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19 May & 3 July 1842 — Father Joseph Chevron to his family, with a note added by Father Antoine Garin, Wallis

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, December 2014


M Chevron Alphonse and his associates, Nantua, (Ain) France
Jesus Mary Joseph


Uvea 19 May 1842


[1]
The long letter which I wrote to you,[1] very likely to be read by several people curious to see a sheet of paper coming from such a distance away, I am adding to it this little supplement written for you only, my mother, my brothers and sisters. Ah, Mariette, Josephine, and Auguste will perhaps say, so there is nothing for us? Everything also for you, my dears, brother and sisters; you love the truth too much to not allow me to cross out a word which would seem to be flattery and would not convey more accurately my friendship for you; so please understand that you are, in fact, included under the first-addressed group. Truly, I have received your letters with great delight; please do not give them up, even if you do not receive replies to each of you individually. As well, I have received all the things you have sent me. All have given me real pleasure. However, the woollen socks and the gaiters are not really suitable for the tropics. You laughed, perhaps, when you sent the little phial of eau de cologne; laugh again! It is something doubly precious here, both the container and the contents: the contents for the sick and the container for us: phials are rare and precious here. We are often harassed by the sick. If we find something in our very poor little pharmacy that might suit them, we administer it to them, but often it happens that there is nothing, or their symptoms make it not worthwhile; sending them away without giving them something would arouse discontent, sometimes seriously so; then some drops of eau de cologne or some essence mixed with water satisfies them.
[2]
I would have been happy, on receiving the altar linen, to receive as well the alb you embroidered for me. Not having the things in my sight right now, and being pressed for time, I am forced to thank you all as one. However, I want to thank Arnaud and Josephine for the bath. Thank also, for remembering me, Mrs Vaudel, Mrs Girard, and Marie (from Montange).[2] Since we have mentioned my beloved Montange, a word before leaving it. My respectful greetings to the parish priest of Montange, I am really upset at not having a moment to reply to him. Many regards to Mrs Berrod and her family, Antoine,[3] the Tournery, Graz, Famy families etc etc. Please commend me to the prayers of these former parishioners whom I do not forget.
[3]
I do not think I have the time to write you this little letter, that is why I have already given you my requests for all the people who have written to me.
[4]
So let’s continue. I would very much like to send you as well some little things from here, although having made a vow of poverty, I could do it – I would ask permission for it. But to send them through whom? My mother recommends me to take care of myself, a big thing to refuse. I have also a vow of obedience, now we are expressly ordered to take care of ourselves because, it is said, the workers are few. Well then, dear mother, with the supplies you have sent me, can you worry? A packet of, I believe, sugar candy, then of another white mixture smelling as if it had formerly been peppermint pastilles. Only try, when you have some things like that to send, to use a steamship service. Otherwise I really think that the things around them will benefit more than I from the sweet things you would like to get to me.
[5]
I could not re-sow the seeds in the garden at Montanges; I am really afraid they have been ruined. The schooner is bringing us fig tree plants and plants of other trees that I had ordered; there are also rose bushes and mallows, also a certain number of garden seeds. The French corvette left us some of them, but they did not succeed. May God be blessed! Since the baptisms, I have not been able to concern myself with it, I think that the garden will be completely abandoned to the Brother’s care. Alas, we are really pressed for time! The orange trees which the Fathers planted in these islands are beginning to put out enough leaves to enable us to use them for making herb teas, they are a great help for us in treating the sick.
[6]
You also ask me how I am doing in this country; I can tell you: very well. As everywhere, there are roses and thorns, a lot of woes, and a lot of consolations. It doesn’t really seem that we are living amidst a foreign people. Then I still find more people who annoy me, because in changing climate I have not changed, I am still the same person. I can well imagine that Josephine made and must still make the observation that a confrère made to me here: How you must have suffered when you weren’t able to carry on a conversation with the natives!”
[7]
You would not believe that I have already interrupted this letter 5 or 6 times today to go and talk with the natives and drink kava. I would very much like to see Josephine and Chevron present at a kava party, I think they would grimace with disgust when it would have to be drunk. People usually do us the honour of drinking from the first cups: the kava is then thicker and more creamy, no doubt because the saliva left in the jaws remains on the surface of the liquid. It is however our everyday drink, and sometimes our lunch up till two or three o’clock – we are used to it. You still, I think, decide the “codille”,[4] sometimes I unite with you in thought, I am present in your conversations. I am very sorry at not being able to imagine a “codille” at Mr Brachet’s pharmacy; I do not know the premises. Nor do I know the parish priest. But that’s okay; still offer my respects and greetings to the Fathers Debelay[5] while they wait until I can reply to them. The same request goes for Mr Brachet and his family, Mr Cagin, Mr Ravinet and all of his family. I would ask you to thank as well good Sister Dumortier for her remembrance, as well as Miss Berou and her family. I must reserve here a special place to offer my regrets to Mr and Miss Varoudel and to remind them of me. Could Alphonse[6] remember me to all the clergy of the canton of Nantua, whom time does not allow me to name, and to Fathers Humbert and Ducret,[7] when the opportunity presents itself. Could Chevron please remember me to all the clergy of the canton of Chatillon, and particularly to the good parish priest (Father) Famy, then to Ravet and his family? Oh, really, I don’t forget anyone here, I wish I had the time to name all of you. And the family in Lyons, send them my respects and good wishes. I certainly think I would at least write a little letter to Father Girard.[8] If, by chance, I completely run out of time, make sure you tell him that I have not forgotten him.
[8]
Father Bataillon thanks you for your remembering him.
[9]
The anchor is about to be raised, adieu.
J(oseph) Ch(evron)
[10]
3 July, Tonga. Another greeting from this land which is going to be my home. I am under a great deal of pressure, but it seems to me that you are reproaching me for not telling you whom I am with, here, right now, with Brother Attale. Brother Attale is a young man, about the same age as me, looking fairly like Pascal Levrat, foster-brother to Josephine. He is a Brother full of piety, gentleness and patience, pretty skilful in everything although a bit slow. He would be absolutely the jewel [?pendant] of Mary (of Montange). I am perfectly happy with him. I think we are destined to live and die together, we haven’t been separated from a moment since our leaving Lyons.
[11]
I suffered from seasickness during the whole journey, more than coming from Europe, but God be blessed.
[12]
(In Garin’s hand) I am taking the liberty to insert in the Reverend Father Chevron’s letter 2 lines to inform you that the Bishop’s schooner left Kororareka on 4 October 1842, taking Father Grange to Tonga; he must have arrived there 3 weeks ago. The Bishop had brought to the Bay of Islands the brother of the high chief of Tonga, a chief himself; he returned to Tonga with Father Grange, quite amazed at having seen Europeans from several nations coming to our chapel, and the ordination of a sub-deacon and a deacon. The 2 good Fathers have before them a fine harvest to bring in. I am seizing with pleasure this chance to renew the attitudes I showed you at Nantua 2 months before my departure. You did not think then that in 2 years I would be writing these lines to you from New Zealand. Please express my best wishes to Mr Marius and his brother whom I will never forget – may they not forget the good principles which they learned at Meximeieux; and may they pray for me.
Garin (provicar)

