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1June 1848 — Father Prosper Goujon to Father Gabriel-Claude Mayet, Vanuatu

Based on the document sent, APM ONC 208 Goujon.

Translated by Mary Williamson, November 2016

Two sheets of paper, forming eight pages, seven of which are written on, the eighth having only the address and the annotations of Poupinel and Mayet.

[p.4] [Address]
To the Reverend / The very Reverend Father Mayet / Lyon Saint Barthelemy Rise no.4.
[in Poupinel’s handwriting]
Anatom 1st June 1848 / Father Goujon
[in Mayet’s handwriting]
Letter from Father Goujon. / 1st June 1848 / no.6

Jesus Mary Joseph
Saint Joseph’s Bay, Anatom, 1st June 1848.

Long live Jesus! Long live Mary!
My Reverend and very dear Father, At the time that I undertake to write to you, these two blessed names make my heart beat strongly. The news of events in New Caledonia have caused us great anxiety. We felt as though, for just a moment, we were drifting at sea, without knowing just how long it would please God to keep us afloat, nor what deserted beach would welcome us; and thanks to Jesus, thanks to the protection of Mary, here we are anchored in a safe port. We have the pleasure of holding in our arms our beloved brothers, who providence wished to test but has happily kept safe for further works and for our personal happiness.
It was on the morning of 28th May that we arrived at Anatom. [1] The Reverend Father Rougeyron and Father Roudaire with four Brothers [2] were landed on this island by Mr Marceau on 14th of the same month, the very day that we were celebrating in our service the patronage of Saint Joseph. It is for that reason that we gave the bay the name of the Bay of Saint Joseph.
I can describe to you, my Reverend Father, neither the place where I live, nor the creatures that live round about, as I scarcely know anything about them. Nevertheless, I will try to fulfil the promise I made to you and also satisfy my own wishes by bringing you up to date with what is happening around us at the birth of this new mission. Our first task was to build ourselves a living space: we began on a Monday morning. By the evening we went to bed satisfied, more or less sheltered from all the winds. We realised right away that this was just a miserable hut which could only serve us for a short time. Indeed, from the very next morning we set about building a larger and more solid house.
Under the fatherly authority of Reverend Father Rougeyron and the ministry of Father Chapuy, each person has his own responsibilities. One group of Brothers is occupied with carpentry; a second group digs an area of land, with spades, to prepare for sowing seeds. Brother Mallet and Brother Michel [3] are given the task of preparing a modest meal. As for us, we have each been given an axe and here we are cutting and clearing away the trees and bushes that restrict us and block the circulation of air. During the earliest days, we worked with little restriction, but soon we found the need to organise ourselves. This was dictated by our wise superior. It was on Ascension Day [4] that we began our more organised regime.
Thus, in Oceania as in France, we enjoy the pleasures and advantages of community life. Each activity has its appointed time. But the most enjoyable time is that of our spiritual readings which take place in the evening. The pious and interesting letter “from the month of May at the noviciate of La Favorite” was the first subject. Everyone listens with pleasure to the instructive details it contains and the loved names that it recalls. For myself, I felt I found myself once again in that cherished solitude of the noviciate. I could read on the faces of my colleagues the contemplation and reverence that this blessing held for their souls; Their example inspired me with new enthusiasm. Father Chapuy was very surprised to retrieve here his cheerful singing. He had delight in recalling with great pleasure the tranquil times he had passed at the feet of his good Lady. I could not help but bless Father Grosselin for having anticipated so well on my behalf? Alas, I do not deserve the blessing of the ministry that God has honoured me with, but at least it excites a lively gratitude.
The short note that you have taken the trouble to write in your own hand brought us real pleasure. One could sense, in the letter of the Reverend Provincial Father, all the sensitivity of his heart. Each one here has resolved to conform to your suggestions as much he is able.
I am happy, my Reverend Father, to be able to offer you, in my first letter, a small tribute. You asked us to gather all the interesting facts that we could about Mr Marceau. One cannot meet and know this man of God without feeling a deep sense of respect and love. This is what was continually repeated in all the different ports where we moored during our voyage. But it is above all, the opinion expressed by our Fathers, who have had the advantage of living with him for a longer period of time and who have enjoyed his constant care during the three years that he has spent in these islands of Oceania. It is from their very mouths that I have gleaned the details that I am going to report to you.
Since his departure from France, Mr Marceau has always had some Fathers on board. Whenever the weather permitted them to say mass, he considered it an honour to serve it; he prepared the altar and the adornments himself. If he had served several times, a Brother soon came forward to take over; then unless important work might prevent him, he asked as a favour to take his place. On Sundays he wanted all his crew to be present and take Holy Communion in front of him. As well, he took over this pleasure every day, if it was possible to celebrate the holy mysteries. He was usually accompanied by the ship’s doctor, [5] an amiable and virtuous man who seemed to take pleasure in following his captain’s example.
Like a good family father, he gathers all his people, night and morning to pray together. He does this very piously, but at the invocation of the litanies of the Holy Virgin, foederis arca, which he repeats three times, his voice becomes animated and his confidence in Mary is very apparent.
There is a certain ease on board, but there is also a certain fear as well as love. One of the sailors said to me: we cannot complain about our captain. We would die for him. … When he left the Havre, several young men of good family were left in his care as trainee sailors. He could not always compliment himself on their good behaviour. First he warned them pleasantly. If they took no notice of the warning, he inflicted a punishment which usually consisted of living on the diet of the sailors. It is only after a genuine improvement that he allowed them back to his table, but he then became a father figure once again.
He was deservedly severe towards his second in command in circumstances where, because of a mistake he made, the integrity of the ship was compromised. But if he had spoken rather angrily, he was soon seen to raise his eyes to the heavens and as he walked, he was heard to heave deep sighs. With the numerous difficulties that he encountered and especially when circumstances forced him to deliver a severe warning, or to exert his full authority, one could see on his face and in his demeanour the extraordinary internal efforts he was undergoing to not surrender to his personal anger and to avoid letting the least bitterness show in his words. So his advice was well received. However much time it took and in whatever painful circumstances he found himself, he was always seen to be master of himself and fully confident in God. When he is alone, he can almost always be seen to be turning his rosary in his fingers. He is never seen with any other weapon amongst the natives of our missions and they have never harmed him.
