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24 April 1853 — Bishop Pierre Bataillon to Father Victor Poupinel, Apia

Based on the document sent, APM OC 418.1. Translated by Peter McConnell, April 2011

[p. 1]
[In the handwriting of Poupinel]
Bishop Bataillon to Fr Poupinel Apia Island of Upolu 24 April /53

To reverend Father Poupinel

Dear Reverend Father,
I am taking the present opportunity of sending you a word and a proof of my being alive. For a year I have had no news from Futuna and from Uvea, a year which I have spent going to Sydney; in a word it’s been a long time since I have received news from our colleagues in Fiji and Rotuma. As far as Tonga is concerned, you should be more up to date than I am of what has happened there through the letters that the priests at that mission station have had the chance to send you by way of the French war corvette which went there.
As for the Navigator Islands (Samoa), the priests and brothers are all well, except for Father Fontbonne who is at the moment quite weakened by a little illness which he has just had and from which he is now recovering. Father Palazy is also frequently unwell, but although he is on the island of Upolu, which is quite close to us, I have not had any news about the matter for more than three months. Reverend Father Dubreul, whom we nearly lost is now fitter than ever. As for me, I am reasonably well but I am no longer as energetic as I was formerly. Blessed be God!
Our Samoan people, who were at war for four years, are taking up arms again after a spell of two years. Judging from all appearances, war is imminent; God knows what the results of the war will have for the welfare of Catholicism. It is likely that this new war in the plans of God may be a way of drawing the wretched people under the yoke of the faith.
The building of our church in Apia is still going ahead despite difficulties with weather and locality. By the end of this month the walls of the church will be four or five feet high all around. All the front of the building is in dressed stone; the remaining section is made by a good use of coral sustained by solid struts of dressed stone. In another three or four months it will be completed or else near enough to. But what a lot of mess--- My first workmen who were Afro-Americans living in this country for some reason or other left the job. (One of them told me that the Protestants offered a good amount of money if he stopped working on the Catholic church). I have had to find some natives from the Sandwich Islands who help and serve the mason whom I have brought from Sydney, and Brother Jacques whom I have turned into a mason and I have become the inspector and clerk of works. From morning to evening I am in the middle of stones, chalk, mortar, pointing out to each of the natives what they have to do. I have to keep them all busy at the same time and stop them wasting time when all it needs is for me to be there. Since the time that I have accordingly become clerk of works and after abandoning those who worked at a fixed price, the work is proceeding much more quickly, and so despite everything, we are coming to an end in building our church, should we all put our shoulders to the wheel, we too, to finish it.
All those who see this building already admire it; people all over the archipelago talk about it, and the whole archipelago, I think, will come to see it and it will be the base of Catholicism in these islands and the source of its progress. More and more we are convincing everybody of that fact.
But, make careful note of this, please, we need, I repeat, we need the wherewithal to embellish it, this first cathedral of the Marist centre, a beautiful organ is a must, stations of the cross, a beautiful set of chandeliers, a bell of at least five or six pounds in weight. Having achieved that, I would consider Catholicism as founded in the Navigator Islands. Won’t the worthy faithful of Lyons do anything for the first church of Oceania founded by their missionaries to pass on to posterity? Won’t the church of Saint Irénée help its little sister in Oceania?
And then! What is being done over there in France, in Lyons? How long it has been since we heard from you! Are mission stations still wanted? Do people still think of the mission stations? Our colleagues, in real need of soutanes, are led to believe that they are forgotten, but perhaps those soutanes which I am talking about now for the tenth time perhaps may arrive tomorrow or the day after. For we are waiting day by day for the mission ship from Sydney; it will certainly bring us news from France, news of the empire, news of the Propagation of the Faith, news of the Marist Society and news of our very Reverend Father Superior.
So it is no use talking again of all the things which I have spoken about in the long list of previous letters, since from day to day I can receive the answer to all our requests.
When the ship arrives, Father Dubreul will probably make his rounds of the mission stations, part of them at least; then I will take my mason to Wallis to build a stone church there and then --- I can’t foresee exactly what will become of me after that But farewell, dear Father, that is enough scribbling down the essential. All yours in Our Lord,
+Bishop Pierre Bataillon, vicar apostolic.