Notes

  1. Cf Doc 153
  2. Chevron was parish priest of Montanges parish from November 1836 until May 1839, when he left for Oceania (Monfat, Tonga p 70, 85-91)
  3. Antoine Berrod, no doubt, “who was a sacristan and trustworthy friend of the parish priest” – that is, Father Chevron when he was parish priest of Montanges (November 1836-May 1839)
  4. To decide the “codille” – in the game of “ombre” – a card game – the ‘codille’ is the player who gets more tricks than anyone else.
  5. “The Debelays” – no doubt the two brothers of this name, both priests, and known by the Chevron family. (1) Jean-Marie Debelay (1800-1863), the parish priest of Nantua, where the Chevrons lived, and who will become bishop of Troyes in 1844, then archbishop of Avignon in 1848: and (2) Denis Debelay (1807-1885), a priest of the diocese of Belley, a signatory of the consecration of 8 December 1831, but who did not seem to have persevered long in his commitment to the Marist project; a curate at Nantua on 5 November 1832, he became parish priest of the same parish 12 years later, on 16 April 1844 (CF OM 4, p259-60; Monfat Tonga p 90-91, Dictionnaire de biographie Français, vol 10, 61 422-423
  6. Alphonse Chevron, the author’s brother Alphonse Chevron, the author’s brother
  7. Nicolas Humbert (1801-43) and Joseph-Marie Ducret (1802-46), who were professors at the Belley minor seminary at the same time as the author, in the years 1829-30 and 1830-31 (Cf OM 4 p 141-2). It is rather unlikely that it concerns one of three other priests named Humbert, brothers of Nicolas: Jean-Marie (1795-1873), François-Marie (1788-1852) and Anaré-Marie (1813-1900) (Cf OM 4, p297 and f/n 1)
  8. Father Antoine Girard, director of the Belley choir school, who died in Belley 5 July 1841 (Cf Doc 94 [9] f/n 5). Unaware of the disappearance of his friend Chevron sent him a letter (Doc 162), begun 12 May 1842 and finished on the 11 July following.