Br Louis-Marie to Fr Poupinel, N.D. De Saint-Genis-Laval, 4 February 1869
In his circular to the brothers of 16 July 1868, Louis-Marie writes: “What brings me again to rekindle your zeal for obedience and regularity, by the great consideration that the continuance and development of the Institute essentially depend on it, is that at this time the question of the foreign missions seems to be taking on a quite fresh importance for us. Apart from our houses in the British Isles and all the new foundations offering there, if we had the personnel, we have the pressing requests from New Holland by Mgr Polding, archbishop of Sydney, and in Oceania by the reverend Marist Fathers. Very important establishments could be made in those Missions immediately and under excellent conditions. So in the face of these requests and these needs, we recall to all that we can and ought to make ourselves missionaries, as our holy Bishops understand it, and as Fr Champagnat understood and explained it in 1836, at the first departure of the Fathers and Brothers for New Zealand” (CSG 3: 450).
In February 1868 Polding’s vicar-general, Austin Sheehy OSB, had written to Louis-Marie requesting brothers for a school in the Benedictine parish of St Benedict’s, Broadway. The presence of the Marists in the neighbouring parish of St Patrick’s would certainly have helped the superiors come to a favourable response, but it was certainly the bequest from Archdeacon John McEnroe, who died in August that year, that pushed the Sydney foundation to the top of the list, for he had contributed 400 pounds towards the passage money and the first year’s accommodation of the brothers (Doyle 18). When the first four did arrive at the beginning of 1872, though, they began teaching first at St Patrick’s, and it was a further three years before the brothers took on St Benedict’s. Sheehy’s letter and the proposed agreement  can be found in the Appendices to Br Alban Doyle’s history (pp 626-7).
Forest and Reignier at Napier had also been pushing their case, drawing up a Memorandum in July 1867 providing the use and revenues of the Ahuriri farm to the Society of the Little Brothers of Mary as long as they conducted schools in the missions of the Marist Fathers in New Zealand (rf document of 6 July 1867 and letter of Reignier to Poupinel 10 July 1867, APM VM). Their fellow trustees, Viard and Seon, must have approved this, for Louis-Marie appears to be referring to a copy in . But Viard himself, in Europe on his ad limina visit to Rome in the second half of 1868, paid a personal visit to St Genis to request brothers for his schools in Wellington. Avit records that the bishop presided over a ceremony of the reception of the habit there (AI 3: 71).
Avit also records Colin’s visit to St Genis at the beginning of February which so moved Louis-Marie and the brothers . In summarizing a circular of the Brother Superior, he writes it “spoke of a visit the Reverend Father Colin, former Superior General, aged 80 and almost blind, had made to the mother house… The Brothers had been charmed by his attachment to our congregation” (Annales 3: 75). Colin must indeed have been impressed by this branch of the Society which now numbered 1742 brothers teaching 61,911 students in 417 schools (ibid. 76).
This letter appears in the Circulars, in its correct place (CSG 4: 502-505) but with the incorrect dating 4 January 1863. The reference to Colin’s visit makes the February dating certain. The typed copy in the AFM, from which this translation was made, has not avoided all the mistakes in the printed version.
Text of the Letter
- Reverend Father,
- I deeply regret that due to circumstances quite beyond my control, my reply to your letter of 29 February 1868 has not reached you. Apparently it must have been mislaid like those for His Reverence the Vicar General and Br Aristide which were not seen again until three months after they had been written. I hope that the one for the Vicar General which I then sent him directly reached him some months ago, and that you learned from it that we are disposed to give His Grace, the Archbishop of Sydney, Brothers for the parish of St Benedict.
- Here, anyway, is the substance of what I wrote His Reverence. I told him that, considering the reasons he gave us, supported by your earnest recommendation and the invitation of the Rev Fr Favre, Superior General of the Marist Fathers, we would agree to his request for preference over anyone else. We were going to prepare some subjects and would be happy to make this foundation as soon as they were sufficiently trained. I said we thought this would require at least two years, and that if this proved too long a time for the realization of the project, I would be happy to see another Congregation give him subjects much sooner. I included with my letter a form of agreement asking him to examine it and then to pass it on to His Grace, the Archbishop, for his approval.
