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15 December 1846 — Father Joseph Chevron to his parents, Tonga

Translated by Peter McConnell, October 2010

Jesus Mary Joseph
Tonga 15 December 1846.

Dear parents,
The brig belonging to the French Society of Oceania brought me yesterday the various packages which you sent me with your lovely letters. I have not been able to read them yet; I haven’t had a moment, yet I wanted to break the seal to read your names and those of friends and colleagues who still think of me. The things that I have received are: one case containing books, prints, something for the church, etc; a second little box of artificial flowers. Then another box also containing some artificial flowers. Without yet knowing the people, I thank them for their kindness in sending me those various things. I beg you to thank the different people for me, people who have written to me and whom it is impossible for me to write to today, but I will try to do it as soon as the ship leaves and when I have read those letters. I think I will send them by the Arche d’Alliance, a ship belonging to the French Society which should be bringing Bishop Bataillon here in three months time. After the surnames that I have notices, there are those of Father Brachet, Father Cagin, parish priest of Virieu-le-Grand, Father Cognat; Father Georgelin, almoner at boardingschool at Carouge and Sister Emelie, superior, I think, at the same school. Please send on to them my thanks while waiting for me to thank them personally.
Our mission station is ordinarily progressing slowly and often peacefully. It is, I think, the accomplishment of the oracle: You have hidden it from the wise and you have revealed it to the little ones. I don’t know of any race, not even the English and the Chinese who have such a nationalistic pride as great as that of the Tongans. But, God be praised, I am not losing confidence knowing how many holy people in France are interested in our mission stations and in particular that of Tonga. I beg them to know that I don’t forget them either.
It has been almost six weeks that I have not been able to celebrate Mass apart from Sundays (and not always that). One of the things which hurts me the most is that I am unable to offer Mass on Wednesdays for the people with whom I am in contact in prayers, but when I am better I will try to make up for it. For six weeks I have been confined to the house by rheumatism which, without making me suffer too much for the present moment, forces me to stay in bed or at least to sit on the floor to rest my leg. One of the doctors of the French Society, the excellent Doctor Baudry came here three days ago; I was able to consult him. He told me that he thought it would be nothing, only he prescribed patience for a few more weeks. Perhaps you will be surprised if I told you that with the sun at its peak and when it is 24 degrees in the shade of course, I am wearing a flannelette singlet, a thick cotton shirt, a heavy soutane and I am not sweating. The body gets used to everything.
We are receiving good news from all our mission stations at the moment. In the course of the year we have had the visit of a war corvette, the Seine which unfortunately was lost in New Caledonia afar leaving her. I had a lovely house built in Tonga for the visit of Bishop Bataillon. He stayed at Samoa and will not visit us until three months time. I received from Wallis some letters from Bishop Mugniéry who had often seen Chevron at Bellegarde and from Father Colomb whom Alphonse and Joséphine have sent a picture of Bellety. I would have had much pleasure in seeing them and hearing them talking about you, but they were destined for other mission stations.
I beg you to remember me to all the persons I know including the parish priest of Nantua (and through him to the bishop of Troyes), to my colleagues near Nantua, to the parish priest of Montange and the worthy parishioners whom I do not forget, to Father Famy, priest of Arloz. I think I saw a map of Arloz in Aimé’s letter. Please remember me to our relatives in Lyons, my brother Regis, Ravet and his family and everybody. I can hear the commissioner complaining that he won’t be able to get on board at the appointed time; it is ten o’clock. He has three leagues to cover and he should be there at midday. So I am finishing off this letter, embracing you all and expecting in some years time we will be together again, at least a good number of us, for heavens we are getting old. Please don’t pity us so much, but on the contrary pray more for us. So I embrace you all again, my mother, Chevron, Joséphine, sister Saint Cyrille, Jeannettre, Alphonse, Rosalie, Mariette, Joséphine, all the nephews and nieces leaving nobody out.
Regards, Joseph Chevron
I have spoken to Father Famy. I would like him to find me a small clock easy to clean and to take to pieces like the alarm clock ones made at Champfromier; if he were able to send us one, we would be very grateful. If the request is not made politely, I beg him to pardon me. It is an unexpected request.