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8 November 1842 — Father Philippe Viard to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Wallis

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, February-March, 2016

Father Colin, Superior of the Marists, 4 St Barthelemy Rise, Lyons.

Mary conceived without original sin.
Wallis, St Jean Baptiste, 8 November 1842

Very Reverend Father,
I am no longer in New Zealand. For five months I have been living in Wallis with Father Bataillon. Bishop Pompallier has made me responsible, during his absence, for the welfare of the mission in the tropical islands. It wasn’t easy for me to abandon my much–beloved New Zealanders; I had a great attachment to them! It was God’s will, may his holy name be praised! I am very happy in Wallis, and I am experiencing very sweet consolations there. The mission is really flourishing, the fervour of our newly baptised grows from day to day.
Three months ago we had real cause for alarm; 60 Protestants came from Vava’u to settle in Wallis, and publicly carry on their worship; they were natives of Wallis; two years earlier they had left their island to go to Tonga, Fiji and Vavau. Having been converted to Protestantism during their stay in those islands, they came back to Wallis with very unfavourable ideas about Catholicism. They spread about the most shocking calumnies about the Catholic mission and its ministers. We were able to refute them successfully. We published in the Wallisian language a hymn that the Bishop had given us, we got circulated the main texts which pointed to the true Church and, thanks to Mary, all their diabolical efforts only served to strengthen our newly-baptised in their faith, and made them more fervent in performing their exercises of piety. Several of the Protestants converted to Catholicism. A greater number would have done so, but they were afraid of Pooi, their chief. He is the brother of the king of Wallis.[1] He enjoys great authority, and he is the one who must mount the throne after the death of the present king.[2] How much would our new Christians have to fear if ever he became their king. I truly believe that such a misfortune will never happen to them. Mary loves Wallis too much, and Wallis, Mary; from morning till evening, amidst their tasks, they recite the rosary and sing the praises of Mary. Father and much beloved Superior, you whose prayers are so pleasing to God, pray for, and get people to pray for the conversion of his Protestant chief; once he is converted, all the other Protestants will follow his example.
In a little time, in less than three weeks, I have been able to give some little instructions in the Wallisian language. I have noticed that it has some similarity to that of New Zealand. Five weeks after arriving here, I was able to hear confessions. I would not be able to express to you the astonishment and joy that I experienced the first time that I heard the confessions of our newly-baptised. The delicacy of their consciences, the real faith that animated them, the excessive sorrow that they showed for the slightest sins overwhelmed me and seemed to recall to me the fervour of the first Christians. Every Sunday a great number of people receive communion. A great number of young people would like to consecrate themselves to God. How much they would see themselves as blessed if some holy people from Lyons would come and settle among them. They never stop saying to us; write to your great leader in Lyons to send us consecrated women to teach us.[3] If, among those people you could send when you judge it appropriate, there was one who could care for the sick and look after them, that person would easily win the affection of the whole island; would have an unchallenged sway over the hearts of our newly-baptised, and by her kindness and care would powerfully contribute to getting them to cherish a religion which gives them such great blessings.
There are a great number of sick people in Wallis. The young people give us a lot of consolations and love us very much. The Bishop has sent us Brother Augustin who is a weaver; he will be able to teach them to make cloth.[4] How much good could be done in Wallis if there were more of us. I cannot keep up with Father Bataillon, whose zeal is unbelievable. Wallis is fairly big; it population is about 2,600. We have nine churches, of which three are the main ones, in which, in turn, we say holy Mass; we have divided up the island so as to serve it more easily. We live together at St Jean, where the king lives, and we are separated only to say Mass in our respective parishes and missions, and to hear confessions.
We celebrated the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin with great pomp and solemnity. Father Bataillon went to St Joseph to prepare the natives for this great feast, and I stayed at St Jean-Baptiste. Brother Joseph decorated the altar very tastefully; four columns were erected, with a magnificent dais. I got placed behind the altar a fine oil-painting showing Jesus Christ raised on the cross, and Mary, his holy mother, in tears at the foot of the cross. As it was the first time that I had exposed it, that picture made a great impression on them. For two days and a good part of the night, I heard confessions. The Mass was very long. I gave our dear newly baptised an instruction on the Blessed Virgin. After having spoken to them about the triumph of Mary and the virtues she practised to merit so great a blessing, I set before them the various reasons which should encourage us to have great confidence in Mary, and, together, we all consecrated ourselves to Mary. At the Mass, the most holy sacrament was solemnly exposed for the first time. I gave communion to 350 people, and found that Father Bataillon had given communion to almost as many people at St Joseph. After Mass we all made our thanksgiving together, and we all placed ourselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin (“Sub tuum”). Imagine the happiness and the satisfaction I felt on that wonderful day. At nightfall we had a great celebration. I had written to Father Bataillon to come to St Jean-Baptiste to be present at Benediction. He came, indeed, with a large group of newly baptised, singing hymns along the way. An American Protestant ship’s captain who was present, was delighted with the ceremony.
On the feast-day of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin, Mary made our hearts, and those of our newly baptised rejoice because of the conversion of a Protestant chief. His name is Lavelua,[5] and from that time he has always been present at our prayers with great piety and devotion.
On the 1st October we caught sight of a large ship; it was a French corvette, the Embuscade. The commander sent us a letter announcing his ship’s arrival, and asking us for a pilot to enter, if we had important things to tell him. We sent him a pilot. But that ship, having been unfortunate enough to run aground during its entry, was obliged to spend five weeks getting repaired. Its presence brought about a great benefit to Wallis. M. Mallet, commander of the corvette, showed himself to be so good, so condescending and generous to our new Christians that he imprinted on their hearts an everlasting love for France. He was full of respect and tenderness to us, and was very happy to be able to be pleasant to us in every way. I couldn’t praise enough the zeal and devotion he showed for the welfare of our mission. He gave us excellent advice to ensure the happiness of our islands. M. de Marolles, second in command, gave us really convincing signs of his liking for us. All the officers followed the example of their really worthy commander. The Embuscade’s crew edified our newly baptised by their good conduct and by their zeal in being present at religious ceremonies.
