, (Samoa), 24 October 1859

LO 82

Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS


In the previous letter, Augule gives an account of the tempestuous voyage Abraham and Ptolomee experienced in sailing to their respective stations (L 144 [7]). Abraham describes it in more detail here, and Ptolomee in even greater in his letter of the following April (L 150). One notable difference between the two chief accounts is that Abraham appears to indicate a return to Sydney from Rotuma [3], whereas Ptolomee has them visiting Fiji before going on to Tonga and Samoa. The latter is surely correct, and Abraham, or his copyist, has inadvertently substituted Sydney for Fiji. Certainly, Abraham was sick for much of the voyage and Ptolomee in a better position to get things correct. They reached Samoa in mid-October, so Abraham is writing this letter not long after landing.

It was not long before he was taking classes. In his Journal, one of the priests who had arrived with him, Leon Gavet, records that in November Abraham was taking the little boys for class from 10am to 3 pm and the older ones from 3 to 4 while he himself had the little girls from 7 to 9.30am and the older ones from 3 to 4. (Gavet’s Journal in the APM). Gavet (1831-1909), professed in the Society in 1855, worked in Samoa all his missionary life and spent his last years as chaplain to the Marist brothers.

This letter is included in the Cahier (2) in the AFM (pp 72-4).

Text of the Letter

Very Reverend Brother,
One remembers with pleasure the happy times spent in the mother – house of the Society and the good retreats we had each year. Those lovely days are no more, they are gone for us, but it consoles me that the Society continually prays for its children.
We left Sydney for Central Oceania on the 5 June and we had very bad weather for the entire voyage. The 6th day after we left we were warned that a storm was approaching, but as we were all seasick this news did not impress us very much. However, the wind continued to increase in force. About 7 o’clock in the evening, when all of us, except His Lordship, were in bed, the gale overturned the ship into the sea. Monsignor fell on his knees and cried: “Lord, save us, we perish. “ The ship quickly righted itself. Lightning struck the ship twice as well. We thought our time had come. A chain was snapped, some ropes severed, and a mast damaged. Monsignor was thrown against a door, two sailors knocked to the deck, but thanks to divine Providence, no one was hurt.
Wallis was the first island visited, then Futuna. These two islands are Catholic. Then Rotuma, which is pagan. Then Sydney [sic], at the two houses of the Fathers. From there to Tonga, which has 5 houses. Samoa has 5 too. His Lordship left me there after taking me with him everywhere. Br Lucien, Br Charise, and Br Jacques are on this island. They all send you their respects. I also saw Br Marie-Nizier at Futuna and Br Sorlin in Fiji. On leaving, Monsignor told me to learn the language so as to take classes. We have a little chapel of stone which is very pretty. Every morning we sing the Salve Regina there, then we make our meditation in common, and finally we perform our exercises as at the Motherhouse. I am with Br Jacques and three Fathers. I was very ill on the crossing from Sydney to Wallis. They even thought I would not reach land alive. Now I am well.
My Reverend Brother, I commend myself to your prayers and to those of the Society.
I am, with profound respect and entire submission,
Your very humble and obedient servant,
Br Abraham

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