- Since then, we have organized the English school at Beaucamps I told you about in my letter of 29 November 1867.
- If this foundation can be made in the parish of St Benedict, as His Grace desires, the fact that the Marist Fathers reside in St Patrick’s will necessarily bring the Brothers into that parish too, and that would be the beginning of a little nucleus of two schools.
- The assistance the good Father McEncroe (sic) has left will be useful to cover the expenses of travel and setting up house.
- Requests have again been made to us for Brothers for Napier. Father Foret (sic) and his co-proprietors, having heard we were hesitating about accepting the property he is offering us, has gone on the offensive again against us and equally against Fr Yardin. He came to speak of this matter again to us the day before yesterday.
- The conditions Fr Foret offers us, and the assurance given us that once schools are established in New Zealand they will be more than sufficient to supply the needs of the Brothers working in them give us cause for regret that we have no Brothers immediately available.
- Death has made great gaps in our ranks this year. It has claimed 22 subjects since the 29th July. Nevertheless with the help of God and the Blessed Virgin, we remain hopeful of establishing ourselves in Sydney and Napier before long. I told you last year we were thinking of making a start there. At present we are examining what we have in order to reply to Fr Foret.
- Such are our intentions, Reverend Father, of going along with your ideas and seconding the work of the Missions in as far as Providence supplies us with the means.
- I am sending to Sydney a copy of the ‘Chronicle of the Institute’ for each Brother. They should find in it the help they need to support them and encourage them in the life of sacrifice they have embraced.
- Fathers Matricon and de Lalande send their regards, as does Fr Montagnon. They are all well. Fr Matricon’s health suffered a setback last September but now he is his usual self. Fr Montagnon has replaced Fr Rouleau (sic) here as chaplain since the end of September.
- Fathers and Brothers continue to enjoy the best of relations. The chaplains, especially, are full of kindness and regard for the Brothers and enjoy their affection. Despite his eighty years, Rev Father Colin came like a whirlwind to pay us a visit two days ago. His appearance astonished the entire community. The senior Brothers seemed to see in his person the venerated Father Champagnat returned to his children after his long illness. On seeing the numbers in the community, the birth of which he had been a witness, the saintly old man expressed in his joy sentiments like those of the aged Simeon in similar circumstances. Gripped by emotion he could not restrain his tears a number of times. His tears, his air of contentment, his white hair, told us more than any long speech. All eyes fixed on him, the community found compensation in this when not all could hear his faltering voice. If Father Champagnat came today, he said, he would be as moved as I am; he would not be able to speak. He recommended us to be always little ones, humble like the Blessed Virgin. After giving us his blessing, he left us with the words: I place you all in the heart of Mary; never leave there.
- Yesterday Fr Verger came to give the holy religious habit to thirty postulants. They are a small reinforcement for the vineyard of the Lord. I say small in comparison with the number of requests we continue to receive from all sides, from overseas as well as all parts of France.
- I venture to commend myself and our whole Institute to your offering of the Holy Sacrifice, and beg you to accept the profound respect with which I am, my Reverend Father, etc.
- Br Louis-Marie Sup. Gen.
- P.S. I include with my letter the copy of the form of agreement sent to His Reverence the Vicar General, asking you to send us your observations, if you recognize the necessity of making any modifications which might be of concern for the future of the Brothers and the Schools.
- The full Latin phrase, ad limina Apostolorum, (to the threshold of the Apostles) refers to the visit a bishop was supposed to make to Rome at regular intervals to report on the state of his diocese.
- Forest alone is mentioned because he was personally known to Louis-Marie and his signature appears first on the Memorandum. He is also mentioned by name in the circular of February 1869 (CSG 3: 492).
- There appears to be no extant copy of this document in the AFM and it is not referred to in any of the circulars. It may have been a summary of the information on the state of the Institute supplied to Pope Pius IX by Louis-Marie on his visit to Rome in June/July that year, which can be found, with full details of the visit, in the circular of 5 August (CSG 4: 36-53).
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