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Br Marie-Nizier to Fr Poupinel, St Patrick (Sydney), 2 October 1872



This letter, which is the last we possess of the brother’s, was written from the presbytery in the parish of St Patrick. Marie-Nizier moved there early in July to help the brothers’ community out as cook. He went back to Villa Maria in September for a while when Joseph-Xavier fell seriously ill.

The Marists had been invited to take care of St Patrick’s when the great pioneer of the Australian Church, Archdeacon John McEnroe, died in August 1868. He had been a strong supporter of the Society ever since their arrival, and it was believed he had asked Polding to give them the parish (Hosie 209). Poupinel was very much in favour of this offer and obtained Favre’s approval for acceptance. In September, Joseph Monnier took up his ministry there, and he was joined by Charles Heuze at the end of the year. There was some opposition among the Irish parishioners at first, but they were won over both by Monnier’s own personality and qualities, and by the addition of an Irish Marist, Charles Kirk, in December 1871.

The four brothers at St Patrick’s were Ludovic, a Frenchman, Augustinus, a Scot, and Jarlath and Peter, both Irish. The superior, Ludovic (Pierre Laboureyas 1842-1924), was received at St Genis in 1862, and had had a couple of years experience in Great Britain before his appointment to Sydney. Augustinus (Donald MacDonald 1850-1926), at 21 the youngest of the group, had entered at Beaucamps in 1868, and this was his first posting. Jarlath (Thomas Finan b 1845), received in 1862, was sub-director of the community, and Peter (Patrick Tennyson, b 1845), a former Papal Zouave, who had just made the vow of obedience, was also in his first posting. Although they had moved into their Harrington Street house, they were taking their meals at the presbytery, and it was to relieve Peter, who was the community cook, that Marie-Nizier had agreed to come to St Patrick’s. Another brother was expected but he did not arrive until the following March, after Marie-Nizier left for his operation. He mentions the possibility of some ‘differences’ arising between the brothers [2]. In fact, the Irish Marist Charles Kirk (1845-1904), professed in 1869, and the same age as his countrymen among the brothers, was an outspoken radical, and appears to have stirred them up against their superior (rf Hosie 222). Jarlath was sent back to Europe in 1874 and left the congregation three years later, while Peter left that September. Kirk proved equally disloyal to his own superiors and was transferred to New Zealand early in 1875 (Hosie 238). There he seems to have settled down.

At the time this letter was written, Bataillon was in France making preparations for his return to the Pacific. According to Avit (3: 103), he visited Saint Genis and presided over the closure of the second retreat. He was accompanied by two Oceanians ‘with whom he chanted a canticle in their idiom, to the great satisfaction of the retreatants.’ It is possible that Grezel may have been thinking of returning to the Pacific [8] and then had second thoughts once he learned Bataillon was going back, as Marie-Nizier also seems to have had about returning to Futuna [10]. Despite the threats of the vicar apostolic, the two girls, Sara and Silenia, stayed on at Villa Maria until their reception into the Third Order Regular of Mary in 1877. Bataillon himself arrived in Sydney in December 1872, and after his return to Wallis in 1873 remained there, except for a stay of three months on Futuna in 1876, until his death in April 1877 (Angleviel 158).

The brother makes reference to the several means he was hoping to make use of in ridding himself of his ailments, both natural and supernatural. Nothing further is heard of the cure offered by the healer in Lyon [3]. The flasks of water are from two sites associated with apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, La Salette and Lourdes (rf notes to LL 85, 205). Neither appears to have helped him, though Joseph, in a letter of the same period, claims to have felt some benefit from using some of the latter (to Poupinel, 6 October 1872, APM).

The translation was made from a photocopy of the original in the APM. The under-linings are the brother’s own. This letter can be found on pages 143-145 of Joseph Ronzon’s edition.

