Br Gennade to Fr Poupinel, Villa Maria, 8 September 1872
This is the first of four letters Gennade wrote to Poupinel between 1872 and 1882. It appears that he had someone write on his behalf  but the identity of his scribe is not known.
Gennade had been at Villa Maria since 1853. His skills as mason and builder were made good use of during these years and he played an important part in all the building projects undertaken at Villa Maria and elsewhere. His colleague, the carpenter, Jean Rodier (1826-1914), professed as a coadjutor of the Society in 1858 and a missionary to Oceania in 1860, had spent most of his time in Sydney at Clydesdale. The other three referred to are coadjutors also, Marie and Jean-Claude at Sainte-Foy, the Marist novitiate in the southern suburbs of Lyon, and another missionary, Hyacinthe Moulin (1843-1891), a Marist since 1868, who had come out with Bishop Elloy in 1870 and was now in Samoa.
The Society was facing new problems in France . The debacle of 1870 was being blamed by the Republicans on an antiquated educational system, among other things, and therefore on the Church, the enemy of progress. These years witness a tightening of educational regulations to strengthen the lay schools as against the congregational ones, and also a campaign against the clerical orders engaged in education. The Marists, like the Jesuits and Dominicans, were not authorized in France, and thus not at all secure in the tenure of their schools and colleges. This campaign was to reach a head in the reforms of Jules Ferry from 1879 to 1882, which succeeded in having the Society of Jesus dissolved in France, and forced the others to apply for official recognition. This affair did not directly concern the Marist brothers, but they expressed their moral solidarity with their clerical colleagues.
The translation was made from a photocopy of the original in the APM.
Text of the Letter
- Reverend Father,
- I was very pleasantly surprised by your kindness in doing me the honour of writing to me. On your part, it does not surprise me. I know you are very interested in me and I scarcely know how to thank you for that. I humbly accept your reproach for not having written to you. My excuse is that in writing I would have nothing to tell you about matters at Villa Maria. Rev Fr Joly and Rev Fr Muraire and others are more in a position to bring you up to date with things than the unqualified pen of my secretary.
- Everyone at Villa Maria, my Reverend Father, is more than convinced of the affection you have for us. Your numerous letters to the community since your departure from our midst convinced even the most sceptical of that, and I can assure you everyone is very grateful. I appreciate very much your intention of going to see my dear parents, even if frustrated by your many occupations, and I thank you as if you had actually gone. It is not long since I had a letter from my brother who tells me all the family are well.
- The misfortunes of France, my Reverend Father, affect us deeply, and we have been greatly worried about our dear Society and are still so about its future. But we have great confidence in her who has preserved it in such a manifest way down to this day. We know perfectly well that the Blessed Virgin does not leave her works unfinished. The Rev Father Joly often recommends us to pray for the Society and for France. Besides, aren’t we joined in solidarity? And isn’t that so everywhere?
- I have passed on all your commissions to Brother Jean. Like me, he pleads guilty of negligence in your regard. He would like to offer the same excuse. He told me he intended to write to you as soon as possible. He asks me to present his respects to you. He is very grieved to hear that the good Brother Marie is ill. He has often spoken much good of the good brother to me, whether of his religious spirit, his charity, his gentleness, and also of his aptitude for work which he uses so well. It was with Brother Marie at Ste Foi, he told me, that he learned to use a plane. We hope your next letter will inform us of his complete cure. Brother Jean asks you to pass on his sympathy and best wishes. He has often intended to write to him but he has neglected it, like so many other things.
- He asks you also to say hello to good Brother Jean-Claude of Ste Foi who sent him his compliments through Brother Hyacinthe. I am still in very good health, my Reverend Father, as is everyone at Villa Maria. Brother Joseph is always happy, though his infirmities are getting worse rather than better. He is not among those who are the least desirous of your return. Be persuaded, my Reverend Father, that we love you very much and pray for you as we know you are praying for us. At the moment the vine is growing at a great rate. The other fruit trees are in blossom.
- Accept, my Reverend Father, the very humble and very sincere sentiments of your entirely devoted son in Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
- Br Gennade
- Rf Alfred Cobban, A History of Modern France, Volume 3: 1871-1962, Penguin 1970, p 25.
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