Br Jacques Peloux to Fr Colin, Port of Apia, Samoa, 15 December 1852
Clisby Letter 100. Girard doc. 1206
Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS
At the beginning of 1852, Jacques was with Mugniery at Salelavalu. Because of the priest’s health he was transferred to Apia, and Bataillon withdrew Jacques also, closing the station. Mugniery accompanied the bishop to Sydney and then returned to France as a secular priest (rf following L 101). When the Marists eventually returned to the area, they set themselves up at Salelaloga, a village further to the south.
Jacques himself had been appointed to a new foundation in Apia at Mulivai on a piece of land Bataillon had purchased from the trader William Pritchard. Here he intended to build a residence and cathedral. Although well situated and conveniently close to a river, as the brother describes it in a letter to Poupinel on 13 February, the site was lowlying and water-logged and required a considerable fill of stones. The first workers were negroes from the United States and Hawaiians. They did not last long, and the work was completed by a team of Samoans and Wallisians (Heslin 33). Fonbonne had been summoned from Vailele to supervise the work. He was not a professed member of the Society and returned to France as a secular priest in 1855. By December Bataillon and Charise were also in residence and work had begun on the cathedral. The brother describes the work in his memoirs (Avit 3: 100-1). But it was Violette who blessed the new church the following year. He had been with Dubreuil at Mulinu’u since the end of 1851, while Padel had left Apia in March to found a new station in the east at Falefa.
The copy of this letter in the APM shows signs of editing. There is no known original. This may explain the misspelling of Samoan names and words.
Text of the Letter
- Very Reverend Father,
- I recall that when you gave us your last blessing, along with the good, kind advice you gave us, you recommended we be regular in writing to you every year. I don’t believe that I have missed up to now, and today it is a real pleasure for me to fulfil this little duty.
- When I wrote you my last letter I was still on the island of Savaii at Suleluvalu [Salelavalu] with Fr Mugniery. His Lordship of Enos has abandoned that station since arriving in the Navigators. No one has visited the establishment since. The people of the district who say they belong to the lotu (cult) seem to be holding firm still.
- Some days ago I spoke to two natives who were on muluga [malaga] (on voyage) and who came to pay me a visit. They told me people are continuing to conduct the lotu, which consists of reciting the Pater, the Ave, and the Credo. Since we were not able to remove all the furniture of the establishment at the time we left, His Lordship sent me back some days afterwards to fetch what was left. The villagers were full of questions. They asked me why we had left them, when they would be sent a missionary, etc. I replied that I did not know, but that the bishop had told me they were not being abandoned and that as soon as they all declared themselves Catholics, someone would be sent to them. But when will that be? I do not at all know!
- At present I am on Upolu, at the port of Apia itself with Fr Fonbonne. We are working on the construction of a wooden house. The plan has been drawn up for a church of stone. The workers employed for it have already started making lime, carrying stones, digging the foundations, but despite that it is still very far from being accomplished, and I do not know too much if the plan they have formulated can be carried out. It is very difficult to find the workers in this country and even more so to get them to work. Those who contracted with Monsignor to supply the materials have abandoned the work for over a month. They say the stones are too heavy and they cannot bring the ones they agreed to provide.
- I told you before that I am now living with Fr Fonbonne. Monsignor placed me there before his departure from the Navigators. I don’t know how long I will be here but, I assure you, my Reverend Father, that I really want to be back living with a priest of the Society. I believe it would be to the advantage of my spiritual well-being. It is not yet eight months since we took possession of this establishment and , truth to tell, in that short time I have experienced more frustration than since I came to Oceania. However, I am not without some consolations, for we have the good fortune of having Fr Dubreul who is your worthy representative here. He is full of the spirit of the Society and he does everything to see that it reigns among us. And then His Lordship, before departing, named Fr Violette to represent him, and since we are not far from him I can see him at least every week and continue to profit from the good counsel and example he has always given me since I have had the good fortune of having him as my spiritual director. Fr Padel is as usual on the island of Upolu, but he is now quite a distance away, six leagues at least, by a very bad, one might almost say, impassible track. I can see him only rarely. He is in a new establishment Monsignor founded before his departure from the Navigators. Since he has been there, I haven’t yet been able to pay him a visit, but I am very pleased to see him whenever he comes. He is an excellent priest. I spent long enough with him and I can truthfully say that in his regard I could do nothing but congratulate myself on all counts.
- I informed you, very Reverend Father, last time I wrote, that I was having trouble with a sickness which is quite serious in these lands. Actually I have had attacks of it on two different occasions within a short period, but thanks to God and the Blessed Virgin our good Mother, I have not had it since, and I am in good health at present.
- Although I told you earlier that I want to go back to living with a priest of the Society, and that is very true, that does not prevent me from being still very happy in my vocation, and I have no worries about anything connected to the fulfilling of my vows. My whole desire is to carry out properly the good God’s will in the places and localities where he wants me to be, and the tasks it pleases his divine goodness to give me. I conclude by throwing myself at your feet and praying you to give your blessing willingly to your very unworthy servant.
- I am, my very Reverend Father, with profound respect, your very humble and very obedient servant,
- Br Jacques Peloux, S.M.
- PS. This letter was written in September and I thought to send it then, but the opportunity offering was not completely reliable, and I have had no others since then. The frustrations I told you about in my letter have ceased. The voyage of His Lordship, the Bishop of Enos, to Europe has been postponed. He is now here with us with the good Brother Charise. They have just started work again on the stone church. The first stone was laid by His Lordship of Enos on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The ceremony terminated with solemn benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Fr Dubreul has been down with dysentery for more than a fortnight. The evening of the day before yesterday he was quite bad, but yesterday he had a better day, and today he is much better. We hope he will be preserved to direct us according to the spirit of the Society of Mary.
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