Girard0162

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19 & 23 May, 2 & 11 July 1842 — Father Joseph Chevron to Father Auguste Girard, Wallis

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, January 2015


This letter was begun in Wallis (Uvea) on 12 May 1842 and finished in the Tongan group on 11 July following. On Father A Girard, see Doc 94 [9] f/n5.


Father Auguste Girard, at the choir school, Belley, (Ain) France


Jesus Mary Joseph


Uvea 19 May 1842


[1]
My dear Girard,
What a wonderful day is this 19th May! It’s the day on which the good God broke, in me, the ties of blood to make me enter upon the fine career of the apostolate. But, alas! How have I returned the gaze of mercy and love He had for me? How have I replied to this sign of love with which He honoured me? The career is wonderful, dear fellow, but the career does not create merit. Pray to the good God that I run along it like a good soldier of Jesus Christ so that one day we might see ourselves among those (cum quibus) quam bonum et quam incundum habitare fratres in unum.[1]
[2]
(23 May) I have just come, my dear Girard, from again giving first communion to 60 people at St Peter’s. I am coming to be present at the baptism of the King and a good number, 150, of chiefs who had waited for him; he has been baptised and confirmed, confirmation is going on. I left the ceremony to write these few lines.
[3]
Yesterday, when I arrived, I found out my destination: I am going to go to Futuna, to harvest the fruits of the blood of Father Chanel, our dear friend. In the last few days, in a ship accompanied by a huge canoe, one of the principal chiefs of this island, the one who served as God’s instrument for planting the faith in Uvea, has left for Futuna.[2] He has gone to visit his relatives in Futuna and to give help to the young Futuna chief who had left for his island with the French corvette which had picked up Father Chanel’s remains. This young chief, named Keletaono,[3] had been forced to flee after a war, and to take refuge in Uvea; he had the blessedness to sincerely embrace the religion which Father Chanel had only been able to slightly reveal to him. The state of suffering in which the true religion found itself when the Bishop arrived, along with the burning zeal which had made him want to bring the good news to his relatives for a long time, decided him to leave with the corvette. We do not yet have any news of that, however. The young chief from Uvea, his friend, wanted to fulfil the promise he had made to him, to go and bring him help. He had chosen only a certain number of his friends to follow him; [but] at departure time a great number of natives were carried away by their suffering in being separated from their relatives and by the desire to contribute to the conversion of Futuna; they left – about 140 men in all – who, with their wives and children amounted to more than 300. That is the Christian community that I am going to support in the mission which has created itself. I hope that the prayers of Father Chanel, those of pious people in France and the zeal of the catechists will, with the help of grace, finally bring that poor island, watered by the blood of our martyr, to know the true God.
[4]
Oh, my dear fellow, one thought consoles me – I cannot resist trembling with joy: the adze, the instrument of Father Chanel’s martyrdom, is still on Futuna. So I am going to have another look at those places in which I was the last companion of our blessed martyr, our martyr. Yes, I will again see the place where he merited the crown. I will see again the place where, as we were resting, we asked each other: “Where will we see each other again?” And we replied, “In heaven.” Father Chanel has got there, he is waiting for me there. May I get there in the same way, my God – may your holy will be done. I am stopping – I have to be present at the thanksgiving Mass.
[5]
I have just left the baptismal kava to come and say a few more things to you. I see I was telling you about Father Chanel. I am intending to have built on the site where our house was, a house identical to it, so as to go and pray on the stones moistened with Father Chanel’s blood. There we have fine plans, but before being able to put them into effect there will no doubt be a lot to struggle against; it’s not the struggle, however, which surprises me; I know very well that I am only an instrument in the hands of the good God; what worries me is being on my own; with not a confrère with whom I can share my plans, my fears, my worries; no one to consult in those so delicate circumstances which you come cross at each step in the missions. Pray very much for me, my dear Girard, I have to leave in a moment. So I am going to embrace you and make you responsible for my requests. You tell me that the Bishop of Belley seems astonished that I make no mention of him. I confess, dear Girard, that I am truly surprised at the reproach. Alas! I didn’t think that the poor exile, your friend, had been able to find a place in his Lordship’s memory, so taken up with continuing the glory and happiness that he has brought to his diocese. Really, I am too much honoured. No, my dear friend, I do not forget all these gentlemen whom you talk to me about, but above all else I could not forget the Bishop who has treated me so leniently. I said again the Mass for his Lordship the day after the Ascension. Offer him, please, my deep respect.
[6]
Please present my respects to Fathers Poncet, Perrier, Perrodin, Guigard,[4] de Longris, and commend me to their prayers. Remember me to Fathers Chapel, Maret, Martigné. I clearly see I could not reply to Father Gouchon – please give a special remembrance to this dear friend. To all the Fathers Humbert, Robert and Bourton.[5] Don’t forget Fathers Chamard and Guillot. My dear fellow, I don’t have any more time to continue this string of names. I could put on it, I believe, the whole diocese; but at least a word to Father Colleta, make sure of remembering me to the de Luizet ladies and their prayers, and those of the Sisters of St Clare; might all those good Sisters still have the charity to pray for a poor missionary. My good wishes to all your little children, may they ask the good God for a missionary vocation so that they can come here one day to share my work.
[7]
My good wishes as well to your whole family; strongly recommend to your good sister Pauline to pray to the good God for me. Farewell, my good Girard, farewell – have a bit more patience yet, and we will see each other again in heaven.
All yours
J(oseph) Chevron.
[8]
I am not giving you details, my long letter will no doubt get to you through my relatives.
[9]
Brother Luzy[6] from Marboz presents his respects to you, and asks you to tell his parents he is well, he has not had, I think, 3 minutes at his disposal since the Bishop arrived.
[10]
Island of Tonga, 2 July. This morning I had the happiness of saying Holy Mass; may the good God be so kind as to listen to the prayers I have offered him, and you will be happy. It seems I am staying on my own on this island with dear Brother Attale. I am going to have to struggle against paganism and heresy. So pray for me a lot.
[11]
11 July. This morning I made my vows. Here I am, now, thanks be to God, a child of the Society of Mary. Pray a lot for me. If the good God did me the kindness of associating me with the crown of Father Chanel (which could certainly happen here soon) I will not forget you, the threats and the strength of the heretics give me a good reason for hope.

Notes

  1. The meaning of the sentence: with those with whom (it is good to be as one among brothers) Psalm 133:1
  2. Tu’ungahala, chief of the islet of Nukuatea (Cf Doc 28 [19] f/n 40)
  3. Keletaono – to be read as Keletaona (Cf. Doc 133 [5] f/n 3; 153 [16] f/n 6 [19]; Doc 193 [5], 217 [2-3]
  4. Bernard – Benoit Poncet, Jean-Baptiste Perrier, Denis Perrodin and François Guillot were professors at the major seminary of Brou when Chevron did theology there. Jean-François Guigard was a canon of the diocese of Belley (Monfat, Tonga, p 57, 96)
  5. The four Humbert brothers: Nicolas (whom Chevron knew best, Cf Doc 181 [7] f/n 7), François-Marie and André-Marie – priests of the diocese of Belley – and Jean-Marie (Marist) (OM 4, p297 f/n1). Father Robert, parish priest of Champfromier, was responsible for the parish of Montanges when Chevron left it to go to Oceania (Monfat, Tonga). Bourton was certainly Father Daniel-François Bourlot.
  6. Brother Joseph-Xavier Luzy, with Father Bataillon on Wallis since 1 November 1837.