Fr Pezant to Fr Poupinel, Wanganui, 3 February 1865
In his report to Lagniet of 14 July 1862, written while he was on his way back to France, Poupinel describes the state of the Wanganui station: “Wanganui, residence of Father Pezant and Brother Euloge; a magnificent church, a school for boys, a house which the Natives frequent when they come into the town; many chapels in the important places of this district; about 700 Catholics. The Father ministers to the spiritual wants of the secondary stations of Waitotara on the west, and of Rangitikei to the south on the sea coast.” (Wilson, 252). The number of Pezant’s flock was also added to by Catholic soldiers of the Imperial forces encamped in the town who had helped him build his church. At the beginning of 1865 there were even more of them, since Wanganui had become the base for General Sir Duncan Cameron’s campaign in south Taranaki (January – March). A man who lived simply but with grandiose ambitions, Pezant relied on Mass stipends and donations for the work of his mission, and found ends hard to meet. This seems to be the burden of his complaint  that Viard needed to regulate such fees. But he kept no books himself.
In this letter Pezant goes into more detail about the problems with Euloge which had lead to his abrupt departure from the station and to his tragic death (rf LL 176, 184). Most of his complaints centre on the brother’s pride and lack of submission, without giving examples. Pezant had apparently complained before to Viard, upon whom he lays the blame for allowing things to go so far. While recognizing that Euloge may have become too independent and that Viard must certainly take some of the responsibility for not attending to his duties as religious superior, Pezant can hardly be allowed to escape a share of the blame. Although his relationship with his ‘little Brother’ in the north seems to have been a good one, it appears to have deteriorated during the Wanganui years. There is reason to think that the priest’s own grandiose and impractical projects may have contributed to this. We do not have Euloge’s side of the story, but a letter Lampila wrote to Poupinel a year or two later indicates what the brother may have had to put up with (letter of 30 July 1867, APM). Lampila even refers to his confrere in very similar terms to those which Pezant uses for Euloge in this letter . The case, anyway, certainly underlines the importance of the need for mutual encouragement and the fostering of the spiritual life among the brothers put by Claude-Marie in his letter of February 1864 (L 174).
Although he was expecting to see him, Poupinel was not able to include Wanganui in his itinerary in 1865. Pezant, who now had a soldier servant to help him around the house, remained in charge at Wanganui for a further three years before being appointed to Blenheim in 1869.
The letter was translated from the photocopy of the original in Jessie Munro’s selection.
Text of the Letter
- (My) very reverend Father,
- I had the honour of writing to you yesterday, but, as I had not finished what I had to tell you, I will do so today.
- I had finished fulfilling the 100 Masses which I had accepted, as well as a few others I had been asked for here, and I was going to ask you for a certain number of new ones, when an accident happened and stopped me.
- I have not received the new office of the Mass of the Immaculate Conception and, as recently coming back from the Camp, I had the misfortune of ruining my Breviary, I am asking you to have the goodness to get one for me (and a Diurnal) which contains everything. It does not matter if it is not gilt. I will pay here what I owe for the objects I request, over the 3 pounds that remain to me.
- It is your long silence that prevented me from making my report on the unfortunate affair of Br Euloge. Now it is too close to your visit, the more so as, at the time, I sent His Lordship all the details possible about this sad affair, and I thought that would be sufficient. The spirit of this little Brother had become worse about a year before his death, and he was extremely obstinate and passionately fond of his own ideas; it was a continual delusion. I was not able to bring His Lordship to see reason; he did not know the true state of things, and he has the bad and false habit always of wanting to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. But whatever he may think and say on this subject, he is completely in error, and things are as I have said. Fr Seon is the only one who was well acquainted with the little Brother and me. It is His Lordship by his mistaken way of acting who alone has lost everything. And it was all so easy to arrange if Monsignor had known how to go about it properly! I have only one thing to reproach myself with, that is not having sent this little Brother back to His Lordship long ago. But I did not think I could do without him, especially at a time when I had so many expenses. Ah, however, I can do without him so easily! And I am much better, much happier from the fact. But I would never have believed it before.
- As for our temporal support, I would very much wish that you could make His Lordship decide to issue a peremptory regulation about it, because it is greatly abused. Even I who was weak on this subject am becoming strong now. But I am between Monsignor who asks for nothing in Wellington and Fr Pertuis who asks for nothing in Taranaki. This double neighbourhood makes me look like a pleader and a pesterer. I have introduced some bad habits as far as fees go, and I cannot get out of it by myself. It requires an imperative ordinance from His Lordship which is printed and read and put up in the church. There is too much abuse.
- All the rest soon os ad os (face to face).
- While waiting, I commend myself to your prayers and holy sacrifices, and have the honour of being, with respect and affection, My Reverend Father,
- Your very humble and obedient servant,
- Jn-Et. Pezant. mis. Apost. Pr. S.M.
- Your very humble and obedient servant,
- Pass on I pray you my profound respects and expressions of friendship to Frs Joly and Muraire and to all the other confreres and Brothers.
- Through some costly and unrealistic projects Pezant had got himself deeply into debt. When Lampila and Elie-Regis moved down to the town in 1867, they found they had to pay off the debts with the money they had brought from Kauaeroa and by making economies. Lampila claims they could easily live on the collections from the two Sunday Masses (letter of 30 July 1867). In a later letter to Poupinel, Lampila writes: “I fear much more the spiritual disorder of the house than the material disorder which is its perfect image” (letter of 13 August).
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