You could not believe, Father Rougeyron said to me, the loving solicitude he feels towards his men. It gives him pleasure when, by his exhortations and even more by his example he encourages a person to accept the sacraments. In all the ports of these untamed islands, as soon as a ship drops anchor, he is immediately surrounded by a crowd of natives who come to exchange goods or simply to satisfy their curiosity.
Mr Marceau permits them to come onto the bridge for a few moments; he even shows them a certain affection, but he watches very carefully to make sure that no woman is allowed the same liberty. One day, when his responsibilities diverted his attention, one of them suddenly appeared on the upper deck. It was God’s will that he saw her. He immediately signalled her to come down. The wrong-doer, far from obeying him, started to run under the forecastle (that is where the sailors live). The captain suspected her intentions. He rushed towards her, his baton in hand. Faced with this threat there was nothing to do but back down. This gives you a good idea of the virtue of this man of God.
One would not be surprised after this, at the special protection accorded to this ship by the Holy Virgin. In the gentle devotion that animates him, he entrusts and attributes everything to Mary. It is neither me nor the tiller that guides the Arche, he said, it is her and he shows the statue of the Holy Virgin which he has had placed on the prow of the ship. It is a certain fact and one which would astonish those who had witnessed it, that the Arche d’Alliance has crossed this ocean in every direction; she has sailed in unknown and very difficult waters; several times she has touched bottom; she has brushed aside storms and faced numerous dangers. The sailors have not had the problem of manning the pumps one single time; they have not faced any serious accidents. I have heard this said several times by the men on board, the officers as well as the crew. Terribly windy conditions, that they rode out recently, when travelling to Woodlark, carried away the tiller. [6] The ship, after this damage, covered 300 leagues with a very contrary wind. During this time Mr Marceau designed and constructed a new tiller which allowed him to reach the port of Sydney. The most capable sailors came and admired this construction and complimented Mr Marceau on having so successfully escaped such a violent storm.
He shows a truly apostolic devotion to the missions. When he arrived in Sydney, he had intended to leave directly for France, where he seemed to be called for numerous reasons; however, he consented, at the entreaty of the Fathers, to delay his departure so as to come and install them at Anatom. We are indebted to him for many other similar services. So he is venerated and loved like a father.
I have not mentioned his reputation as a sailor: it is known to everyone. The officers of the Brilliante and the Ariane have given him the highest praise on all accounts. But one cannot reproach Mr Marceau for taking pride in his standing. I heard the captain of the schooner that brought us here inform him with enthusiasm and gratitude, of his nomination for commander of a French corvette. He listened with no change in his expression. If that is so, that is good, he replied; however, I have no desire to command any other corvette that this one here (and he pointed to the Arche d’Alliance). He seems to very much wish to return as soon as possible to these islands so as to support the missions. God grant us this blessing! We would be very happy to see him back amongst us. His presence alone, it seems to me, would attract blessings from on high for ourselves and our infidels. Despite their faults and their disgusting vices, he loves them and greatly desires their conversion.
When he was on Wallis, each time that he visited Bishop Bataillon, he knelt before him, received his blessing and respectfully kissed his hand. I have heard him say himself that he particularly carried out this ritual of humility when the chief of the island, a very proud man, was present, so as to inspire in him some religious feelings. He said one day to Reverend Father Rougeyron: Oh! how happy I would be if I could serve you as a simple brother here in your little kitchen! One day he honoured us with his company at dinner. He ate taro like we do, drank his glass of water and listened with full attention to the conversation. Father Rougeyron, who knows him well, says that he loves this lifestyle; he believes that he extends mortification as far as wearing a hair shirt.
That, my Reverend Father, is all that I have learned about Mr Marceau. I do not know if this will be useful in finalising the charitable ends that you have proposed: what I am more sure of is that these small details will enlighten you; I will at least have the advantage of proving my good will to you.
I hope, my Reverend Father, that you will receive with this letter your sermon about sin. I hope with all my heart that it will help with the conversion of some sinners and will gain many prayers for us and our infidels. At present I feel more than ever the need for the support of blessings. Nevertheless, I assure you that God, who inspires in me a true mistrust of myself, also gives me a boundless confidence in his mercy. What has one to fear under the protection of Mary? I would like to have not one life but a thousand lives to sacrifice for the honour of that good mother, for the glory of God and the salvation of these poor souls whose unhappy state rouses so much pity!
In all probability, as we will not be able to remain in this establishment, Father Chatelut and I are going to occupy ourselves, until the Bishop [7] arrives, in learning the English language, as a knowledge of this seems indispensable in all the islands of Oceania. You know what difficulty I have with studying. If this work can earn the glory of God, please pray to Mary, so that she gives me the intelligence and memory that I need. This is not the kind of work that I feel myself qualified to undertake for the glory of our mutual queen and in the interests of our dear Society.
Please have our very reverend and very dear Father General grant me the liberty of offering him here my deepest respects; I ask your permission to also offer them to the Reverend Father Provincial and to all the Superiors of all the establishments in France. I affectionately greet the good Father Viennot, Father Millot, the Reverend Fathers Poupinel, Ducourneau, Rigotier and Massard. I embrace from the bottom of my heart Father Buyat, to whom I wish good health, Father Gay who no doubt has uttered the gentle and solemn words: tuus sum … the dear Fathers Mulsand, Bliard, Grosselin, Martin, Colin, Touche and all the colleagues that I knew at the noviciate, as I have all of them in my thoughts, now and always. [8] In their company I have sampled the pleasures of several Brothers living together.
[p.7, in the margin at an angle] [22]
Finally, my reverend and very dear Father, I embrace you, yourself, with a filial affection in the holy hearts of Jesus and Mary. Have the kindness to write me at least a small letter to give me news of our dear brothers and to speak to me of blessings that God has bestowed on our dear Society. If you are not able to yourself, get someone to let us know how the Third Order is faring under the direction of the Reverend Father Eymard and what success God is bestowing on the missions.
[p.6, in the margin at an angle] [22]
You will excuse me this liberty, but these questions interest us greatly. I ask you to think of our mission in a special manner at the feet of Our Lady of Fourvières. As for me, I do not forget our commitments for the month of December 1847! Farewell my Reverend Father.
I am, in Jesus and Mary
your respectful and devoted


