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Fr Garin to Fr Favre, Nelson, 9 May 1862



Writing to Maitrepierre in 1858, Poupinel says of Garin: “You know Father Garin’s zeal and devotedness in the cause of the Christian education of youth. His school has had its days of glory; it has a great reputation; it was called ‘the College’… The Catholic school still has a good number of pupils, and even Protestant pupils; with a little help it could quite easily rival the national school… Father Garin is an ardent and zealous defender of liberty in teaching, and he defends his rights with energy in the papers, among his friends, and at public meetings. He has real influence and is much respected and esteemed…” (quoted in Goulter, 88).

Garin is writing this letter to the Superior General to explain the importance of his school and the necessity of a brother to its continuation. His arguments are certainly those he has already rehearsed with Poupinel and Viard (rf L 162). He even addresses the question of the problems of the brothers in the missions which might have deterred the superiors from responding to his appeal [3].

From this letter it is clear that the brother’s role in Garin’s school did not include teaching. He cooked for the boarders, supervised them at their studies, and rang the bell for the end of recreation. Claude-Marie certainly got on well with the children; ‘old Mary’ was remembered with affection by many former students of the school. And it seems he still had opportunity to tutor the occasional pupil in French.

Garin also presents the situation in his parish with regard to priests. He was the only one active since Michel was an invalid. The situation was essentially the same when Poupinel made his next visitation in March 1865, though James Tresallet had been sent to relieve him when he himself fell seriously ill during the year (rf Goulter 90). And Claude-Marie had still not been replaced.

The translation is from a photocopy of the original in the APM.

Text of the Letter

Very Rev. Father,
Today 12 years ago I first set foot in Nelson to begin the station which is now, thanks to God, well established. Fr Poupinel has already spoken to you about it and will have more to say. You know that I have succeeded in setting up a school which has always been among the first of the schools in this little town until the establishment of the Protestant College. The name College rings too grandly for the bourgeoisie to continue sending their children to us. However, despite this great obstacle, our school has always held first rank among the other schools founded by individuals or by the Government. So at present while parents have to pay one and two pounds to the Government and thus can send their children for nothing to these national schools, a great number of them, although paying the pound, still prefer to send their children to us, paying from 12 to 30 (francs) a week. This year is considered one of our best. As well as my seven boarders we have more than 40 children coming to the day school and 75 to the night school.
You see, my very Rev. Father, that with so great a number of children around us, and especially with our boarders, it is of the utmost importance that I have a brother who knows how to handle the children and who can at the same time do the gardening and the cooking. It is necessary to have a brother who can soon be conversant in the English language. I must give dear Brother Claude Marie this credit, that without him I would never have thought of taking in boarders. But when he told me that twenty or so boarders in the house did not frighten him (I understood this to refer to the work in the kitchen) then I could go ahead. But at present the good brother thinks he cannot do it and vehemently desires to return to France. I certainly hope that if he does return, you will have the goodness to replace him with another brother who may continue the good work we have started. Brother Claude-Marie has agreed to stay another year if necessary but he hopes that after this period you will send me a brother and then he will be able to leave without harming the station. I beg you to take note of that and not to forget to send me a brother before the other leaves.[1] I believe you can give me one.
Up to now I have known how to avoid the difficulties we fell into in the beginning. Brothers and Fathers were too new; they had everything to set up; the labours therefore were very hard and frustrating; everything was a jumble. But our position is very different, and the brothers who found themselves at that time as out of their element, can now, I believe, accommodate themselves more easily to their position. So a brother who comes to Nelson will find everything set up, he will not have to make a road or go into the bush to collect wood and construct a vehicle, he will not have to raise a young colt at the risk of receiving a few kicks. No, everything is ready, the road, the vehicle and the horse. All he will have to do is get up onto the seat, flick the whip and snap it around the ears, and he will find that is enough. Please, then, treat of this matter with Fr Poupinel and help me to continue what we have started.
The station of Nelson, properly speaking, requires only two priests to serve. I say two, in supposing there may be a station at Wairau, for that place would demand of the priest at Nelson a long journey almost always on foot. For several years the two priests, that is to say, Fr Moreau and Fr Garin, were active, but since Fr Moreau’s departure we have had Fr Pons, then Fr Michel who is almost always sick. Fr Martin who did not know how to speak English, was transferred just when he had managed to learn it. So Fr Michel and Fr Garin remain. If now our brother is taken away, we will be forced to take on a European who will need to be well paid. By paying this European I will become unable to pay my schoolmaster and if my schoolmaster is not being paid, well it is useless for me to think of having a good school. And if I cannot have a good school I would not be able to have an average one, for you can well imagine that parents would not be willing to send their children to our school (paying so much a week) if it was not superior to the others, when they could send their children for nothing to the government ones.
On the subject of our schools, a question naturally presents itself. Is it expedient to maintain a school consisting of 3 protestants and from 10 to 15 Catholics only? Is it worth the trouble of running up expenses and losing much time in this sort of work? As for what concerns the Nelson school I believe I can say without qualification that immense good results from it. For, without the school, the Catholics of Nelson would hardly be noticed, they would be as it were drowned and submerged in a multitude of Protestants, and seeing themselves thus confused, would not even hold to being known as Catholics and would live like Protestants. But as our school has made its reputation, the prejudice in which Protestants are generally raised, that Catholics are a superstitious mob kept in brute ignorance by their priests, has disappeared. It is recognized that the Catholics with their priests do everything possible to propagate education. Our school obliges the Protestants to have dealings with us, accustoms their children to see in the priest, not a bete noire (a black beast), as some call me, not a soul of ignorance, but a civilized man and one who tries to instruct and civilise others. They learn to become familiar with our religion and enter on the way of conversion, something we see happen every year. Our school stops the Catholic parents from sending their children to the Protestant schools; and besides the town children we have those from the country who come as boarders, spend 2 or 3 years in our house and put their religion into practice, something they could not do without our school. The good our school does is a very real good and more practical than our ministry would be without one.
I finish this letter by telling you that I am always happy in my state, blessing divine Providence which, through the intercession of our good mother, has always taken care of me. Please pray the good God that my sins may not be an obstacle to God’s designs, and that he may be willing to pardon my ingratitudes. [sic]
I have the honour of being your very humble and respectful son,
A.M. Garin Miss. Ap.


  1. Underlining in the original.

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