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30 May 1848 − Father Ferdinand François Junillon to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Wallis

Based on the document sent, APM OW 208 Junillon.

Two sheets of paper, forming eight pages, six of which are written on, the seventh being blank, the eighth having only the address and annotation of Poupinel. Letter published in the Annals of the Missions of Océania, t.1 [special edition] (1895) , p. 522-525.

Translated by Mary Williamson, 2016


France / Mr / Mr Colin, priest / Saint Barthélemy Rise no.4 / Lyon Rhône

[Post marks]
[- -] 15TH APRIL 49 PAUILLAC — LYON 18TH APRIL 49 (68)

[In Poupinel’s handwriting]
Wallis 30th May 1848 / Father Junillon to Reverend Father the Superior General.
Ad majorem Dei gloriam et Beatae Mariae Virginis Notre Dame
30th May 1848

Very Reverend Father Superior,
It is quite some time since I had the pleasure of writing to you. Thus, I have not followed the advice that you gave me in your last and very esteemed letter, nor responded to the paternal interest that you extend to your flock. The only reason that has prevented me from making use of the numerous opportunities that have presented themselves, is the fear of stealing time from your valuable activities and boring you with my correspondence, which has little of interest, seeing that everything that might interest your devout curiosity has already been conveyed to you by the Bishop, who knows the country and the customs of the inhabitants better than anyone.
It is true that to behave thus would be a failure to understand your feelings and to respond poorly to the more than paternal solicitude that you have for us; you who loves us even more because we are so far away from you and because of this, unable to see you or hear you.
So I find myself doubly pressed to bring you up to date with my situation and my work; in your heart you need to know these things and I need to receive fresh advice and fresh encouragement.
Since I finished roaming the seas, I have, with God’s help, resumed the duties of the holy ministry. I have escaped from a shipwreck and from numerous reefs and got back to land. Please, my Reverend Father, pray to our Lord Jesus Christ and to his very Holy mother, to grant me the wisdom that I need to avoid the new dangers that I must face so that I might, with good fortune, arrive at the gates of eternity.
In the assigning of missionaries that he has undertaken, the Bishop has thought it necessary to leave me on Wallis, to carry out the holy ministry in a parish. His Lordship has acted thus, no doubt, in consideration of my grey hair and because I am considered less capable than everyone else. It would be easier for me to tend a corner of the vineyard which has already been cleared. I acknowledge that, despite my twenty-one years in the priesthood, I found myself very busy last year. Alone amongst a population of nearly two thousand souls, hardly able to utter a few words of the language, obliged to hold confession two or three times a week, sometimes up until midnight, teach the catechism and attend to the sick, these things were for me more discomforting than novel. For a very good reason I abstained from preaching. Father Matthieu came every fortnight to carry out this task. Nevertheless, on the holy day of Mary, I tried, with the help of a child, to carry out a page of instruction. The following Sunday I added another page and so on up to four large pages, which I continued to do up until mid-Easter, when my duties elsewhere made me unable to continue. So, driven by necessity, I set myself to preach at length, which I have continued to do night and morning.
I have never, in France, had as many difficulties as I have had since my arrival here. I would never have believed that, under such a searing sky, one could undertake such demanding work and still stay healthy.
Before leaving for Sydney, Brother Augustin and I built the adobe house in which I live. With the help of several natives we formed the pathway from here, where the college is situated. The area where this establishment is sited was entirely covered in forest. I spent at least two months clearing it and as much time again to establish paths for access. When I returned from Sydney, we built a large wooden house, the wood for which we had had to prepare in advance: cut down the trees, square them off, cut them into planks and make mortises etc. I myself cut more than 300 mortises. Since Easter, Brothers Joseph and Paschase [1] and myself have covered the adobe house with shingles [2] that we made last year, whilst Father Mériais and Brother Augustin have continued their work at the college.
But of all the tasks that I undertake, the one I dread more than anything is confession. Our confessionals are made in French style. So, one is deprived of air and with the stifling heat, you have on top of it the singing and the biting mosquitoes, that put you in such an irritable state that they could easily make you abandon your post. However this only happens at certain times of the year.
