From Marist Studies
Jump to: navigation, search

20 July 1847 – Fr Catherin Servant to his parents, Futuna

Based on the document sent, APM Servant dossier.

Translated by Mary Williamson, February 2011.

Sheaf of four pages, three of which are written on, the fourth bearing only the address

Mr / Mr Jean-Antoine Servant, Grézieux / le Marché, department of Rhône / France.
[post marks]



Mission of the Queen of Martyrs, Futuna 20th July 1847.

My dear parents,
I suppose that you often think of me and that Futuna is also often in your thoughts. To comfort you I hasten to tell you that all is going wonderfully well in this little corner of the world. We do not need to worry about cold, hunger or theft, nor any of the other problems that life can present. I think it would be difficult to find another place on the globe where life is safer and more peaceful; so I am a child indulged by providence. The Futunans, since their conversion, cherish the priests as they would a father; they would no doubt put to shame many of the Christians in dear old Europe. The enthusiasm of our converts has lasted up till now, so let us pray that our Heavenly Master will always bless these people who have become so dear to us. The arch- brotherhood of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the brotherhood of the Holy Rosary are both established in the two parishes of Futuna. For some time now we have had communion wine in both our churches; it is a great consolation for us; we can, when it suits us, partake of the Holy Sacrament the same as you and pray for the conversion of many more of these people of Oceania who still remain in the shadow of death. [1]
I think I have already told you about a group of young people who have become very attached to us and devoted to helping us: thanks be to God we live in a land of plenty, with no need to worry about tomorrow, whereas you people never stop worrying about the present moment, are always thinking about money and cannot acquire anything without counting out pieces of metal. If the Futunans knew about the problems of your self-interested calculations, they would certainly not envy your lot. These contented Futunans do not make a big thing out of money, for, they say, what good is money? It does not produce something to eat of something to wear. So when the Futunans barter with the whalers they are wary of being given money, which they regard as useless metal.
You will perhaps be very reassured to know where we are up to with our settlements; they continue to flourish. Our young people feed almost 80 pigs in each establishment; we also have a certain number of Futunan hens, but these hens, used to feeding themselves in the forest, quickly become wild and often have to be hunted down. Besides these animals there is a ram and a ewe who have given us two little lambs, a few turkeys who are not yet thriving and some ducks. As well we have been given two donkeys, which are very useful to us when we travel, now and then, from the Queen of Martyrs to the parish to St Joseph. We have a few goats, some handsome cats and Rev. Fr Chanel’s little dog, who we make sure to protect and caress. That is the sum total of our domestic animals.
What can I tell you about our horticulture? We are not doing so well in this area. So far we have only grown onions, but we have beautiful fruits to gather, pineapples, which taste like strawberries, oranges, lemons and limes and fruit from the trees planted mainly by our Rev. Fr Chanel; added to this are some fruits from native trees. Our flora is very abundant; at Our Lady of the Martyrs I have a pretty flower bed in front of my house, where there are several types of impatiens; several plants of French origin remind us of our homeland, among them a climbing vine which forms a leafy shelter and mimosa which our islanders find very unusual. Besides these there is a plant made up of prickly tongues; I do not know it by any other name except “women’s tongues” which amuses the Futunan women. Finally there is a dwarf coconut palm, given to me by the local people. To them it is a great curiosity; the trunk is no more than two or three inches high and yet it produces a certain number of little coconuts. The islanders have never seen the likes of it before. Can you imagine a walnut tree two or three inches high producing some nuts?
Having given you some news about our settlements, which are prospering, you no doubt want to hear about my health; well, my health, which is so precious to you, was severely tested in New Zealand and in the first two years of my stay in Futuna, but is now flourishing; you would laugh to see a missionary who has put on weight among the savages. However, I can imagine my dear mother asking, “When will I see you again?” – I have no idea, I am in the hands of providence, without any particular wish or purpose; although I love you very much, I do not feel a burning desire to see you; it seems to me that my vocation is decreed; it would only be by order of my superiors that I would undertake to return to France. Whatever comes to pass, eleven years of missionary work have already flowed by; life passes rapidly; if it is God’s will, let both of us, you and me, make every effort to meet again in Heaven; that is the place for rest and happiness, that will be our rendezvous.
Since you want to know everything, I must tell you all there is to know. Since I have been on Futuna I have twice been ill. First was a chill, which lasted a day or two; the young people who live with me looked after me as best they could. Recently I suffered a sprained ankle after a fall from a donkey, but our good Brother Marie-Nizier was so skilful at treating it that the pain lasted only a day. But thanks be to God, the annual illnesses from which our islanders suffer have not afflicted me. Our diet has improved, even though we have neither bread nor wine. We have vegetables, which replace bread, and we ferment several fruits to make our drink, so that if you were able to come to Futuna, you would be amazed by our Futunan cooks. All those who have visited us in the last two or three years have been amazed at the skills of our young people, who are remarkably obedient,
All yours in Jesus and Mary,
Apostolic Prefect of Futuna.


  1. Cf. Ps 106 (107). 10: Some sat in darkness, dark as death. Luke 1.79: He appeared to those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Previous Letter List of 1847 Letters Next letter