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Br Joseph-Xavier (Jean-Marie Luzy) to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Sydney, 29 June 1851

APM OP 458.1 Epistulæ variæ Luzy

Clisby Letter 92. Girard doc. 1029

Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS


By the date of this letter, Douarre’s missionaries had sailed with Fonbonne and Michel for Wallis. Their new schooner, the ‘Etoile du Matin’, owned jointly by Douarre and Bataillon, was to take them to the Ile des Pins. They left behind Roudaire, who was to join them later, and took Baty, in the hope a change of climate would benefit his condition. Rocher was now superior at Villa Maria. His community consisted of Br Auguste Leblanc and a young English novice, John Larter. Auguste (b 1820) joined the Society in 1843 and came out to the Pacific the following year as a founding member of the Sydney community. He was back at the procure after several years on the New Caledonia mission. Larter (b 1822), the first English-speaking vocation to the Marists, was received as a brother novice at Villa Maria in 1849 and admitted to vows on 14 September 1851. He worked at the procure until he left the Society in 1866 (Hosie 78-9).

Part of this letter [3-6] is devoted to passing on news received from the islands. Joseph had received two letters himself from Futuna. The items he mentions, Servant’s attack of elephantiasis and the baptisms of the New Caledonians, are covered in detail by Servant himself in his writings (ES 276, 286-7). In Tonga, things are looking good, but Chevron will paint a very different picture the following year (see L 98). This is because the Tongan warriors, mostly Wesleyan followers of Taufa’ahau presently engaged in a crusade in the eastern parts of Fiji [6], will have returned to take part in the civil war which will end with the Ha’apai chief as king of Tonga. The war in Samoa, too, is part of a struggle among rival chiefs for primacy. The activities of the Protestant missionaries are, naturally, seen as part of the problem [7].

The recent discovery of gold near Sydney had consequences for the Marists in more ways than simply raising the prices of provisions and services. In September Auguste left the Society to make his fortune on the goldfields. When he returned to France in 1855 he had made at least 20,000 francs (Hosie 77).

Joseph was still uncertain about his own future. In his letter [2] he informs Colin he considers his options are either to return to the islands or go home to France. But in a letter of 23 November 1851, Bataillon tells him either to return to France or stay at the procure.

