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Br Joseph-Xavier to Fr Poupinel, Villa Maria, 20 April 1863



The first part of this letter consists of requests for various items, particularly for the sacristy at Villa Maria, which Joseph was responsible for. The brother’s handwriting and idiosyncratic French make it difficult sometimes to identify these items.

He had not given up his idea of going to Wallis, as he mentions in connection with the departure of Grosselin for Fiji [2]. Antoine Grosselin (1823-1890), a Marist since 1845, had only recently arrived in the Pacific. He was, in fact, one of the group which carried Louis-Marie’s circular to his confrers in Oceania. He was to spend the rest of his life in Fiji. It appears that Bochettaz from Clydesdale left at the same time. He also died as a missionary in Fiji.

The letter reveals to us a community of about 15 at Villa Maria at this time, the two priests, Rocher and Joly, eight brothers, and five islanders. All the latter are named, but none of the brothers. Presumably they were the regular staff – Joseph himself, Augule, Gennade, and the coadjutors John Larter, Pierre Jeanneau, and Andre Rouge, and visitors such as Germanique.

There seems to have been no regular contact between the two groups of islanders in Sydney, those at Villa Maria and those at Clydesdale, though Victor appears to have been the confidante of some of the students there (Angleviel 142). The monastic regime, long hours of study, tiring manual work, the harsh climate, and Bataillon’s severity, caused some to try and run away. In March this year, Bataillon had sent three back to the islands as unsuitable (Hosie 177). The staff, brothers as well as priests, seem to have liked it no better.

Soakimi Gata was studying theology in Rome and was at this stage two years away from ordination. He did not join the Society but was ordained as a secular priest in the Lateran Basilica in June 1865 and sailed back to the Pacific at the end of 1866. Joseph’s older brother was also a priest, in charge of the parish of Moncet (rf L 196). Two of Joseph’s letters to him, both in 1869, are in the brother’s personal file in the APM.

This translation was made from a photocopy of the original in the APM.

Text of the Letter

Very Reverend Father,
Thank you for the vegetable seeds you sent us. They have come up very well. I am waiting for the other things you promised us on leaving, olive oil for the salad, [ ] and candlesticks for every day, a beautiful vestment in gold cloth with the accompaniments. Fr Garin’s one is very pretty but I would prefer the braid in fine gold and not multicoloured. Send us a fine extinguisher and tapers to light the candles. I would include there a cedar staff. I would appreciate very much if we had some scales with French weights of 6 to 8 kilos. I expect some spoons of the same metal as the ones we use when people come here. I would prefer to have my mould to make spoons of lead. I would cast some for those who need them. The wire nails have reached us. I was pleased to receive them.
All at the procure are well, except sometimes Fr Rocher has trouble with his asthma. Everything is going well at present. Fr Grosselin has just left for Fiji. I would have liked to accompany him so as to go and see the beautiful islands of Wallis. I am still of the same sentiments. I will tell you nothing about here since things are going well.
You already know that there are 8 of us brothers and that there are only two fathers. On Sundays, Mass is at 9 o’clock. We are always very pleased with all the natives. Victor is just as you knew him. I thought you would write him a few words, he knows enough French. He is very keen to learn. If Fr Bochetas (sic) had stayed at Clydesdale he would have been very anxious to go there for two or three months to learn calculus, to learn to read Latin and even French and especially to sing. I tell him however that he has a very hard head, but he says, if someone gave me lessons I would learn, etc. He will ask you for a little Blessed Virgin for himself. You can bring it when you come back. The other natives, Setefano, Sosefo, and Mikaele are also going very well. Mikaele was baptized on Holy Saturday by Fr Grosselin. This young man is very good, he is very tall. If I speak to him I have to raise my head to see him.
I thank you very much, my very rev Father, for the visit you paid my dear Soakimi Gata. He did not know how to express to me the joy you gave him and all the news you gave him. I am always very happy with him. I will try to send him a little money. He needs it. If I don’t have enough myself I could find some in Sydney.
My brother has just written and tells me he has not gone to see you in Lyon. I find him very lazy. My nephew Emile whom you saw on arriving in Lyon has not yet replied to me.
Farewell, my very rev Father, do not forget me in your fervent prayers and before Our Lady of Fourviere. I greet and embrace you in the holy hearts of J.M.J.
I am, my R. Father, your very devoted and obedient servant,
Luzy Br J.X. sm.

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