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Br Jacques Peloux to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Upolu, Port of Apia, Samoa, 24 August 1851

APM ON 208 (Samoa) Peloux

Clisby Letter 94. Girard doc. 1048

Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS


While he was on Futuna, Bataillon sent his vicar, Mathieu, off on visitation of the stations on Samoa. It seems that he assembled all his missionaries in Apia at Mulinu’u, Violette and Mugniery from Savai’i, Vachon and Fonbonne from Vailele, east of Apia, Dubreuil and Padel from Mulinu’u. Jacques makes no mention of the last three, which suggests Mathieu was interested only in seeing the priests, and that the brother was brought over to look after Vachon’s station while the latter was away at the meeting.

Vachon founded the Vailele station probably at the beginning of 1847. He was a skilful gardener, supporting the station by selling produce to visiting ships (Heslin 30). Jacques writes about making furniture for the new school there [3] and a projected residence for the bishop. But whether this latter was to be at Vailele or at Mulinu’u is not clear. Certainly he speaks of the need for a new church to replace the one in Apia, barely four years old, destroyed by a hurricane. There was more than enough work for the single brother in Samoa. Sorlin had left for Wallis in April and travelled with Bataillon to Futuna in June. When this letter was written he was well on his way to a new posting in Fiji.

Like Joseph-Xavier and Servant, Jacques was periodically afflicted with elephantiasis (in Samoan: fe’efe’e pueia, vaetupa).

The translation was made from a copy of the original in the APM (ON 208) supplied by Fr Gaston Lessard. The letter, however, does not figure in the list of the brother’s correspondence drawn up by Fr Detours and retained in his personal file.

Text of the Letter

Very reverend Father,
It is already a long time since I wrote to you. Yet I do not want to go on without giving you some sign of life, and some inkling of the state of my conscience.
Since I last wrote to you I have been all the time on the island of Savai’i, sometimes with Fr Violette, sometimes with Fr Mugniery. I have been with the latter four months, and at present both of us are on the island of Upolu, His Lordship having sent Fr Mathieu to fetch us in their boat. They also brought Fr Violette for consultation about the provisioning of his station, but he stayed only two or three days on Upolu and left at once on the schooner which went and anchored off his place.
At the moment I am at the village of Vailele. I have just made some tables and benches for a little school that Fr Vachon is proposing to start. There is also a house to be built as residence for His Lordship. He is supposed to be coming and staying for some time. It is not yet decided that it will be built, for some timber has indeed been brought from Sydney but more will be needed if there is to be sufficient for the purpose. It would need to be cut , but I will also probably have to go back to Savaii with Fr Mugniery so the likelihood is that the house will not be built before Monsignor’s arrival. There would certainly be a lot of things to do on Upolu at present. The church at Mulinu which cost us so much labour and difficulty has been knocked down by a terrible storm. Without doubt you have been informed about that. At Vailele there is not one house fit for habitation, and then a host of things to be done. I am again the only brother for the whole archipelago. The good Brother Sorlin indeed stayed almost a year in this [place], but he has gone off without my making his acquaintance. I have been told he was very pious. I could certainly have done with spending some time with him and being edified by his good example. Nor have I yet been able to see Fr Dubreuil since he has been in Samoa.
As always I am very happy in my vocation and I esteem it greatly. Several times I have been reduced to tears of joy thinking of the great things the good God has done for me in calling me to the religious life. I am threatened by a sickness quite serious in this country. It is the sickness of swollen legs known here as fefee pueia or more commonly vaetupa. I have had it already two or three times. It is only a few days since I last had it. The day of the feast of the Assumption I went down on my knees before Our Lord and begged him, through the intercession of our good mother, for the grace to preserve me from this sickness if it was his holy will for me to continue working for the service of the mission. But at the same time, I accepted it with a good heart and with resignation. Now let his holy will be done. Today I am completely cured.
I am not giving you any news about the mission, for I know that several of the fathers are writing to you and they give you much more accurate information than I could do myself, without a doubt. I finish by casting myself at your feet and praying you to give a blessing to the least of your children.
I am, my very reverend Father, with deep respect your very humble and obedient servant,
Br J. Peloux. S.M.

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