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24 June 1845 — Fr Charles-Eugène Mathieu to Fr Victor Poupinel, Wallis

Translated by Peter McConnell, June 2010

Reverend Father,
The bishop has asked me to write to you once more concerning temporal matters. We are still not sure whether we should in future write to you or to another supplier whom we have heard should be assigned to Sydney. If we have not got a ship to use, corresponding with Sydney will be more difficult for us than communicating with France. Yet we hope that we will not be denied this help. The bishop already owns a small schooner which was built in the Wallis Islands and which has been bequeathed to him. It is quite a small boat and sailing it in these waters would be quite dangerous. Sailors from the vessel Le Rhin are busy at the moment getting it ship shape. When it is ready, we will still need a captain who is able and bold enough to sail it. I believe that finding a captain will be most difficult. We have been told about a vessel serving the mission station which intends to come here soon with Bishop Epalle. May he leave us a good seaman to sail our small boat. We would then be able to be in touch with the closest sites.
Reverend Father, this is what the bishop asks me to tell you in this letter. Firstly he confirms all the requests made in the previous and highly detailed letter that was sent to you last year. Secondly his grace intends to establish a college as soon as he has suitable personnel for such a venture. For the college he will need a small amount of indispensable equipment such as slates and pencils to teach writing skills, a great deal of paper, pens, and lamps to light at night time. The lamps must be able to function when the wind blows. We need some good classical books such as the Epitome of Sacred History, new testaments, office books in Latin, and other books which the Marist Society will deem useful for giving these people a sufficient knowledge of the Latin language while teaching religion. They do not have to be highly skilled men of letters. You could add to the list of requirements a chiming clock to put on the roof of the mission house. It would be fine if the movement was made of wood. If that is not possible, we would have to alter it somewhat to save the movement from rust which affects everything in this country. -- Some lectern books to sing the office in Gregorian chant.
As far as printing is concerned, I am sending you a note from Father Roudaire concerning things that he will need. All you have to do is to agree to it.
Should there be in Sydney a centre for dealing with temporal requirements, we could have there at a reasonable price iron objects, material, or at least some calico. I understand flour is sold there at the same price as in France. Wine would be difficult to get there and if so very dear. Therefore really encourage the missionaries to stock up in France and better still in Teneriffe where ships often stop and where you can purchase wine which lasts well and is not dear.
If God inspired some pious people to offer us some presents, suggest to them to send us some useful things such as ornaments for the church and for the altar, large and very well made rosary beads little crosses to wear on your chest with well made crucifixes, lengths of calico or cotton or ready made blouses. All small trinkets and baubles are utterly useless.
Don’t forget to send us at the next opportunity rings and wedding rings. That is a very useful thing which I think I forgot about in previous letters.
The medical supplies which arrived with Father Junillon we find very useful. I don’t know why mercuric chloride was left out. Father Chevron has been crying out for it. It is a treatment which is not used much in France perhaps because of the climate but which the English use a lot in these countries and with success. We need a lot of laudanum or opium, some extract of sarsaparilla, some strong purgative for different types of scrofula. We need instruments called trocars for operating on hydroceles. Furthermore I am going to ask for a note from Brother Aubert and from the doctor on board Le Rhin which I will add to this letter. An alambic would not go amiss and would allow time for our pharmacist brother to experiment with indigenous plants which could be useful for science and at the same time for the mission station.
Recommend to the missionaries who are leaving to buy a good hunting rifle with powder and shot.
Dear Father, This is what I think on this occasion I have to ask you again to do for us. The most precious gift that the faithful in France can give us is their prayers. Be so kind as to get as many as you can for us. These prayers will do more than all the rest put together. That is what we need the most. As long as God is with us everything will be OK.
Be so kind as to give my regards to all our benefactors and especially Miss Monavon. I had much pleasure in receiving your letter together with that of the reverend Father superior. Please don’t worry about my physical needs. At the moment I am very abundantly provided for and you can let a voyage or two slip by without sending me anything. Also reassure my parents on that score. When I have spent three or even four years without receiving any help I will still not be destitute. I have plenty of soutanes and footware. If I had any more, I would not know what to do with them.
I would very much like to send you some details which could interest you concerning our mission stations, but you see I am condemned to stay here like a pretty well useless being and I have not yet been considered worthy of being sent out to preach the Gospel. That is the heaviest cross which has ever weighed on my heart. That is why I beseech you to be so kind as to pray for me so that God may forgive me and that I may become worthy like those who have gone before me and who follow me in being employed too to extend his kingdom. You have already received so many letters about the Wallis Islands that I could only repeat what you have already been told many times. Our priests who are stationed in more important places will contribute enough to the Annals by relating their struggles and their work and by describing the new countries they traverse.
Do offer my best wishes to all the priests and brothers and trust me always
Your devoted colleague in Our Lord
Mathieu (missionary)