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Br Jacques Peloux to Fr Poupinel, Samoa, Port of Apia, 8 April 1854

Clisby Letter 108. Girard doc. 1333

Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS


Jacques takes the opportunity of the return to Sydney of his friend, the master mason John Shea, to send this letter to Poupinel. Although the cathedral was not finished, and indeed would not be completed until 1867, the main part of the work had been done, and Bataillon considered they could get by without Shea’s services. Periodic recurrences of the war were the chief reason for delays in the building (Heslin 33).

The presence of the young Wallisians in Apia in April 1854 [3] is interesting because it seems to indicate that Bataillon was already preparing a group to send to the college he was proposing to conduct at Villa Maria in Sydney. In fact, Motesito Ha, mentioned earlier in L 47, had been one of the students at Lano on Uvea. As we shall see from the following letter (109), the bishop also had two islanders staying at the procure in July.

The translation was made from a photocopy of the original in the APM (ON 208) supplied by Fr Lessard.

Text of the Letter

Reverend Father,
It is a long time since I heard news of you. If you knew the pleasure you give me when you write to me, you would not let any opportunity pass. Moreover, I believe I still have every one of the letters you have written me since I have been in Oceania, and when I have some free time I enjoy reading them. I find them a real relaxation in my troubles. We receive no more news. France is almost completely dead for us but we are not yet entirely dead to France. We think about it every day and we are impatient for news of our dear confreres.
The Samoa mission is not going badly now. It was certainly fragmented because of the war, but it is starting to pick up again in different places, although the war I speak of is not yet over. At Mulinu Fr Violette baptised several persons during Lent and some others he is preparing now will not be slow to receive baptism. For the rest, I will not give you anything in more detail, because Fr Violette is writing and he will provide much more reliable information than I would know how to myself. I am still in Apia working hard on the construction of the church. That church has already given us a lot of work and it is not yet finished. The masonry however is all done with the exception of the belltower which must be raised a further fifteen feet. But that is not all. There remains to put on the roof, to make the doors, to put in the windows, and to finish off the belltower. All that requires much work, but the most difficult, in my opinion, is the spire on the belltower. Unless someone comes who is familiar with this sort of work I believe we will be in some predicament when the question rises of doing the carpentry. But as that is the responsibility of the sailors, that may not perhaps be the most embarrassing part for us. The church is very sound and the work is well done. The facade in front, except for some sizeable stones His Lordship ordered from Sydney, is entirely of sawn coral, as well as the windows, the corners, part of the pilasters, etc. The coral produces a very beautiful effect which is admired by everyone touching at the Navigators on the way from California to Sydney. It is also quite easy to work especially when it is fresh from the sea. The master tradesman who did the masonry on the church, is leaving on a three-master which departs for Sydney in eight days. I will give him this letter, he has promised he will send it on to France as soon as a good opportunity turns up. He is Irish, a good Catholic, a very good worker, and a very good chap. I liked him very much. He taught me a little of the mason’s trade, and some words of English. We got on well together, the two of us, so it is with regret that I see him going. But he wishes to go back and now, at a pinch, His Lordship can do without him.
There are actually nine of us in the establishment of Apia, Monsignor, Fr Padel, me, five young Wallisians and one Samoan, all of one mind and very happy. The youngsters from Uvea are very good. There is one especially named Motesito, an excellent young man. He is very docile and of an exemplary piety. He is, as well, of great assistance to His Lordship and rends him more service than I could do myself. He asks me to send you his alofu, that is, his respects, or respectful greetings. I am doing it with the same simplicity with which he asked me. Fr Padel has asked me to present his respects to you. He is always full of veneration for you. He is not writing to you this time because he only recently sent you a letter, and then because he is very busy now. We both talk about you often and enjoy doing so. He told me the other day that he hoped you would continue to write us circulars about the Society as you had kindly done in previous years. For myself, I assure you this would give me real satisfaction.
My reverend Father, if I gave in to the pleasure I find corresponding with you, my letter would be a very long one. I have several others to write and I have only Sunday free for this, for during the week I am fully occupied. I started this letter on Palm Sunday and am only finishing it now on Easter Sunday.
I am as usual very happy in my religious vocation and I frequently thank God for having called me to it. If you have the opportunity, without going too much out of your way, of passing on news of me to my relatives, you will be doing me a real favour, as I haven’t the time to write to them. I am in good enough health now, thank God. Please remember me in your prayers, especially at the Holy Sacrifice,
I am, my reverend Father, with profound respect, your very humble and very obedient servant,
Br J. Peloux. S.M.

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