Text of the Letter

Reverend Father,
I should have written to you many days ago. Please excuse my negligence. I am still in Sydney with the good Fathers Rochet (sic) and Roudaire and with Brother Auguste and a young Englishman who wants to be a brother. You know, rev Father, the reasons why I am at the procure, and I don’t find myself much better. For the sicknesses for which I have been treated for more than two months, I think the winter coming up will help my recovery. As for the puke I suffered so frequently in the islands, I haven’t had an attack here yet, and I am very happy about that.
When our schooner left Sydney on 15 April with the Bishop of Amata and his group, as well as Fathers Fonbonne and Michel, I was very sad. I was disappointed not to be going with them. In the end I had to obey and stay behind for another voyage. Time has certainly dragged for me and I am finding it difficult to get used to being in the middle of the bush close to Sydney. So I will return to the islands or to France, if you judge it suitable. I have written to His Lordship (and he will probably leave it up to me) saying that he was aware of the state of my health but that I had 4 or 5 years in me yet, that I was waiting in Sydney for his reply, that I would willingly return to his side if he thought it good, that I would as willingly return to the islands as go to France. It seems to me that my strength is not entirely exhausted and that I can still be of use for some things for a few years. There, my rev Father, is the situation I am in. So I am waiting impatiently for you as a kind father to reply. (The Bishop of Enos did not know of my stay at the procure until the schooner returned to Wallis. It was on Fr Mathieu’s advice that I left Futuna).
It appears that everything is going well in the islands at present. The good Fr Rochet has just received letters from Samoa, Tonga, Futuna, etc. I have already received two from Futuna. It is the same as usual, things are going well enough. The good Fr Servant, who is afflicted with the same sickness as me, is not at the moment suffering from the puke as often as I was, because he has not had it so long. But, unfortunately, the older one gets, the more frequently the fever returns. When I left Futuna he had just recovered. When Fr Grezel wrote to me (his letter was dated April) Fr Servant had just had an attack in the middle of the woods on his way to Kolopelu (Kolopelu is the establishment of the Hermitage). They had to go and fetch him on a stretcher. He is getting better. The youngsters from Caledonia with Frs Rougeyron and Garniere (sic) were baptised on Holy Saturday. It is likely that Mgr Amata will recall them when the schooner returns.
Fr Chevron on Tonga is content. Things are going well there too. He had more than 600 communicants.
In Samoa, the war appears to be over. The situation will improve. Now the fathers have won a reputation among the wounded for their care. The Protestant ministers like many others had taken refuge in the woods.
The Fijians are ina very bad way and look forward with impatience to Monsignor’s arrival. The Protestants cause them much misery. There are more than 10,000 natives sent as ministers by the Wesleyan ministers who do much more harm than good. The American consul has written to the fathers on Futuna that he would like some priests sent. As for Fr Rouleau (sic), he has also written and says he sees no other remedy than Catholicism to help Fiji. This troop of natives coming from Tonga and the adjacent islands with one or two pages of the Bible are going to teach them to read, even though they don’t want to. They are from their sect and all do the same, that is to say, they are ministers. There is no one to work, and they snatch the food from their mouths, eating only coconuts and oresi (papaya). That’s all their nourishment. In the end they fall sick, consumptive, or some fever that brings them to the grave.
You see, my rev Father, how many thousands of savages need your help to draw them out of their misery. If only you could send enough priests so as to be able to pack all the Protestant ministers, who do much more harm than good, off to Sydney. There they would be able to amass the gold they are really searching for under the cover of religion and civilisation they claim to be bringing the savages, who are worse off after than they were before. Mines of gold have just been discovered in the last month 40 leagues from Sydney. That has brought the English great joy. They were off immediately to equip themselves with what they needed for the journey and for working in the rocks. More than 2000 set off straightway, and already today they number over 5 thousand. It appears there is gold in great quantity. But it requires work. Several have brought back lumps weighing more than a pound. That encourages more people to go. It has also doubled the prices of all goods. People who do not earn much in Sydney and who don’t go looking for gold will find it very hard to survive.
As for me, rev Father, what absolutely disgusts me, and what I find hardest to bear in the Australian bush, is the lack of any religious worship in public. It is certainly worse than in our islands. As, for example, these past days, the celebration of Corpus Christi, what one misses from Wallis and Futuna are the great solemnity, those beautiful and impressive processions, the altars along the way. If they are not as splendid as in France, they are no less beautiful. Our divine Master rests there and bestows his blessings all around. If you were there, my rev Father, on those beautiful feast days among the poor Oceanians, your heart would be filled with joy. But in Sydney you would groan with sadness and frustration on seeing the good that could be done and is not being done. Go where you will during the week, you will not find a church door open. It is not that there are no Catholics. There are eighteen thousand, even good Catholics, mostly Irish. At the procure where we are in the middle of the bush, whatever the feastday, there is a low Mass in the morning and that’s all - no vespers, no benediction, etc. There is nothing sadder or more frustrating. If we could not visit our divine Master who dwells in a little tabernacle and waits for us day and night, we would be the most unfortunate of men. I say nothing of the lotu[1] of Sydney, nor of those who direct it; it is not worth talking about.
Don’t forget me, my reverend Father. Remember me often at the sacrifice of the Mass, as well as our missions of Oceania.
Your very devoted and obedient servant,
Luzy, Brother Joseph-Xavier.


  1. lotu: church of Sydney. The evangelical or low church brand of Anglicanism was particularly hostile to the outward manifestations of cult.

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