The surgeons on the corvette, Messieurs Peuplin and Le Calennec, earned well-merited claims to public gratitude. They displayed unbelievable zeal in healing a great number of wretched people who had been suffering for a very long time and had no more hope of being cured. Brother Joseph was present at all the operations that were done, and those gentlemen were so kind as to train him so that after their departure he could give the same help to the natives of Wallis. They left us in writing a very detailed list of the remedies needed in Wallis and the way of administering them. I am sending you this list, Very Reverend Father. Please get some pious people to be responsible for getting for us everything which is mentioned on the list; these people will give great help to suffering humanity. This will be an additional reason for their gratitude to them. I can suggest to you M. Condamin,[6] if he is still curate at La Guillotiere. I really believe that he will carry out this request with great pleasure.
The corvette left Wallis taking with it the regrets of the whole island. I gave the commander this letter which I am sending you; I have sent to Admiral du Petit Thouars[7] a report on the missions in Wallis, Futuna and Tonga, with a letter of thanks for having sent us the Embuscade. He had certainly not been ordered to send a naval vessel to Wallis, but finding out, from a note that Father Bataillon wrote to Father Chanel in Futuna that the missionaries in Wallis were being harassed by the natives, his good and generous heart did not allow him a moment’s delay. He sent the Embuscade to hasten to help them. Commander Mallet took a letter with him a letter which the king of Wallis wrote to the king of the French to make an alliance with him and to ask him for his protection. In Wallis, laws and regulations concerning the harbour were drawn up.
During the corvette’s stay in Wallis, the commander had the opportunity to have returned a young girl who had been violently taken from her home. She had first been a Protestant, but had converted to Catholicism. Pooi, the chief of the Protestants, furious at her giving up his religion, went into her home with three men. They seized her, and although she cried out and wept, they took her to their house to force her to give up Catholicism and to return to the Protestant religion. M. Mallet made it known to this young Protestant king that if he was ever responsible [again] for such violence and had the temerity to persecute the Catholics, his brothers and friends, he would have to deal with the king of the French.
You will, no doubt, learn with great pleasure of the conversion of a great chief, and the means which God used to bring him back to Him. His name is Tumaveve. During the Bishop’s stay in Wallis, he refused to be baptised, being really unwilling to leave his wives. His little daughter, whom he loved very much, fell dangerously ill. The ship’s doctor was called; the illness continued to get worse, the father and mother, really distraught, came to ask us to obtain from heaven the cure of their child, and if they were seriously blameworthy, they would ask forgiveness for it from God, and sincerely wanted to convert. They wanted to get baptised, but we delayed it because of a solemn ceremony which was to take place in a week’s time. There were new entreaties on her behalf; they wanted to get themselves baptised before the death of their child. We gave in to their wishes, and we baptised them and conferred on them the sacrament of marriage. Now they are in excellent dispositions, and completely resigned to do everything that God wants of them.
A few days before the departure of the corvette, on the 30th October, there took place in the church of St Jean-Baptiste a most impressive ceremony; the baptism of 12 important personages whose names are as follows: Fakaelakava, a chief of St Joseph, Lavelua,[8] a very great chief of Wallis, Maluka, Logona,Lukai, Vave, Misi, Luise, the wife of a Frenchman and her two children, Tuuita and Tukuga. The godfathers were chosen by the corvette’s commander from all sections of his crew. Here are their names and ranks: M. Mallet Louis, commander of the Embuscade, M. de Marolles Jules, second in command; Hussard Louis Edmond, ship’s ensign; M. Dollicule Jacques Philemon, ship’s ensign; M. Malcor Louis, purser; M. Le Calennec Pierre Auguste, naval surgeon; M. Gasquet Theodore Jules, a pupil in the first class; M. Nabat Francois Marie, chief helmsman; M. Payet Jean Baptiste, second drill–master [ ? 2e maitre de manoeuvre] ; M. Malgora Isidore, seaman, 1st class.
The godmothers were daughters of Wallis, and here are their names : Savelina, Ateliana, Falakika Sesilia, Susana, Elena, Atelaita, Malekalita, Akenete, Esupelatia.
Very Reverend Father, if you see it appropriate to publish an extract from my letter in the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith, can I beg you not to forget the names of the godfathers? They will be flattered to see their names in print, and in that way we would honour the eagerness they showed to become their protectors. The godfathers gave wonderful gifts to their godchildren and their godmothers. Two days before the ceremony the sailors brought a great number of flags to cover the church, and we took care to do our best to prepare the altar. On Saturday evening the commander came to sleep at St Jean Baptiste and I gave him the modest couch that the Bishop had occupied during his stay in Wallis. He had brought with him his dress uniform.
Two Masses were celebrated on Sunday at St Jean-Baptiste: the 1st at 6. 30 a.m., which all those had to attend who had to prepare the food for the end of the ceremony; the 2nd at 9.30 a.m. which the officers and most of the crew attended, under arms. Also present at the ceremony were Captain Michel, commander of the Sancta Maria, an American captain, M. and Mme Poncet, both French, without counting a great number of natives.
After having said to the French a few words appropriate to the circumstances and having briefly reminded the catechumens of the blessing that God was about to give them and the obligations they were about to undertake, I proceeded to the ceremony of baptism. Mass was then celebrated with great solemnity. Motets were then sung with musical accompaniment by several members of the crew. They very much pleased our new Christians. At the end of the Mass I gave Benediction with the most Blessed Sacrament. That day 27 received Communion and 11 made their first Communion. The ceremony was done with so much pomp that all our newly baptised were in ecstasy. The whole island has now been baptised except 50 Protestants. I hope that later on they will come and unite with us to form just one flock.
We now have six vessels in the anchorage at Wallis: the French corvette, the Embuscade, four American whalers and the Bishop’s schooner, the Sancta Maria. The Bishop has just sent a second missionary to Tonga, Father Grange. We have heard from the schooner that they are going to form two establishments, that the tribes are being converted little by little, that they are beginning to build churches, and that the Catholic mission is offering quite good hopes for success. The corvette, when it leaves Wallis, will go directly to Futuna, then to Sydney, where it will get some stocks of food. The commander has given me reason to hope that if the winds are not contrary, he will make a short call to New Zealand, and then it will head directly for Valparaiso to be sold there. In Wallis, in a village three leagues [c. 15km] from St Jean-Baptiste, our newly baptised from Vailala are busy building a fine church. In one week’s time we will bless it.
I’m finishing, the corvette is leaving. Allow the most unworthy of your children to throw himself at your feet and ask you for your blessing.
Ph(ilippe) J(oseph) Viard, S(ocietatis) M(ariae)
Priest, Vicar for the Bishop
The Christians of Uvea are sending letters to the Christians in Lyons[9] (9)


