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Br Joseph-Xavier to Fr Poupinel, Villa Maria, 1 December 1872



This is the last letter of Joseph’s that we have in his own hand. The next, at the end, of the month, was written by Marie-Nizier, although Joseph signed it. His illness, which was cancer of the liver, as Joly informs us (L 215), was entering its final stage.

In his sharing with Poupinel of the news he has received from the islands, he once more provides a glimpse of the situation in the Oceania missions [2]. In Tonga, the Wesleyans were still strong in their opposition to the Catholics, but in fact, at this stage the ministers were beginning to lose their influence with the king. Some had even been negotiating with authorities in England to have the country declared a protectorate (cf Duriez 60). As a consequence, relations between the Tongan authorities and the Marists were improving, though it was not until the turn of the century that they were to gain a foothold in the capital, Nuku’alofa. On Wallis, Elloy had paid a visit in November and changed some of the appointments Bataillon had made, to the satisfaction of most. On the other hand, he had had to suspend Gata from saying Mass now that he had given up his priestly responsibilities and spent much of his time fishing. He had also formally refused a transfer to Rotuma (Hosie 182). The following August Bataillon reduced him to the lay state and sent him to New Caledonia (Angleviel 149). On the political scene, Emmanuel Tugahala, chief of Mua, staged an abortive revolt against the queen in October, after having been censured for a violation of the Code of 1870 (Angleviel 152-3). Joseph provides the substance of his crime, but is somewhat misleading in calling ‘Tunala’ a ‘young chief’, since this is the man who had welcomed the Marists to Wallis in 1837. On Futuna, the main problem seems to be the ageing and death of the pioneer missionaries. Junillon’s death the previous December had left the island with only young Marists, and Elloy was hoping Marie-Nizier’s return would help provide the experience lacking (rf preceding letter). Among the sister, Marie du Mont-Carme, the ‘old lady’, was also coming to the end of her long mission. She took to her bed in August and died a year later during the night of 9/10 August 1873.

The translation was made from a photocopy of the original in the APM (OP 418.1).

Text of the Letter

Very Reverend Father,
It is already some time since you received any letters from me and I do not feel up to writing. I have not yet replied to my sister to acknowledge receiving her photograph. For more than two months now I have been more or less worn out. I decided to go and see Mr Lord who gives me some drugs to take. They are very bitter. However, the vomiting has stopped for a while. (I will tell you that my leg is cured). That could be a little result. May God’s will be done. I can still see enough with my left eye, thanks be to God. If only it guides me to the end of my days. I will not mention the sight that is completely lost, and I will not let them remove either the black spot which covers half nor the cataract which covers it.
I have received letters from Tonga, Wallis, Futuna. They are all going more or less. But Tonga is declining day by day. They know the causes, Protestantism gives them no relief. Wallis is always good, the population increases daily. I will not speak to you about Gata, my heart bleeds. Father Padel is overcome with joy. I do not know if it will last. The Bishop of Tipasa has restored each to his own place, to their great contentment. The young chief Tunala [sic] with 3 or 4 of his band wanted to stir up some trouble because Madame the Queen Amelia imposed on him a fine he had to pay. He had infringed the rule of not drinking alcohol and of not bringing brandy (spirits) onto the island, and of not causing it to be drunk. But after the hot air of grumbling, anger fled, and only the shame was left for him. Futuna is not going badly. The fathers are expecting Brother Marie from day to day, but he has not yet made a decision because of his nasty illness which requires an operation, and the arrival of his lordship does not encourage him. The old lady will not be long in following the good Father Junillon. She is in her second childhood. Sometimes she laughs, sometimes she loses her temper, sometimes she amuses them, sometimes she annoys them. The day she received the little case I had addressed her, that made her spend a good day: there are the little phials, there are the drugs, there are the jams, more material, etc. etc. Oh, how good he is, he still thinks of me, etc. etc.
I haven’t the strength to curtail this rough draft or to finish it. Excuse me, I beg you. I greet you in the holy hearts of J.M.J.
Your very devoted br. Luzy J.X.

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