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Br Claude-Marie to Fr Poupinel, Nelson, 24 May 1867



Although Claude-Marie now appears to have resigned himself to staying in New Zealand, he has not given up the desire to transfer from Nelson. In this letter he informs Poupinel that he is no longer up to the pressures and noise of a busy boarding school, and thinks Taranaki or Wanganui would be a more congenial posting [5].

He was also hoping to make his annual retreat away from Nelson with Sauzeau. Augustine Sauzeau (1834-1892), a Marist since 1859, had had a brief apprenticeship at Nelson before being appointed to the new station at Picton in Marlborough in 1864. In 1867 he was in residence at Blenheim and this is probably where Claude-Marie wanted to join him. But Garin claimed that he could give the brother permission for a retreat away from Nelson only every three years [4], and Claude-Marie had already made one with Forest in Napier the preceding year (entry in Garin’s Journal, SM archives, Wellington).

Of the two letters he refers to in [6], the second is addressed to the director of the brothers’ school in his hometown of St Sauveur. He may have been unaware that the director was still Br Charles, whom he has mentioned in previous letters (rf LL 18, 61). Charles (Jean-Claude Souchon 1811-1878) entered the congregation in 1828. He took over the direction of the school at St Sauveur in 1835, the year Claude-Marie received the habit, and had a record 40 years there before retiring to the Hermitage shortly before his death.

Of the other brothers mentioned [7], Marie-Nizier was now at Villa Maria. Bataillon wanted him to work at Clydesdale but Poupinel opposed this (letter Bataillon to Poupinel 10 July 1866, APM). Emery, after several years in Fiji at Soulevu, was now with Breheret and Sorlin at Ovalau where, as the former’s ‘lieutenant de marine’ he was rendering great service to the mission (Poupinel to Favre, 4 February 1867). Writing himself to Louis-Marie the following February, he says: “Doubtless you want to know where I am and what I am doing. I am at Ovalau in the Fiji group; I am ‘mariner apostolic’, sometimes captain pro tem. Now we have a fine schooner of 25 tons bearing the name Pio Nono [Pius IX]. Br Sorlin is the one who built it; I did a lot of work on it too. It is made of the best timber in Fiji and could last half a century, if it is not wrecked on the reefs, as happened lately to a ship, two leagues off Ovalau. So one is soon put off sailing in these waters. For myself, I am not, because my commerce is not of this world, and my port is eternity. We launched our ‘Pio Nono’ last Monday. Everyone knows that it goes like the wind. May God bless it and Mary watch over it, it and all those it will carry.”[1]

The translation was made from a photocopy of the original in the APM. This is the last letter of Claude-Marie in our series. In 1880 he wrote another to Poupinel, this time from Napier, where he had returned to community life with the brothers at their newly established school (1878)(letter of 11 September 1880, copy in MBAA). Unable to settle down, however, he gained permission to go back to Nelson, where he died on 5 November 1893. An obituary written by Br Theophane, superior general, on his visitation of New Zealand that year, can be found in CSG. 8, pp 418-19.

Text of the Letter

Very reverend Father Superior,
I received the letter you were good enough to write me. I didn’t think I was able to send a reply, so I asked Fr Garin to write asking you to accept my excuses. However today on writing to France, I thought I might try to write you a few lines, as best I can certainly, although I am afraid you won’t be able to read them.
I notice with much pleasure, very rev Father, that you do not forget me in your fervent prayers and that you have others praying for me. Please continue your work of charity, I beg you. My needs are great.
I have been pleased to learn too that you are trying to procure for us Brothers for our schools. What happiness if we could have some. How much progress our classes would make. But they would have to be well-qualified Brothers full of zeal for the glory of God.
About ten days ago I asked Fr Garin for permission to spend some days with the good Fr Sauzeau to make a short retreat, as I feel the need for one. I told him the expenses would not be much, that I would get a return ticket to Picton and travel the remaining distance on foot in order to save a few shillings. He replied he could give me such a permission omly every three years. If I wanted to make my retreat in the house he couldn’t see any obstacle, but he couldn’t allow me to go to Wairau. I replied that it was impossible for me to make a retreat in Nelson because of the noise of the children and the boarders. We have a lot of them this year. If you judge it proper to speak to him on my behalf, I could either go and make it towards the middle of July in preparation for the celebration of the feast of St Joachim and St Anne (26 July, the day I took the habit) or at the beginning of the month of August, for the feast of the Assumption. But I repeat I cannot make it at Nelson.
Another thing I have been thinking about for a long time and that is a change of station. I find Nelson too demanding for me, I am getting weaker and weaker. I would like to be alone with a Father without any boarders. There I could do his cooking and lead a more quiet life. Perhaps the station of Taranaki or the Wanganui one would be best. All the same, I don’t dare speak about it to anyone for fear of being refused, seeing that now I am no good for anything except being a nuisance. That is what has held me back till now. Tell me what you think of it and what I should do.
I am enclosing with yours, very rev Father, two letters, one for the dear Brother Director of the school at St Sauveur asking him if he could pass on the other I have included with his to my brother Andre. I have no idea what has become of him, whether he is alive or dead. The good Brother would be able to deliver it in a more reliable way. Please post them as soon as possible. I would be very grateful if you would ask the good Brother at St Sauveur to give me the information I require.
My profound apologies, very rev Father, for all the trouble I am giving you. But, alas! I don’t know how to do anything but cause trouble for those with whom I have any dealings. If I am honoured with a reply I beg you to give me news of the good Brother Emery and dear Brother Marie-Nizier.
I conclude by commending myself once more to your fervent prayers and those of the Rev Fathers and the dear Brothers and Sisters of Villa Maria.
I am your entirely devoted and obedient servant,
Br Claude Marie.


  1. Extract from a letter preserved in the text of a biography of Louis-Marie, Vie du Frere Louis-Marie, par un Frere de cet Institut, Lyon, 1907, pp 218-219.

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