Br Jacques Peloux to Fr Mugniéry, Samoa, Port of Apia, 20 September 1853
Clisby Letter 104. Girard doc. 1288
Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS
Mugniery left Samoa early in 1852 with Bataillon, taking ship from Sydney back to France that June. In this letter, likewise a copy, Jacques brings him up to date with the scene in Samoa.
The converts at Salelavalu were still coming together for prayers and hoped to see the station re-opened. It seems that the missionaries occasionally called in on their way back from Apia to Lealatele. This was now the only station on Savai’i, with two priests, Vachon and Palazy, and a brother, Lucien. Lucien and his two companions on Rotuma, Verne and Sage, had been withdrawn from the island in June when continuing warfare made their position untenable. Once the 32 converts who accompanied them were resettled on Futuna and Wallis, all three were reassigned to Samoa. The two priests were spending their last days in Apia before going to their stations, Verne to Amaila and Sage to Falefa. Fortunately, these were both in the east of Upolu, away from the fighting among the chiefly families which had broken out once more in the west . Padel had been transferred to Lano on Wallis. He was to spend the rest of his missionary career on that island, and the Samoan mission did not get a printing press until 1874.
Jacques himself was still at work on the new cathedral. Bataillon had brought back from Sydney, not only building materials, but a mason to oversee the work, John Shea (Heslin 33). Ever eager to acquire further skills so as to be of more use to the mission, Jacques had become an apprentice mason .
Text of the Letter
- Reverend Father,
- I have been wanting to write to you for a long time to give you some news about Samoa, about Salelavalu especially, where the two of us lived together. I am convinced you would be pleased to hear it. I am taking advantage of this opportunity of a ship leaving this week for Sydney. It is about time, for it has been here at least four months having repairs done in the port of Apia.
- Since you left Samoa I have not been back to Salelavalu, but I have heard news of it often enough from the malaga [voyagers] coming to Upolu. Although there are no longer any missionaries in the village, the people we knew there have not yet abandoned the lotu pope [Catholic religion]. I was talking recently to someone who was here on a malaga. He told me that quite regularly they held a daily service. Muliaga, the man whose broken arm you fixed once, is the faifeau [priest] until they get a missionary. I believe that Mae has written to His Lordship to ask him for one, together with a gun. So you see they still have the same greedy notions. These have not diminished but have kept on growing. The day before yesterday I saw Seu, the little hunchback, again. He asked me for news of you. I wasn’t able to satisfy him for the simple reason I didn’t have any. He told me there is always a great quantity of b..... on our land, much more than when we were living there. Doesn’t that make you want to come back?
- The last time I saw Fr Vachon he told me he had not yet gone because of the difficulties of the voyage, as you know, and all the occupations he had up to then, for Fr Palasi (sic) had been sick most of the time. He must have gone since, the father’s health has improved, and they also have the good Brother Lucien who is now living with them, plus a horse Monsignor sent them.
- Fr Verne charges me to send you his regards. He is now in Apia with Fr Sage. The Rotuma mission has been suppressed. Fr Dubreuil had a serious illness last December. We doubted very much that he would recover. He is not completely cured even today.
- Fr Violette is still at Mulinu and continues in good health. Fr Padel has gone to Wallis to direct the printery. It was with much regret that I saw him leave Samoa. But I hope to see him coming back soon, for I believe His Lordship intends to transfer the printery here.
- Since your departure I have kept reasonably good health except for two occasions when I had the feefee but not very seriously. I even have a touch of it at this moment. I am now a mason. I have given up carpentry and woodwork, but I have not finished with the saw. But instead of wood I use it for sawing coral. We are hard at work on the building of the church they were talking about when you left. It is giving us a lot of work, but you can’t get anything without effort. It is entirely of cut or sawn stone. When it is finished it will be very attractive. The sawn coral gives a very beautiful effect. The Europeans passing by admire it, But it is the Samoans who are most impressed. They would never have believed such work could be done with their pussa [puga: coral]. His Lordship brought back a mason with him on his return from Sydney. He is a man you can call a good worker. He works well and solidly. I have been working with him for six months, and if I continue to make progress I will end up by becoming a mason.
- The Samoans have begun their war again with almost as much bitterness as the first time. There was a battle at Mulifanua nearly three weeks ago. The exact number of dead and wounded is not known, but it is considerable. I have been in quite good health since your departure from Samoa, but the feefee has come back again. I am affected at the moment, and more strongly than ever. That is why I commend myself with all my heart to your prayers, particularly at the Holy Sacrifice.
- I am with profound respect your very humble and very obedient servant,
- Br Jacques, SM.
- The copyist has failed to complete this word which could refer to any one of a number of common plants or fruits.
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