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Br Charise to Br Francois, Upolu, Samoa, 26 October 1860

LO 93


This, the last letter from Charise in our correspondence, indicates that the brother was waiting on Bataillon’s arrival in Samoa, to transfer for reasons of health to Sydney. The Vicar Apostolic and Poupinel arrived in December but we do not know if Charise left before the end of 1861. He is, however, listed on the Clydesdale staff for 1862-1863.

The missionaries thought the bishop’s delay in returning might have been caused by the political situation in Europe [5]. England and France had fallen out over Napoleon III’s helping Italy’s campaign to free Milan and Venice from Austrian rule. The outlook for the Pope as a temporal ruler was bleak. By 1858 it was clear to many European leaders that the unification of Italy would mean the end of the Papal states. When, in the summer of 1860, Garibaldi began his march on Rome, Victor Emmanuel of Savoy seized the chance to begin this process by invading the papal provinces of Umbria and the Marches, on the pretext of preventing revolution from spreading. It was only with the help of the French that Pius IX managed to hold on to Rome and that strip of land along Italy’s western coast known as the Patrimony of St Peter.

Charise mentions that the mission was also hoping for Sisters [6], a request Elloy was to make to Poupinel on his visit in December. There were 9 sisters of the Third Order of Mary in the Pacific at this time, on Wallis and Futuna and in New Caledonia. Which one Bataillon was complaining about is not at all clear, since none of them had made a novitiate technically speaking, and all had to learn about religious life and community living from scratch. The Society of Mary did not want to have to take the ultimate responsibility for them, but neither was it prepared to deliver them into the hands of the Vicar apostolic without some protection (Hosie 158). Samoa, anyway, did not get any until 1864.

The brother also appears to be describing in [7] the beginnings of the school for catechists which was set up by Violette at Saleufi about this time. Despite its inauspicious start, it eventually made good progress. Abraham was associated with its later development, and the first teaching brothers to come to Samoa in 1871 arrived with the aim of taking its direction.

This letter either is without ending in the copy in our archives (pp 117-120 in Cahier 2 in the AFM) or it has been omitted from the typescript copy in LO. We have no further letter from Charise, who appears to have spent a short time in New Caledonia after his time in Sydney, before returning to France early in 1866. There he spent the rest of his life at St Paul-Trois-Chateaux, dying on 2 October 1884. A volume of the CSG in English covering this period (Vol. 2, 1884-1890) gives an account of his life in its Necrological Notices (pp 163-170).

Text of the Letter

Very Reverend Bro. Superior,
I am encouraged to write this letter to you in response to your express wish that we should write to you from time to time in order to maintain the union and fraternal charity that should reign among us. And, furthermore, I owe it to you to show the affection, respect, and confidence I ought to have in you, to ask your counsel and advice, and to use the means of doing in everything the will of God.
In my last letter I told you that the hot climate had always been bad for my health, but it has become more so since I have become used to the climate. Rarely a month goes by without my having an attack of the sickness of this country, that is, the heating of the blood, associated with a high fever for several hours, and at the same time a painful swelling on the arms and legs, with the arms and legs becoming progressively more swollen.
One often comes across people, even whites used to the climate, who go around bare foot, living like the natives, with both arms and legs so thick you would say they were barrels of flesh. But with me, the swelling has always disappeared after each attack, by the end of a fortnight or a month. At the time of writing my left arm is affected by the malady; I won’t be able to use it properly for a fortnight.
Last year Monsignor wanted to take me to Sydney, but he couldn’t come to the station where I was because the weather was bad and it is a 3 league journey from the port across mountains and precipices. A short time ago he was good enough to write me a note to let me know he wants me to go with him.
I have been at the port of Apia for several months waiting for His Lordship and very Reverend Fr Poupinel. The missionaries have been expecting their ship for two months. Something bad may have happened. We have been told about an approaching war between France and England and many troubles in Europe concerning the Pope.
Seeing I am so often ill in this country and always lacking energy, I would certainly like to be moved to another colder island group where I would still be able to do some work for the mission. Besides, Brothers who are not masons or carpenters or cabinetmakers are not much use in the missions, because no one wants Brothers for catechism or teaching. They only want sisters, and Monsignor is sorry he has brought the one he has, since she has not made a novitiate.
The Fathers in Samoa are busy at present training catechists for this country. The first one who learned to decipher a few words, they gave some instruction, baptized him, and put him in a village to preach to the people. One day, one of them, surrounded by a large audience, said God had 4 shapes or faces and man had 3 souls, (and) that the angels are much less than men because they have no bodies. Another claimed that catechists could forgive sins. When they are much better instructed they will probably assist the missionaries and do much good, and people will not be afraid they will be mistaken for messengers or missionaries, as can happen with a Brother. Each priest also has several natives to work for him, and often the Brothers don’t know what to do.
Our religion is spreading widely in Samoa, thanks to the prayers of the good people in Europe. I can tell you nothing, my very reverend Br Superior, of the Brothers in the other islands. A year has passed since I heard any news about dear Br Marie-Nizier. I am at present with Br Abraham. I don’t know if Br Lucien on the island of Savai has received any of the handwritten circulars you were good enough to send us about your trip to Rome.

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