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6 September & 18 October 1853 — Father Louis Padel to Father Victor Poupinel, Tonga

Translated by Peter McConnell, June 2011 Based on the document sent, APM OW 208 Padel.

[p. 1, at the top of the page]
[In the handwriting of Poupinel]
Fr Padel to Fr Poupinel

[p. 1]

J(esus) M(ary) J(oseph)

To rev Fr Poupinel, Lyon

Tonga 6 September 1853.

Reverend Father,
I think it was at the beginning of November 1852 that I received the letter which you had the kindness of writing to me dated 25 January 1852, as far as I can remember. Thank you sincerely for the trouble you take in writing to me from time to time; although you have often been told, I will tell you again that I don’t think that you can imagine the pleasure and the good that receiving a letter from a fellow priest can cause us; and even those letters are much more enjoyable now that they are becoming rarer. Ours remain without an answer; we could almost be tempted in thinking that we were abandoned; as far as I am concerned, I don’t believe it. That is enough on that subject; the life of an apostolic missionary should be one of troubles, of sacrifices and here life should be some of that nature.
I wrote to you in April last year; I don’t know whether that letter reached you. It dealt with a trip which I had just made to the Tokelau Islands from where I had brought five hundred people to Wallis. On learning that a large number of natives from those islands had just died from a famine which was raging in their country, Bishop Bataillon gave me the task which, with the help of God and the protection of the very Holy Virgin Mary, was rather quite successful.
I had returned to Samoa only a week after the bishop’s departure for Sydney from where he was to sail to Europe. However, the circumstances, which you know of the war in Tonga, the state of the mission station in Fiji and the construction of the church in Samoa, caused him to defer to an indefinite time a trip, which all the missionaries of the vicariate, with perhaps the exception of one or two, wanted to see him as soon as he could put an end to the precarious state that we have been in right from the outset, something which seems to have used up the well being of the mission station.
That war in Tonga, the result of which seems to be aimed at the destruction of Catholicism in that archipelago as well as in the Fiji Islands, Futuna and in Wallis, will certainly not be as fatal as we had believed. Father Chevron told me that the mission station had never been better than since that time; the Protestants were shocked to see how Catholicism grew and prospered in the midst of persecutions which seemed to be aimed at destroying it and today this is an opinion generally held throughout all Tonga that the day will come when all the archipelago will be Catholic. While waiting for that to happen we have to suffer patiently and pray. Per multas tribulations oportet & [= We must through many troubles] Beati qui persecutionem [& = Blessèd are those who are persecuted]. Since the war ended there have been in Tonga 148 baptisms, mostly adults. Last Assumption Day, there were 150 taking Holy Communion.
The news from Samoa are far from being as consoling. Before his departure, Bishop Bataillon had us all change posts. When I arrived I found a letter from His Lordship in which he instructed me to go and spread the Gospel in the eastern part of the Island of Upolu and to create there a mission station being 25 to 30 leagues in circumference. In the beginning I spent five to six months in a place called Falefa, five or six leagues from the nearest fellow priest. The tracks were very difficult because I could take the journey only once using a pair of ordinary shoes. In that place I had a little agro’ from the inhabitants. Last November when the bishop came visiting us, he brought Father Bernard whom he had just recruited in Sydney; His Lordship gave him to me as a companion and we lived together for some months.
Then I was able to leave and made several visits to the eastern part of the island, and I stayed for some time in the midst of a tribe which had been inviting me for several months. The most important chief of that district was there and he embraced Catholicism as well as a large portion of his people who appeared well disposed and more eager to be instructed than I had ever encountered before in Samoa. Everything was going quite well and led me to believe that in a short time I would be able to have a small nucleus of Catholics, but the devil also came to upset the apple cart; the notions of war began to trouble everybody’s minds. Accordingly there were great gatherings to discuss political matters; there was dancing at night-time and everything that followed, and then with religion pushed to one side, the country was finally deserted and abandoned.
So, not wanting to leave us alone in an uninhabited district, the bishop recalled me to his centre where I spent two or three months. To undertake the various tasks I have done this year, I had to use the principle: “A Frenchman does not step back.” He goes ahead, and then there I was crossing rivers, sinking up to my waist in mud, scrambling up mountains and rocks, springing from rock to rock, sometimes missing my footing and then rolling like a ball; twice I fell in that way onto sharp rocks; those who were with me thought I was done for; fortunately I fell on my head, and the Bretons have hard heads; in addition I got up without the slightest harm.
Finally after two months staying with the bishop, the mission’s schooner arrived in Samoa bringing us Fathers Verne and Sage and Brother Lucien; I set out for Wallis where I had to stay this year. My job was to be in charge of the printing press and caring for Father Junillon whose health problems prevent him from caring out all his work; It seems likely that I will return to Samoa next year.
The bishop is still busy with building his settlement; Father Dubreul is still suffering from chronic dysentery which he has not been able to cure over the past nine months and which threatens his life. Father Violette guides his little parish peacefully; his little Catholic community is starting to take off; Father Vachon at Savai is starting to see the success of his labours. He has thirty including some adults who are baptized and who lead regular lives; on Assumption Day he had 28 receiving Holy Communion; his health is still good; Father Palasi who is, so to speak, always ill seems to be better now. But what is upsetting in Samoa, is the interminable state of war which we are always in. There, it started up again three months ago; and when will it finish?
I have been here in Tonga for the last three days; I will leave here in two or three days time; I am happy to have been here and it has been even edifying for me to have seen the behaviour of Reverend Fathers Chevron and Piéplu, their regular habits, etc and the humility and obedience of the worthy Brother Jean Raynaud. The worthy Father Rocher had the kindness of sending me an open letter in which he shared news which is most likely to interest you; I had a great deal of pleasure seeing in that letter the blessings that God in His Goodness and the Good Virgin Mary are pleased to spread over the Society; but also so many deaths! Father Grange, Father Nivelleau, Father Roudaire, Father Anliard and his brother, Father Preuvost my countryman; and another letter that has recently arrived here from Fiji announcing the very imminent and likely death of Brother Paschase.
In signing off, Reverend Father, I recommend myself earnestly to your prayers and to those of all our fellow priests; and I am in union with them in Holy Masses.
Your very humble and very obedient servant,
Apostolic missionary of the Society of Mary.
On 7 September our ship stove in its hull and crashed on the rocks and I left Tonga on 18 October sailing to Samoa.