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Br Joseph-Xavier to Fr Poupinel, Villa Maria, 13 May 1870



Writing only six weeks or so after Marie-Nizier, Joseph adds significantly to the number of the sick, himself and Gennade among the brothers, and Charles Heuze and Louis Rondel among the priests. Heuze (1833-1883, SM 1866) was to remain in Sydney, but Rondel (1833-1898, SM 1859) left for Samoa and Wallis in November. It must have been very difficult for Joly and the able-bodied members of the community, since there were also missionaries in transit to look after as well. Joseph mentions two, Augustin Chouvier (1844-1919) and Jean-Baptiste Quiblier (1839-1906), both professed in the Society the previous year. They had left London on 5 November 1869 with Jean Pionnier and Br Elie Raffegau, and stayed longer at Villa Maria than the latter, because they had to wait for a boat to Central Oceania while their confreres had much faster passage to New Caledonia. Of the others mentioned, ‘the sister and her girls’ [7] are Marie de la Merci and her postulants (rf L 186), and J. Stanner and Philippe [8] appear to be employees.

He also mentions Clydesdale which had suffered considerably from the seasons flooding. This was a continuing story for the college and one of the factors contributing to its decline. It had in fact only just over a year to go before being sold. Nevertheless, two of its students had gone to Rome, Atelemo Tuitui, 23, of Wallis, and Selevasio Soakai, 25, of Tonga – Anthelm and Gervais, as Joseph refers to them – though neither went through to ordination, Atelemo dying of TB the following March (rf Angleviel 148). Their predecessor, Soakimi Gata, was now at Lano on Wallis.

Also in Rome, for the Vatican Council, were the various bishops, Elloy and Pompallier among others. Elloy’s theologian at the council was the former assistant general, Ferdinand Vitte, soon to be appointed Vicar Apostolic of New Caledonia. While the missionaries were proud to be represented by their own bishops at this illustrious assembly, they were much less happy to hear them taking all the credit for achievements gained at such cost. Joseph gives voice to this justifiable resentment [3]. Pompallier’s ‘booklet’ is his ‘Notice historique et statistique de la Mission de la Nouvelle-Zelande’, a slightly altered version of his 1846 report to Rome, published in Antwerp in 1850, and translated into English in 1888 as ‘Early History of the Catholic Church in Oceania’. Actually, biographies published by the Marists themselves, such as Antoine Mangaret’s 2 volume work, ‘Mgr Bataillon et les Missions de l’Oceanie Centrale’ (1884), tend to do the same. On the local level, it was often the brothers’ complaint that the priests too readily took all the credit for the good work done on the stations.

Joseph’s letters of this period (24 February, 24 March, 14 July, 6 September) make mention of family problems arising from the death of his priest brother the previous December. The translation of this one was made from a photocopy of the original in the APM (OP 418.1) made by Fr Gaston Lessard, who also provided a list of the brother’s correspondence preserved in the APM.

