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5 June 1848 — Father Ferdinand François Junillon to his sister, Madame Auguste Junillon, Wallis

Translated by Mary Williamson, March 2017

Based on the document sent, APM OW 208 Junillon.

One sheet of paper and one small leaf, forming six pages, five of which are written on, the sixth having only the address.

France / Madame / Madame Auguste Junillon at the home of Madame Tisserant rue Saint Denis / 248 Paris /
[Post Marks]
1 A —- A18 —- PARIS 18TH APRIL 49 1 (60) 1


Island of Wallis 5th June 1848

My very dear sister,
For nearly a month now a ship from Hamburg has been here taking on a cargo of coconut oil and I have not been able to take a moment to write to you. Nevertheless, it would be painful for me to let it leave without sending you some news. So I am profiting from a moment’s respite to tell you about what I am doing and how I am and also to beg you, at the same time, to not let any occasion to write to me pass by, so as to keep me up to date about your health and anything that would interest me about yourself, for in making the vow to leave everything, I have not forgotten those who, like you, are dear to me and who, as well, by their truly Christian life, live in the world as if not really living there.
I am still on Wallis, occupied in the holy ministry in the Eastern and Northern regions of the island, where most of the population lives, about 1800 or near to 2000 souls.
Here everyone goes to confession 10 to 12 times a year and a large number every 15 days. It is a most difficult undertaking in this country solely because of the climate which is sometimes much hotter than it should be. We are enclosed between four walls for three quarters of the day and sometimes half the night, which usually happens to us on Fridays and Saturdays and the evenings of any great festivals. Sometimes too, the exhaustion that one feels or the irritation one feels following mosquito bites, makes you abandon your post sooner than you would wish. On the other hand, being brusque as I am, I am obliged to make a continuous effort to not become impatient with folk who do everything in a ponderous manner. A slowness that becomes unbearable when one of the number is high ranking, be he male of female and no one dares change places for fear of approbation from this chiefly person, even if they are there first and up close to the confessional. It never enters the anyone’s mind that the priest is suffering and that it shows lack of respect towards him to behave in this manner.
When the idea of making a confession comes to them, they do not consider whether it a convenient time of not; at midnight as at any other time, they come and demand to make their confession. I usually say my rosary when I leave the confessional, whilst walking; if it be midnight or one o’clock in the morning, if someone feels like confessing and they see me, they immediately come to me and say: e au fia sonfessio, [1] I wish to confess. Yesterday, Sunday 2nd I announced a marriage; a young man, brother of the fiancee, came that night and knocked on my door, but seeing that I did not open the door quickly enough, found a way to come in by a window to ask me if his sister needed to confess the following day. That is fine, I said to him, that she makes her confession; but wait till it is daytime.
It is true to say that here the world is turned upside down. There are some customs that are so bizarre but nevertheless not bad in themselves, that one has difficulty in understanding, but not in believing that one is six thousand leagues from home. Miss Perroton, who is of a unique character for this country, has nevertheless suffered greatly in her first year, but her devotion and the strength of her character allowed her to triumph over all that naturally disgusted her.
Besides, these people have so many good qualities that one can easily forgive them their faults, especially when one thinks that it is only six or seven years since they were baptised.
If it was possible to communicate our Europeans ideas, then they would have advanced much more in the few years that Christian civilisation has been here than would people in France. I cannot tell you how difficult it is to practice the ministry of preaching with the few ideas that they have and as a result the few words.
But that is enough, as I notice that I have written to you at length and told you very little.
Getting back to you, my dear sister, and our dear Louise. What are you doing? Tell me. For nearly two years I have received no news, the mail from France to Oceania is so slow. If I was not so busy and if the journey would not cost me anything, I would have come earlier, in person, to hear all your news, rather than write to you.
During all this time you could have shifted house or even country and who knows if at this moment, as I write all this to you, you are not rounding Cape Horn or in an anchorage in Tahiti, bring to me in person the reply to the questions that I have asked you in my preceding letters.
We each suffer from these delays, it is nature who reclaims her rights, but you as well as I have made the most painful sacrifices that one can imagine and all that solely for God. Let us not go back over what we have done, for Jesus Christ says that he who puts his hand to the plough and looks behind him is not worthy of the kingdom of Heaven.
I know that for all the gold in the world I would not stay here if I was not here to do God’s will. Pray to the Lord that my sacrifice might be absolute and that I might carry, with the most perfect resignation, the cross that God has imposed on me, for here we lack all human help and if God did not come to our aid, we would be doubly unhappy.
But thanks to your prayers and all those of the blessed souls who show interest in we poor missionaries, God’s help is never lacking, whether on land or sea, or amidst savage people or our people of Christendom.
Let us all continue this work of charity in a place where God’s will holds us as exiles; we will raise our feeble voices towards his throne to make His blessed benedictions come down on the many souls who so devotedly support His work in these distant lands.
Present my respects to those amongst them that I have the honour of knowing. On my behalf offer a thousand good wishes to the Reverend Father Bourdin, [2] who I regard as one of your powerful supporters.
Pass on my news to our wonderful mother, to Maurice and Julie and to Sister Seraphin and others. I hope to receive news from them and from you two by the first ship.
Goodbye my good sister and my dear Louise. Pray for me.
Your very devoted
brother and friend,
Apostolic missionary.


  1. Wallisian words: e (particle of the subject ); au: I; fia ( particle which expresses the idea of “ to wish or desire”.
  2. Jean- Antoine Bourdin, Marist priest; from the summer of 1843 to the summer of 1848, he is at the Marist residence in Paris (cf. OM 4, p. 203-205).

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