Girard0094

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28 May 1841 — Father Joseph Chevron to his family and to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Wallis

Translated by Mary Williamson, December 2019


Based on the document sent , APM dossier Chanel 211.1.

The current document, containing a letter to the family and one to Colin, was at first made up of one single sheet of four pages:


Pages 1 and 2 have the text of the letter to the family, page 3 that of the letter to Colin (with three lines in Bataillon’s handwriting) and page four the address. The page containing the letter to the family was detached in Lyon and sent to the recipients. It came back later to the APM with the other letters from Chevron to his family. Colin repeats most of the first letter (§ 1-3, 5) with a few small changes in his circular letter of 6 April 1842 (CS, doc. 334, § 2-7). Chevron will mention it in a later letter (cf. doc. 126, § 1). A text made up from the two letters was printed in the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith, 14 (1842), 247-248, as a letter addressed to Colin. Chevron had dated his letter 28 May and given the date of the death of Father Chanel as “27 May last year”. The date of 28 May was changed to “28 June” in the letter and it is under this date that it was printed in the text in the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith. The same text was reprinted in 1895 in the Annals of the missions of Oceania, t.1, p. 291-293, but the date of 28 May was later reinstated for the letter and it is the date of the death of Chanel that was corrected; the few lines from Bataillon were also added. Extracts from § 1-5 edited in Rozier, Chanel …. known, doc. 59.


[p.4][Address]
The Superior, Colin / at the college of / Belley / (Ain) / France.
[Post Marks]
PAID SHIP LETTER — JU 2 — 1841 —SYDNEY / SHIP-LETTER / 6 —1 AP — 1842 / PARIS —3 MAY —42 (60) / BELLEY —8 — [,,,]


[in Poupinel’s handwriting]
(no. 4) Oceania central / Wallis May or June 1841 / Father Chevron.


[p.1]
Jesus, Mary, Joseph.


Wallis, May 28 1841


[1]
My dear Mother, my dear brothers and sister, I am taking advantage of a ship that is going to set sail right away to let you know that I am still alive, at a time when the newspapers might perhaps be causing you to worry on my behalf. I have been here since the month of December last; a little schooner came to get me to go and support Father Bataillon, who was seeing his flock, but also the dangers, growing every day. I regretted leaving Futuna as Father Chanel was greatly persecuted; one single thing comforted me, that of sacrificing a fine situation to obedience; this sacrifice is very great for a missionary; nevertheless, I consoled myself a little in thinking that I still had a good chance of happiness in this respect on the island of Wallis; we have been more or less peaceful; but the good Father Chanel had gone to receive a beautiful crown in heaven, the crown of a martyr. Oh pray for me. I need it; the sacrifice is huge.
[2]
Father Chanel had just convinced the son of the king [1] to embrace religion. On 27 May last, [2] the king went to find his son in the village where most of his family lived; he tried in vain to win his son back from his gods; he then had a meeting with his family and retired; The next day, the 28th at seven in the morning a native came to the father’s house and asked him for something to dress a wound that he had just received; while the good Father set about the task of comforting this unfortunate man, he was struck down by a shattering blow to his forehead; he then saw that the house was surrounded by armed natives; another struck him with a baton, he went to sit down [p.2] on the ground and whilst at the same time reading he was wiping the blood which was flowing down his forehead; a third native struck his a blow with a bayonet which pierced his shoulder and came out under his arm; he pulled it out himself without saying anything; the house was then full of people; each one arguing over the various objects that they found there; then the first one to have appeared gave the order to finish off the white man, no one was listening to him, each one thinking of grabbing something to pillage. Impatient, this evil person seized the adze which was there and delivered a blow, taking off the upper part of the head. The king was not far away; it is said that he washed him himself, covered him with a piece of the local fabric and buried him near the house.
[3]
Brother Marie-Nizier and the Englishman [3] who was staying with him went to see a sick man who was with the vanquished group who protected them up till the arrival of the ship that brought them here ten days ago.
[4]
Everything had been stolen; the religious objects as well as those used by the Father.
[5]
I am being pressed for time; everyone here is well and reasonably calm. Almost all of the island is converted, except for the king. The English missionaries, who will take this letter, came here to leave one of their own with the king; he sent them away. Every day we are expecting the Bishop. My regards and respects to all the family and anyone else concerned. I had written a few details about the island of Futuna, island I believe to be the most savage and barbaric the it is possible to find; I nevertheless still hope to go, once the Bishop arrives, to gather up the remains of the blood of our good Father Chanel. I will send you these details via the Bishop; I have too little confidence in these missionaries. [4]
In all things the will of God. Joseph Chevron, missionary.
[page 3]
Jesus, Mary, Joseph.
The Superior,
[6]
I am sending you these few lines that I am writing to my parents to reassure them about me. I am adding nothing else to what I am saying to them; I do not have time; but I believe I should tell you that the delay in the arrival of the Bishop seems to be the cause, or at least the reason for the death of Father Chanel. If he delays much longer, I do not know what will become of this island; nevertheless, we fear nothing; we are under the protection of the blessed Virgin; [- - -] to one day share the crown of Father Chanel; nevertheless, we pity these poor people that the Good Lord has sent us to evangelise; and no matter what the desire in us to be martyrs, the saving of souls is even dearer to our hearts.
[7]
Please commend us to the holy Virgin.
[8]
Our greetings and respects to all our dear colleagues,
your very devoted and obedient
Joseph Chevron, Missionary.
[9]
Could I beg you to present my greetings to the abbot Auguste Girard? My respects to Mr Poncet and Mr Perrin? [5]
[10]
The last of your children casts himself before you to ask for the help of your prayers and your blessing.
Bataillon Missionary apostolic.

