From Marist Studies
Jump to: navigation, search

Fr Chaurain to Fr Poupinel, St Anne’s, Spitalfields, London, 4 February 1874



The Marists founded their first establishment in the British Isles in the parish of St Anne’s in London’s East End in 1850. Stephen Chaurain (1819-1887), a Marist since 1843, was appointed from Sydney that year to help found it. Later, as superior, he acted as London agent for the Sydney procure. When Rocher left Australia permanently in 1864, he was also appointed to the London house (Hosie 76).Both provide information about Marie-Nizier’s last days at St Anne’s in their correspondence (rf LMN Appendix).

In his first letter, written a week earlier, Chaurain described the brother’s condition on his arrival in London: “It would be difficult for me to describe. He was only just breathing. He has spent the whole of the ninety day voyage in his bed. After rounding Cape Horn, he was so weak that twice he was thought to be dying and twice Father Keating, his traveling companion, administered extreme unction… The good brother cannot even turn himself over in bed, and to bring him from the ship to our place it was necessary to lay him on what is called a hospital truck pulled by two men” (letter of 27 January 1874, APM).

Marie-Nizier’s condition continued to deteriorate during the following week. Although he remained conscious to the end, he was unable to speak the last few days and was forced to communicate by pencil and paper. During this period he had the consolation of being attended not only by the Marist fathers but also by members of his own congregation. The brothers had responded to a request from the Society to open a school at St Anne’s in 1853. As they lived on the top floor of the capacious presbytery, they were able to provide their confrere with constant companionship and attention. He died peacefully just before 11 o’clock on the night of Wednesday 3 February, with the community around his bed, at the age of 57. ‘He had made the sacrifice of his life’, wrote Rocher, ‘with a very good heart; his death was that of a saint’ (letter to Poupinel, 4 February 1874, APM). He was buried in the Catholic cemetery, Leytonstone, on Friday 5th.

This is one of several letters Chaurain wrote informing his confreres of their loss. Other recipients were Lagniet, the Society’s provincial in Paris, and the superior of the Marists in Ireland. In passing on the news to Louis-Marie and the brothers, Poupinel promised to send them later a fuller account (CSG IV: 459). This does not appear to have been published in any subsequent circular, but is probably the biographical notice which appeared in Annales des Missions 3 on pages 221-7. By way of coincidence, the article preceding that one in the Annales is an account of the consecration in St Anne’s by Archbishop Manning of Francis Redwood as bishop of Wellington on the feast of St Patrick 1873. Redwood had received his appointment on January 19, and it is probably a question of the date of consecration that Chaurain refers to at the end of this letter.

This letter was reproduced in the AM 3, p 226, and, in our documents, almost in full, in the life of Brother Louis-Marie (VFLM 224-5) as well as in the Appendix to Ronzon’s edition of Marie-Nizier’s letters, p c.

Text of the Letter

Reverend Father Poupinel,
The day before yesterday I told you that our dear Brother ‘Marie Nizier’ was sinking rapidly. Alas! The end did not take long coming. Our dear Brother went to sleep in the Lord last night a little before 11 o’clock.
We said our Masses for him this morning. But we do not doubt for a moment that he is enjoying the joy and glory of heaven. He suffered so much during his long and horrible illness, and he worked so hard for the glory of God and the salvation of souls for nearly 40 years!
No doubt to give him some compensation, God left him just enough strength to come here to die among his brothers, who have looked after him and accompany him with their prayers.
Poor saintly brother! He was perfectly conscious to the last. A few hours before his death he asked for pencil and paper and wrote to his sister: ‘Adieu, see you again in heaven.’
We are thinking of burying him on Thursday morning in the Catholic cemetery of our quarter, besides the deceased Marist Sisters.
We now regard it as a blessing to have received the last breath of this veteran soldier of Mary, and we hope he will obtain for us by his prayers in heaven the grace to endure patiently the sufferings and trials of this life.
I have already written to Father Lagniet to tell him the news. I will write as soon as possible (today) to Father Favre and the Fathers of Ireland asking them to unite their prayers with ours. But as for writing the appropriate letters in France, I have already told Fr Lagniet that we hope either he or you will take responsibility for them.
I am awaiting Mgr Redwood’s reply. I will probably receive it only when he himself has received Mgr Manning’s.
I am in Jesus and Mary your very devoted and respectful confrere,
Stephen Chaurain

Previous Letter Letters from Oceania: 1874-5 Next letter