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29 June 1845 — Fr Charles-Eugène Mathieu to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Wallis

Translated by Peter McConnell, June 2010

Reverend Father,
I am very grateful to you for the letter that you were kind enough to send me by way of Father Violette. What a pleasure it was for me to see this good colleague again. We were so close in France but I fear that our being together will not be for long. Being luckier than me, he will probably have the good fortune to be sent shortly into some new mission field. Reverend Father, I blushed when I read the tokens of esteem, which you were kind enough to write about me in your letter and in particular in the name of Jesus Christ’s apostle and which I am very far from deserving. Alas, since coming here and despite all my prayers I have not yet been worthy of being sent to work to extend the realm of Our Lord. It is a grace that I had dared too much to hope for when I left France and whose denial affects me deeply. What can I attribute it to, if it is not my unworthiness and my sins? Therefore, Reverend Father, do please consider me in the future as the most unworthy and the most useless of your children and don’t give me any more the beautiful title which inspires in me so much regret and which confuses me utterly.
I am sending you a long letter addressed to my brother which I beg you to be so kind as to send to him after reading it. The letter includes some small details about the Wallis Islands which will perhaps be of interest to you. I thought I had to write to him because I can do it more easily than to all other people and I can tell him a lot of things. Moreover you can count on his discretion. He will do with his letter only what you want him to do.
As far as the translation of the little books into the Wallisian language is concerned, and which the Bishop is sending to the Propaganda of the Faith, it would be a good idea perhaps if you kept a very good copy in which you corrected the mistakes in French and grammar which I may have overlooked. I have had to do this job very quickly. I have not even had time to reread it. So the manuscript could stay at the novitiate to serve the missionaries who are preparing to leave. They would be sent only a copy that had been reread and corrected in Rome.
Fr Grézel has worked most enthusiastically and energetically on printing these little booklets. He seems to have developed a taste for this kind of work and it is most worthwhile. His spirits are much better and the bishop is very happy with him.
Poor Brother Joseph is sick or rather infirm. However he always struggles to help but I think that in a short time he will no longer be able to contribute much to the mission station. The other brothers are well and each one applies himself zealously to his task.
Reverend Father, I don’t think that there is any necessity for recommending to you our plan for a college. I remember that in the evenings that I spent with you at Pilata you often expressed to me clearly your hopes in that regard. And I think that you will make quite willingly some sacrifices so that this little church will take root. Our Lady is starting to see a church is established here although it is nourished as yet only by troubles. The two good priests are getting on well and the two brothers; that’s enough I think to start with. As far as I am concerned I am not far from thinking that, furnished with a similar establishment, Oceania may provide in a few years’ time members for our Marist Society and later on even some priests. That is long and exacting labour, that’s true, but perhaps it’s one more reason to start it sooner. All the more because these beginnings do not demand, I believe, very great expenses.
There have been some little difficulties last year between the bishop and the provincial concerning the interpretation of the rule which you have given us. The Father Provincial seems to have come to the conclusion that he should deal with the administration of the mission funds except for an amount which is at the disposal of the bishop for his personal needs. Perhaps it would be good if you would clarify this doubt.
Please forgive me, reverend Father, for taking the liberty of saying these things to you. Please write to me from time to time some words to encourage me and to help me to submit perfectly and in all things to God’s holy will. I recommend myself here and now to your prayers as the one of your children who has most need of them.
With the deepest respect, I am,
Reverend Father,
your very humble
and obedient servant,
Mathieu m(issionary)

Wallis, 29 Jun 1845