Text of the Letter

Very Reverend Father,
I was surprised and pleased to receive your fine little letter of 26 July on the 24th September. I am very appreciative of your generous remarks which I do not deserve, and of the benevolent care you take to see that my letters reach Sr St Ambroise. I am very sorry for my sister and the whole Farnay community that you haven’t yet been able to pay them the visit so long awaited and desired. Still, I like to think it will take place one day.
You have probably read, my Rev Father, in my letter of the beginning of last month to Sr St Ambroise, some of the reasons which lead me to come to St Patrick’s. But another stronger motive which persuaded me to make this trial, was to spare the Brothers the embarrassment of having a foreign servant, and they would of necessity have had to employ one until the arrival of the Brother they have asked for. And especially to prevent the spreading around of any differences which may arise between the Brothers, despite all their goodwill. These things are often basically trifling in origin but, in passing from mouth to mouth, they grow out of proportion and produce nothing good, just from the fact of being badly reported. For these considerations and at the urging of the Brother Director and of Fr Joly, I thought I ought to accept the requests made me, but by way of trial, and on condition I would be able to leave before the Brother requested arrived if my infirmities took a possible turn for the worse. Although there are days when I get quite tired, I wish to do what I can to remain in the post until my replacement arrives, unless some circumstance arises which makes it altogether impossible, or if the replacement takes too long coming.
Although Mgr Bataillon has several times sermonized me (½ hour perhaps on each occasion) to convince me that ‘a hernia is nothing,’ according to him, I am none the less frequently quite worn out by mine. I have even found an advertisement for the cure (it is claimed) of this infirmity. As the healer is in Lyon I am sending you his address with the request to investigate if there really is a remedy for curing or at least relieving this infirmity so painful to me – mine is on the left side – (The address is taken from the advertisement in a newspaper. I am writing it on a loose label so as to make it easier to use. I don’t know what the figures 1488.10 which are in the advertisement mean).
During his last stay in Sydney, Mgr Bataillon showed himself very affable to all alike, especially the first time we called on him. Sara and Silenia let themselves be taken there. They were in raptures after this visit, and had no thought for anything else, so to speak, except the opportunity for paying another. As for myself, I had to laugh up my sleeve. For the velvet paw was no longer in evidence on another visit. He told them what he had already told one of the Fathers, that since they had not achieved what they had come for, they would have to return to their country. They were wasting their time, etc. etc. You can imagine how disappointed they were. There are some who think he can still attempt a further return to Oceania. If that is the case, I don’t think there are many who would find it a cause for rejoicing.
Since his departure from Sydney for the Centre, Mgr Elloy has already written three times to Fr Joly asking him to send me back as soon as possible to Oceania for Futuna where the only priests there now are new ones. If I have not gone already, it is not because Fr Joly has raised the slightest objection. It’s I who remarked to him that I wanted to wait some time to see if there was an obvious change in my illness in any way. I have always wanted to go back ever since I left Oceania. Only the good God can remove the final obstacle which actually presents itself – the infirmity. Still, I must thank the good God that it has not become any worse over the past two years or so. Please unite your prayers with mine, my Rev Father, to ask the good God, through Mary’s intercession, that this illness should completely disappear so that I can comply with the requests made me to return to my former post and there procure the glory of God, my own sanctification, and the good of some souls. However, may the holy and adorable will of God be done.
We have just received the Manuals sent to us. I have also received the flask of miraculous water of Our Lady of Lourdes and of Our Lady of La Salette. Everything arrived in good condition. I am very grateful to you for the care you take in dispatching the things sent to us and for all the trouble this causes you. I thank you especially for the 16 francs Fr Joly told me had been entered to my credit, for I presume, my Rev Father, that they were sent to me with your authorization.
I have been given copies of three publications you have sent, but I haven’t yet read them all.
I am very happy to hear that Fr Grezel is better, but in spite of that, I don’t feel any desire to leave for France. I would rather subscribe to the intentions of Silenia and Sara when they told me to tell Fr Grezel we are praying the good God to cure him quickly and send him back just as quickly.
I have still to thank you sincerely, my Rev Father, for the assurance you gave me and for the recommendation you make me to count on your affectionate devotion as in the past. I have certainly not forgotten what I owe you on that count.
Accept, my Reverend Father, the expression of profound respect and sincere appreciation with which I have the honour of being in the sacred Hearts of JMJ,
Your very humble and obedient servant,
Br Marie-Nizier.
PS. Could I ask you seriously, without being indiscreet, if Mgr Bataillon is really going to return to Oceania? I will lend more credit to what you tell me than to what is said so far from the places where things are happening as is Australia, where I have heard it spoken of. You know, my Rev Father, that I have a personal interest in knowing.

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