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15 December 1846 ─ Father Joseph Chevron to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Tonga

Translated by Peter McConnell, October 2010

Jesus Mary Joseph

Tonga 15 December 1846.

Very Reverend Father,
The brothers asked me to wrap up the letters that they are sending you. I don’t think I can send them without adding a word too, even in haste. In my last letter I told you of the departure of Father Grange which I have already much regretted in particular because of the patience with which he ended up by adapting himself the really strange character of the natives. You have to bend over backwards to them or at least bend them to yourself while giving the impression of doing what they want and eagerly. I really think that it comes a little from living with them as is also the case of exchanging things with the natives who have cast us into a flat calm for more than two months. I will also add as a new reason for this that I have been completely incapacitated for six weeks by rheumatics and I have not been able to leave the house. You have to be with the natives all the time, visiting them, talking to them, encouraging them at least by your presence and visits to sustain the converts and those taking instructions and to attract the pagans. They do not come but you have to go and look for them. They complain a little in their relations with Reverend Father Calinon who is still a little too serious and reserved and perhaps also not supple enough. Yet I hope that he will end up like Father Grange by getting there gradually. The mission station seems to be turning out better these past four or five months; the pagans have been turning towards us; the chiefs have been declaring themselves against the Protestants and for us; they have given us strong proofs of that; one of them, who is the third chief in rank, is the chief of Hahake, converted with several of his tribe. And then suddenly we collapsed into a calm period; everything seems to have cooled down now; but praise the Lord!. It is his work. May He direct His work because He knows fully how weak we are. This year we have not had any solemn and general baptism services; we have had only some private baptisms of children and sick people, fifty in all. I think that there have been a good hundred conversions, but sadly some turn away and some others turn back. Among the converted some have acted as the Angel of Ephesus; they have weakened but not yet to the point of breaking away. In fact it is difficult to prosper in the midst of Protestants and especially the pagans whom we live with. Having under your eyes many bad examples which rouse bad habits which they perform only to abandon them. But in spite of all that, we are still confident. We are the children of Mary and this mission station in particular is that of the immaculate conception. Reverend Father, here better than in Europe you understand the real truth of that oracle: sine me nihi potestis facere [= without me you can do nothing]. I think that a holy soul which prays in France for our mission stations does more than we do and I think that you will be quite surprised one day and we too when we see some worthy souls unknown in he world being rewarded by the success of the mission stations. So pray, please, and get others to pray a lot.
I told you that I was incapacitated by rheumatics. It did not make me suffer a lot, but I couldn’t walk and the doctor, the excellent Doctor Baudry, who comes by three times a week, told me that it could persist for a longer time. Blessed be God! Brother Attale has a kind of catarrh which has made us believe for a long time that we would lose him. The doctor said that he will recover a bit. You will learn, if you haven’t been already informed, that the corvette La Seine has been shipwrecked while sailing from here to New Caledonia. I think that you have lost 400 francs which we were sending to Sydney to buy various things. In that regard I would point out to you that dispatches were not regular; we have sometimes been in real need and the next day having an oversupply of certain objects at least, especially shoes. I think that as far as I am concerned I need to have at least twenty pairs here. Probably we are spoilt in that regard because everybody seems to have plenty of them. I make that remark only in passing and not having had a moment to see positively all that has been sent to us. We have even unpacked the parcels because they were damaged by water during the voyage by ship. As soon as we have a moment, we will able to make better assessment and judgements on examining them and will send our thoughts with the Arche d’Alliance. Father Calinon who has been on board it since yesterday will write to you. He is well as is Brother Jean. We have had news from our priests in Fiji. They are well as are those in Wallis and Samoa. It appears that everything is OK in the mission stations. Ours is the one which seems to be struggling. It is God’s will; it is not my fault.
I ask you, Very Reverend Father, to remember me to all our dear colleagues and in particular Father Maîtrepierre who has written to me and Father Favier who writes to me and to whom I can’t answer for the time being despite all the good will the world.
Please accept the assurance of the deep respect with which I have the honour of being,
very Reverend Father,
your very humble
and obedient servant,
Joseph Chevron.
Dare I ask you if you have the opportunity to remember me to the Bishop of Belley and recommend our mission station to his prayers. I would also ask you to excuse me if I write a few words to my parents on half a page of this letter. I think we have been advised to avoid sending paper that has not been written on. I beg you to send it to one of my brothers.