Text of the Letter

Reverend Father,

I received your kind letter yesterday. I don’t need to tell you the pleasure it gave me. When Father Joly brought it to me he told me, this will cure you. We are in a season when it does nothing but rain. It’s now nearly 3 months and we have not had 8 days of good weather. Floods everywhere, many people drowned, animals by the thousands. Still at Clydesdale the water has not yet reached the house. Garden, oranges, etc…all lost. Father Calinon estimates their loss at 40 pounds. It’s this weather that is the cause for my keeping to my room since the morning before last. I do not know if I will leave it. I can walk all bent over with my stick, that’s all. Brother Genade [sic] has stayed in his room nearly a month. In spite of his courage and impatience he must stay there and put up with much suffering. The doctor cannot cure him fast enough. Brother Marie-Nizier is still suffering and that’s not over. The other day, after a third operation, he fainted clear away. He asks me to send you his profound respects. The other brothers are keeping well. Brother Emery has not yet recovered his strength. Father Heuze is cured. Father Rondel is not going badly. Father Schall [sic], with all his courage, is not cured. The other fathers are all right.
Thank you very much for thinking of me, my Reverend Father, on the feast of St Joseph. Here, he was well aware that you weren’t here, 19th March low mass. But in the evening solemn benediction with deacon and subdeacon. Holy Week a pretty altar of repose. Easter day Mass sung by the sisters, vespers the same, with the cope. Fathers Chouvier and Quiblier had gone. The Passion was chanted at Ryde on Palm Sunday by the two fathers Chouvier and Quiblier after the procession from Villa Maria.
I often think of you. There is still 7 months to wait and see if you are faithful to your good word. I would like to be in Rome with you, I would not put my eyes away in my pocket to see so many beautiful things, and especially such edifying ones. But in heaven I hope I will see all that and I would not only hear. I would be able to speak, I would know languages. I am very happy with Mgr Elloy and with Father Vite [sic], who is almost from my home area. ‘Le Monde’ has informed us that Monsignor spoke at the Council before that great assembly. We all liked that. But there is another article in the Revue du Monde Catholique that did not please us at all. It is in No 46, 25th February 1870, page 198 following. What it recounts is a bit much. It caused me pain, not only for myself but for him. In the past Mgr Pompailler [sic] had a booklet printed in Belgium, I believe. I didn’t like that booklet. He was the one who did everything in N.Z. with his Maori catechists. He sent them out and after 2 or 3 months he went himself and baptized and confirmed, and it was all done by himself. All his priests were zero, by contrast. Mgr Bataillon has done everything by himself, his priests and others are zero. Mgr Elloy is also going to be the only one. They should not print these things. His vicariate has no boundary. Fiji is not far away. He learned to sew, to build, etc…language, etc… People were in Samoa before him..People wrote well. Let these lines go no further, my Reverend Father. It’s only to you I am writing. The fathers here did not like that article.
You have heard already, reverend Father, that the Walter Hood has been wrecked. All the windows for the chapel have been lost as well as those for Fr Monier [sic]. It’s a very great loss. The case that my sister sent me was on it too. But I quickly consoled myself, the loss is not great. The captain, a passenger, and 11 crew perished. It was 70 miles south of Sydney. I think that the fathers will tell you everything.
I had informed you of the great sorrow I have had on learning of the death of my brother for I was not expecting it. I don’t doubt that it surprised you too. Thank you for the prayers you said for the repose of his soul. Here all the fathers said holy mass for him, which was a real consolation for me. But in the last mail I received 3 long letters which gave me a lot of pain, one from my sister, one from Virginia, and one from Josephine, and a copy of a letter which Emile sent to my brother-in-law Blanc. I certainly think my sister is in the wrong as well as her husband because of the sum of money which was promised to Emile which my brother should have given him before his death since he made no mention of it in his will. That is the cause of a dispute, of anger, and of a lasting quarrel in a family which was once so united. If you could do something to settle this affair I would be very pleased.
If you see Anthelme or Gervais, give them a big hello for me. It would be nice to have some news of them I don’t know any news of the islands. The bishop of Enos is still on Wallis, I believe, Father Gata at Lano, Father Soret on Futuna. The Samoans are still fighting, they no longer think about the faith. They also say that the Prussians are going to take over Fiji. A warship is en route for the purpose.[1]
I will not tell you anything about the Sister or her girls. She is writing to you. I have already prepared the banners for Corpus Christi. The little girls [sic] of St Patrik [sic] are already rejoicing about coming to the procession.
I do not know if Fr Yardin has spoken to you about sending us by this mail the material and other decorations for our copes, etc. Father Joly has not yet announced anything and the mail-boat leaves the day after tomorrow. If it has not arrived we can make use of the fine things we have. I wish you good health and a prompt return with some beautiful ornaments of a Canari [sic] colour. I would appreciate 4 pretty bouquets of artificial flowers, and 2 or 4 square candlesticks for Benediction. The brothers join me in thanking you for remembering us. J. Stanner, Philipe are happy that you remembered them, especially in Rome.
I greet you, my Reverend Father, in the holy hearts of J.M.J. and I am with the most profound respect your very humble and obedient servant,
Luzy Br J.X. SM.
P.S. I did not write you by the other mail because of the Easter ceremonies and the annoyance that the letters of my relatives caused me.


  1. It seems Joseph may have suffered a slip of the pen here. It was the German Consul in Apia, Theodore Weber, who had acquired huge land holdings in Upolu, who was trying successfully to interest his countrymen in colonising Samoa and other parts of the Pacific. The Franco-Prussian war of 1870 ruined his plans and it was not until 1899 that western Samoa became a German colony.

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