Notes

  1. Niuliki was then the king of Tua (of Alo); his son, Meitala, will eventually accede to the same royal title (cf. Frimigacci, p. 153-154, 215).
  2. Read 27 April
  3. Thomas Boag, former sailor, had formerly married a Futuna girl; after the death of this woman, he left for Vava’u in the Tongan archipelago. It is there that in passing, the missionaries had met him; Boag had asked them to repatriate him, in return for his services as interpreter. He went to Futuna with Pierre Chanel and Brother Marie-Nizier Delorme and stayed with them after the death of Chanel. He was Protestant, but on 31 October and I November 1840 he made his recantation, received conditional baptism and made his first communion. (Rozier, Writings of Chanel, p. 28-29, 203 (n. 6), 290, 495).
  4. The Protestant “English missionaries” with whom the author sends the current letter.
  5. Auguste-Antoine Girard (1806-1841), priest in the diocese of Belley. After the month of October 1829, he is at the small seminary of Belley, where he joins the Marist missionary team. A serious illness in January 1830 (OM, doc. 206, § 3) is not doubt the reason that he abandoned the missionary life not long after. Later, he returns to Belley where he is a professor at the parish choir school. Linked to Joseph Chevron, he writes to his father, between May 1839 and 14 June 1841, eight letters, which are today stored at APM (dossier Chevron). He dies at Belley on 5 July 1841. Unaware of the passing of his friend, Father Chevron writes to him, between 12 May and 11 July 1841, a letter which, passed on to Father Colin, is conserved today at APM and is edited below, doc. 162 (cf. OM, 4, p. 290 291). Bernard-Benoît Poncet (1791-1863), priest in the diocese of Belley, is professor of dogma at the theological seminary in the diocese of Brou de la Toussaint from1823 to the summer of 1827, when he is named director of this seminary, a position that he will occupy up till 1839 and then become vicar general of the diocese of Belley (OM 4, P. 119, 133). Claude-François-Joseph Perrin, professor of philosophy at the small seminary of Belley; in May 1833, he delivers a discourse on the greatness of Mary when Father Colin had inaugurated the statue of the Holy Virgin which is opposite the entry door and which is placed at the height of the first floor in a niche in the pupil’s courtyard (OM 2, p. 550: OM, doc. 707, § 1, 4-5).