  1. These are the missionaries of the thirteenth group and with Goujon, the author, are as follows: André Chapuy, Jean Chatelut, Eugène Ducrettet, Mathieu Gagnière, François Palazy andPierre Trapenard and the Brothers Alphonse Barbary, Aimé Mallet, Véran-Thomas Michel, often called Brother Michel and Joseph Reboul.
  2. Brothers Jean Taragnat, Bertrand (Besselles), Auguste LeBlanc and Prosper Rouesné.
  3. Brothers Aimé Mallet and Véran Michel (usually called Brother Michel).
  4. 1st June 1848
  5. Doctor Montargis
  6. Rocher in his letter of 4th April 1848, spoke of “a serious accident that befell the Arche d’Alliance on the reefs of Wallis”, then added that “our tiller was broken and the ship was seriously damaged in the stern” (doc. 691, § 3-4).
  7. Bishop Douarre no doubt
  8. Jean-François Viennot, Jean- Marie Millot, Victor Poupinel, Anthelme buyat, Antoine Grosselin, Louis Touche, older Marist Brothers. The colleagues that Goujon (entered the noviciate in Lyon 7th September 1846 and took his vows on 26th August 1847) would have known at the noviciate: Victor-Sébastien Mulsant (took his vows on 21st September 1846), Isidore Ducourneau and Jean-Claude Rigotier (took vows on 31st May 1847), Jean-Baptiste-Louis-Gabriel Massard (took vows on 26th August 1847, left the Society in 1850), Marcellin Gay (took vows on 25th December 1847, which was after 23rd October 1847, the date that Goujon left for Oceania). The identification of the names Bliard, Martin and Colin is uncertain as they belonged to more than one Marist at the time: (1) Pacien Bliard, a priest since 29th June 1846, was during the year 1846-1847 at Puylata in scola missionariorum and in particular from 30th April to 22 July 1847 at the noviciate La Favorite, while his brother Félicien Bliard took his vows on 17th October 1847 but was not ordained a priest till April 1851 (both of them left the Society in 1861: cf. doc. 902, n.1); (2) Antoine Martin, future Superior General, took his vows at Belley on 19th December 1845; Noël Martin, at the noviciate of Belley from October 1845 till November 1846, took his vows on 21st June 1848; Jean Martin, at the noviciate of Belley from October 1846 till March 1847, left without making his profession; (3) Alphonse Colin, entered the scholastic noviciate of Belley on 12th October 1844, and retired on September 1847, without making his profession; Pierre Colin, was at the time at the general house in Lyon and Jean-Claude, the Superior General was also in Lyon.

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