  1. Pooi was the cousin of the king Vaimua Lavelua. Pooi was the grandson of Manuka. Vaimua Lavelua, the great- grandson.(cf. Henquel, p 27)
  2. Following the desire that king Vaimua Lavelua expressed before his death in 1858, it was his sister Falakika Seilala who was the named Queen (Poncet 4, 40)
  3. Cf. doc 224.
  4. Br Marie-Augustin (Joseph Drevet) a weaver by trade, left New Zealand on 4 October 1842 and arrived in Wallis on 4 November (cf doc 202[ 1-2], 209[14], 214 [2], and also doc 217 [32]
  5. Perhaps this was Lavelua Palekuaola, a cousin of Vaimua Lavelua of Wallis. In an outburst of madness he had attacked Father Bataillon (cf doc 23 [7], 28 [17]. Poncet p 21). However Viard says in the present paragraph that that chief was a Protestant before his conversion to Catholicism, while Poncet asserts that Lavelua Palekuaola had himself baptised as a Catholic before then going over to Protestantism.
  6. Cf. letter of 8th December 1840 from Viard to Fr Condamin (doc 81)
  7. Abel–Aubert du Petit–Thouars (1793–1864) commander- in-chief of the Oceania naval division (cf doc 188 [7], 204 [13])
  8. No doubt Lavelua Palekuaola (above [6]) or another of the family, because King Vaimua Lavelua had received baptism in May 1842 during Pompallier’s stay (cf Poncet, p 28)
  9. (cf doc 223 and 224)