Girard0143

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2 & 25 May 1842. — Father Pierre Bataillon to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Wallis

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, December 2010


Very Reverend Father Colin, 4 St Barthelémy Rise, Lyons, France


Wallis Island, 2 May 1842


Very Reverend Superior,
[1]
It’s only now that I have received your worthy letter dated near the end of 1840. At that time you had received only my first letter which gave information about the island of Uvea (Wallis). Since then you must have received several more from me which, taken together, give details of successive events in the mission. Up till now I have given you reports of no great value[1] and I even admit that in everything I told you that was consoling and edifying, I had stretched the truth a bit, but today for the first time I can inform you of the most consoling news you could expect about the Wallis mission. Yes, it is with entire truth that I can tell you, Reverend Father, that the Lord reigns in Wallis. Dominus regnavit, exulted terra, laetentur insulae multae. [2]
[2]
The Bishop, for whom we waited for 4 years and 2 months, finally arrived at the beginning of this year 1842, a few days after I had sent a most despairing letter about the state of the mission. Just as all the harm came from his Lordship’s delay, so his arrival remedied everything. Through urgent pleas I forced him to stay a few months among us, and now we have had him 4 months. His ship, which he had sent back to New Zealand, has just arrived again to take him from us. But everything is in order, during these 4 months we have baptised 2,200 people. There are still about 300 and the day for the baptism has already been decided. The Bishop will also finish confirming, and is getting ready to go in a fortnight, after having baptised and confirmed the whole island usque ad unum (to the last person). May God be blessed a thousandfold for his infinite mercies, and let us give the greatest thanksgiving to the august queen of the Society of Mary, to whom I had so particularly entrusted this island, and to whom the good faithful of Lyons have so much raised cries for its conversion.
[3]
How much I would like to be able to answer, this time, the so frequent requests you have made to me to give you all the interesting and edifying details about the mission. I would not finish if I wanted to tell you everything there is, in our new Christian community, that is edifying, admirable and consoling. Besides, I am short of time, the neophytes besiege my confessional day and night to form their consciences and to prepare themselves for their first communion. Already nearly 300 have made it, and all are getting ready for it with greatest zeal. Add to that the preparations for the last baptisms, to instruct, examine and confess the catechumens, it is hard to get a moment’s rest to give you in an appropriate way the interesting details of the mission; but I hope to be able a bit later on, to acquit myself of that duty. In the meantime, forgive me for these few lines I am scribbling hastily to send them by means of his Lordship’s departure.
[4]
We have heard of all the prayers offered by all our brothers and the good faithful of Lyons for the conversion of Wallis, and it is to those that we attribute the success of our ministry, we lack words to show our gratitude to all the good people who have prayed for us. All our neophytes are very grateful for the prayers and alms which were offered for them. Several came to ask me to strongly express their gratitude to their parents in France, when I write to them. 300 blouses were sent to us from New Zealand; I was forced to make many jealous. Several, or, more accurately, most of the women, have only the wretched materials of their homeland with which they can hardly cover themselves with decency, in which to approach the holy table. Might our Lord more and more build up charity towards our poor neophytes in Oceania, in the hearts of the faithful in France.
[5]
We have 3 main churches in Wallis and 6 chapels. However there is only one main base from which we serve the whole island. Up to now we have tried to observe our rule and everything that we could and, now that the Christian community is established, we will try to put more regularity, order and exactness in our little community, which will be two priests and one Brother. (The Bishop is removing one of our Brothers.) I think I have to and can tell you truthfully and for your consolation, that your children in Wallis still preserve the spirit of Our Lord and of the Society of Mary. The good master has always maintained among us peace, charity and courage.
[6]
I am happy to tell you that the mission on Wallis bears all the characteristics of a mission of Mary. It was from the first moment consecrated to Mary, and it is visibly through Mary that it succeeded. At the moment I saw it on the point of failing, I thought, as a last resort to teach them the rosary and the way of saying it; this devotion took on so well and so many rosaries have since been prayed in the island that all the difficulties which have arisen since, and appeared insurmountable, have all been smoothed away, and now all our neophytes, in peace and innocence, still continue to offer to their good mother the tribute of homage which has brought them their salvation. I do not think that there are Christian communities where, in proportion to their numbers, more rosaries are said than in our little mission in Wallis. I have distributed nearly 1300 of them, coming from the charity of the French faithful and several people, still lacking them, made them themselves with beads that they got from on board ships. What a contrast! Instead of their profane dances and all their ridiculous superstitions which I have witnessed for so long, we now see them constantly adoring their creator and everywhere singing the praises of Mary. The appearance of the island has been completely renewed. In my opinion the conversion of Wallis is one of the greatest of our time. It was, in everyone’s opinion, the worst island in Oceania, and now it is the model for them. How admirable are God’s works.
[7]
Today, May 25, we have just erected a mission cross. It was the Bishop himself who performed this ceremony and his Lordship has announced that he will leave the day after tomorrow. It was the first cross erected in the western mission. The day before yesterday the last baptism was done. It involved 154 people. The Bishop is taking from me Father Chevron, who was just beginning to be useful.[3] In his place he is leaving Father Viard, one of his pro-vicars, with the result that I am going to be crushed by the work of the ministry until he knows the language. His Lordship was on the point of taking me to Tonga to open the mission there, but finally he decided it was not yet appropriate to take me from Wallis. It is only put off, seemingly. The Bishop is in very great difficulty. All the surrounding islands are offering ripe harvests and he has no one to send there. He also has no money. Soon he will not be able to visit us any more. Without a miracle the mission will not be able to sustain itself if the Propagation of the Faith cannot give us help any more.
[8]
Please, very Reverend Father, accept the assurance of the deep respect with which I have the honour to be, in union with your prayers and holy sacrifices,
Your most humble and obedient servant,
Bataillon, Reverend Missionary Apostolic

Notes

  1. peu avantageux
  2. Ps 97 (96):1 – “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice, the many islands be glad” – text already cited by Bataillon in his letter of 6 January 1842 (Doc 125 [14])
  3. Joseph Chevron, having stayed with Peter Chanel from May 16 to the last days of November 1840, had gone to Wallis where he helped Bataillon up to this time (Cf Doc 62 [48-5]; Rozier Érits Chanel p 289, [Doc 61 [1]1] and p456). On May 23 1842, two days before Bataillon wrote these lines, Chevron finds that he has been appointed to Futuna, but it is known that then Pompallier will change his mind and will send Chevron to Tonga to begin the mission (Cf Doc 153 [12, 21-2], 161 [10], 162 [3, 10])