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Br Gennade to Fr Poupinel, Villa Maria, 14 May 1875



Five groups of Marists left Europe for Oceania during 1874, so the members of the procure community must have been exceptionally well informed about matters at home up to the end of that year. Gennade mentions only one of the many missionaries who passed through Sydney: Pierre Broyer (1846-1918), a member of the Society since 1872, on his way to Samoa where he would die as Vicar Apostolic. Among the mail he carried were letters to Gennade from Poupinel and brothers at the Hermitage. Even though as assistant general he had wider responsibilities, Poupinel kept up his contacts with the missionaries’ relatives, even visiting them when opportunities arose. In Gennade’s case, he could have called on them on his occasional visits to the Hermitage, in the same region [2,3].

The composition of the community at the Hermitage had changed considerably during the 30 years he had been in the missions, and this may explain why he mentions only two by name, Francois, in prayerful retirement, and Modeste (Marie-Joseph Nevoret 1820-1901). Avit says that there were 299 new brothers in the Institute in 1874 (Annales 3: 116). In July 1875 the superiors presented Pius IX on his 84th birthday with an album giving a detailed description of the state of the congregation and its works. There were 2,865 brothers, 2,217 of them teaching 73,842 pupils in 498 schools in 39 dioceses or vicariates apostolic (ibid. 120).

Gennade mentions all the brothers at Villa Maria except Emery. It appears that the latter was living as caretaker at Cumberland Place, the house purchased in 1872. Joly was now proposing that its central location made it an ideal site for the procure and for a missionary residence. But the move did not take place until 1879 (Hosie 245-6). By way of coincidence, the original Villa Maria had just been sold the year before. The renovated buildings, which now belong to Gladesville hospital, are known today as the ‘Priory’ (Hosie 116). As for their neighbour, Didier Joubert, he was to do very well out of the sale of his land, considering the rapid growth of population, and particularly Catholics, in the area. Among those who had put a reserve on 10 acres of it were the Marist brothers who were looking for a suitable site for a novitiate (Doyle 105).

The translation was made from a copy of the original in the APM. The brother’s last letter from Sydney in 1882 is not included in this series. At the time he was stationed at St Michael’s. But he moved back to Villa Maria where he died on May 9, 1898, repeating ‘Venerable Father Champagnat, come and get me.’ Augule sent Theophane an account of his life and death which was included in ‘Biographies de quelques freres 1890-1900’, pp 509-511 (copy in AFM).

Text of the Letter

Very Reverend Father Poupinel,
When Judith presented herself before Holofernes as the instrument of God to execute his will and deliver the Jewish people from the hand of the barbarian, it is said she used flattery to deceive the right arm of Nebuchadnezzar, rampart of all Assyria.[1] I would need a golden mouth to praise you without flattery, etc.
I am not Judith, my reverend Father, and you are far above Holofernes! I have no intention of deceiving you but rather of speaking to you with all the sincerity and frankness I am capable of. You know that well. However, I am puzzled as to how to express all the gratitude I owe you and to reveal all the pleasure I have felt for so much goodness you have shown me, whatever the circumstances, especially by the visit you made to my family and the beautiful and flattering letter you wrote me about it. I feel it very deeply but it is difficult for me to express myself as I wish. Please, my Reverend Father, with your customary self-effacing goodness, supply what I am too wanting in words to thank you as I would like. You have acquired an incontestable right to my prayers and it is with good heart that I am praying for you. My relatives regard the day of your visit as the finest in their lives and with me it is the same with the reception of your letter. If I had needed encouragement it would have been enough to lift my soul up to the clouds. In a letter she wrote me, my niece tells me at length about your visit, but I don’t need to tell you about that since you were able to read it. You must still be very vigorous since you were able to make the trip from Rive de Gier to St Genis Terrenoire in half an hour. I wouldn’t have thought you capable of walking so fast.
During his stay at Villa Maria Fr Broyer told us a lot about you and also about many of the Fathers of the Society. He gave us many very interesting details. He told us that Fr Poupinel was still in good health and very cheerful and that his happiness was always to be doing good. I have passed on all your compliments to all the Brothers of Villa Maria, Brothers Florentin, Augule, Andre, Pierre, and Jean. They have all charged me to express their appreciation, and to present their respects to you. We would all like to see you once more at Villa Maria and we are sure it would be a great pleasure to you to be able to officiate at least once in our jewel of a chapel. It is beginning to look beautiful with its statues, and you tell us another four are coming. In time we will have almost all the saints in Paradise to stir us to devotion.
A good number of them reach us damaged, but I am mending them. Some have an arm or hand broken, others something else. St Charles Borromeo for the church at Ryde had his head and part of his hand snapped off (I mean the fingers). For the head was intact, although it had fallen from his shoulders. I mended it, and you cannot see the difference.
I am happy to see that the Good God is blessing our Society of the Little Brothers of Mary, since they are increasing and making progress, and there are frequent receptions of the habit. But what is most flattering to me is to see they have not forgotten me, and that the Rev Brother Francois as well as the Brother Assistants, the Brother Director, and Brother Modeste and all those who know me, remember me and send me such flattering comments through you, my Reverend Father. I beg you when you can to thank them and present them my respects as well as those of Brother Florentin and Brother Augule.
Mr Joubert has sold all his property along the road of Hunters Hill, from Presber as far as our vineyard, in little sections of an acre, ½ an acre, or even ¼ acre. The latter are the most numerous. A good number near us have been bought to be near the church as they say. Buildings are going up everywhere on Hunters Hill. If you know Couvoisier, I can tell you he died suddenly the eve of the Ascension. The Good God did not give him time to settle his affairs. The old Villa Maria is now called Auckland. They say the new owner has spent more than a thousand pounds sterling to embellish and repair the buildings. One wouldn’t recognize it any more, so fine a house has he made it, especially inside.
Brother Jean wrote to you about six months ago, my Reverend Father, and also to his sick sister at Tarvere. He asks me to tell you he would like to know if his letters have arrived. He has had no news.
Everyone is well and all with common accord pay you our compliments and present you our respects and commend ourselves to your prayers. On our side, we do not forget you.
I conclude, my Reverend Father Poupinel, by renewing my thanks for all you have done for me and beg you to believe in the sincerity of my most respectful sentiments.
And I am in Jesus and Mary, My Reverend Father Poupinel, your entirely devoted and submissive son,
Br Gennade.


  1. The story of Judith and Holofernes is told in chapters 10-13 of the Book of Judith, one of the Historical books accepted into the scriptural canon by the Latin and Greek Churches but regarded as deuterocanonical by Protestant Churches generally.

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