Forgive me, my Very Reverend Father, for discussing these details. I am doing it to boost the courage of those who feel called to the mission, but who are too fearful of the difficulties, thinking that they are beyond the forces of nature. No doubt it would be thus, if God, with his mighty power, did not lighten the suffering of the missionary and did not help him find, in his privations and his work a sort of happiness which, I think, is a foretaste of that which awaits him in Heaven.
Last year the bishop was away for 8 months on his trip to Samoa [3] I had to manage without his help during Advent, Easter and all the celebrations, as he only arrived back in the month of [ ].[4] We are now in the eighth month since His Lordship left for Fortuna. We are on the eve of the Ascension. The Trinity will no doubt have passed before he gets back.
The schooner which should be going to pick him up has not yet arrived from Tahiti. Nevertheless, we have learned from a brig from Hamburg that she came to Samoa to take on a cargo of pigs for Tahiti and that while in Tahiti a ship of the Society of Oceania arrived, which led us to believe that we would see this ship going to Futuna to pick up the Bishop as soon as possible. All of us just cannot wait for him to arrive, although the mission is more or less in the same state as when he left, because having got to the end of 3 or 4 months, the population, not having seen him come back, could not understand this delay and were afraid that he would not return. His return is greatly wished for, for these reasons, that he is much loved and that the people are proud to have him here rather than on one of the other islands.
The king, who had caused us some anxiety last year, has been much more edifying this year. He celebrated Easter and since then has attended communion once. Since the end of Lent, he has come to the church every day at daybreak to attend the mass that I regularly say at sunrise. The high Kivalu [5] and the Mae, who is the third ranked chief on the island, are also very diligent about the services and often take communion. In general, the princesses and all the other important people of the country are religious. But if I can congratulate myself for the good behaviour of the king and the court in general, and even for the majority of the population, I have, on the other hand the Protestants who, with their pagan behaviour, cause me the greatest of anxiety. Like demons, they are constantly everywhere leading people astray in sexual matters; but, praise be to God, they are almost always left with only shame and contempt.
Only God, by exercising his infinite power, can put an end to all the disruptions that reign in their village, which has a certain resemblance to hell.
Many people who had deserted the church’s shelter, to cross over to the enemy, confused and anxious about their salvation, are coming back to rejoin their Battalion, whose flag they had previously lived under in peace and under which they had marched with full confidence. At the moment I have a tenth person whose confession I hear and who is waiting for the arrival of the Bishop to be admitted to the Holy Table. Father Matthieu also has some with him.
At the time when the Arche d’Alliance arrived here for the first time, two canoes full of folk who had lost their way, arrived here from the small islands to the north of Samoa, blown here by winds which had carried others of them to Samoa.
When they arrived here they had lived for several days on nothing but sea water. I had those of them who stayed at my place given instruction. Two or three were baptised, as they were ill and the others were admitted to baptism on Holy Saturday, 1st-12th in all. They are very religious and well taught and burning with desire to return to their home so as not to let their parents and the compatriots die while still pagan. I would like to accompany them. I had already asked the bishop before he left. I do not know whether he will want this when he returns.
Please pray, my Reverend Father that God’s will be done and that no soul will be lost because of a fault on our part.
Thanks be to God, whilst occupied with our work, we are maintaining very good health, Father Matthieu at Saint Joseph’s, Father Mériais and Brother Augustin at the Immaculate Conception and me with the two other Brothers at Our Lady of Good Hope.
I commend myself to your Holy Masses as well as to the heartfelt prayers of our dear and reverend Fathers and Brothers of the Society of Mary of whom we are the children.
Your very devoted but
very unworthy child,
Junillon, Missionary Apostolic
Uvea, 30th May 1848.


  1. Brothers Joseph-Xavier (Jean-Marie Luzy) and Paschase ( Jean Saint-Martin).
  2. Read: shingles (English word = bardeaux)
  3. Letter has: “Amoa”
  4. The author leaves an empty space, no doubt meaning to fill in the name of the month later.
  5. this is the title of the prime minister (whose title is of second rank after the king) rather than a personal name (cf. doc. 125, § 3, n. 5).

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