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Fr Victor Poupinel to Fr Petit, Lyons, 3 November 1840

APM Z208 3 November 1840

Lyons, 3 November 1840
I beg you, tell me everything you can, in the interests of the mission. Do not be afraid of shocking me. I know I commit many mistakes, but I want to redeem[?][1] myself. Please take a big piece of paper and write on it, please, your reflections, as they occur to you.[2]
Reverend Father
I have had the honour of receiving the letter you deigned to write to me from Kororareka, dated 21 February last.[3] It is true, Father, that I would attain the perfect fulfilment of my vows if I was allowed to cross the seas to go and work under the orders of our good and holy Bishop for the conversion of these dear Oceanians, who are so often in my thoughts, and first in my affections. However it may turn out for me,[4] if by staying in Lyons I can work for the glory of God and be of use to our mission. I will stay there my whole life if necessary. The task which R[everend] F[ather] Superior [General] has entrusted to me is very important[5] and without the grace of God it would be impossible for me to fulfil it well. But I do have a real liking for this work, and as well by reason of obedience I will work at making myself more capable of performing this task. Since the beginning – even in this latest dispatch[6] I have made great mistakes. May I not make them any more in the future! Anyway I did not have wrong intentions. I hope, Reverend Father, that you will deign, in spite of my unworthiness, to pray for me, and commend me to the prayers of these good savages; that is the only reward I desire for my small efforts.
I am not surprised that people were surprised by the flood in the time of Noah. I was indeed, as well, over this departure, although the preparations had begun a long time before; but then circumstances brought forward the departure, then the number of people [p2] grew considerably, and finally a terrible flood has just thrown Lyons into consternation and brought everything to a halt. This haste increased the cost of buying several things and the costs of transport. A great part of the clothing for the earlier missionaries and Brothers having arrived during our retreat, the result was that not having seen them until the time they were packed up, which followed soon after, I noticed that several soutanes lacked a name, among others, those of Fathers Chanel and Chevron, I think, or that they were poorly attached. Some soutanes were made of a cloth which lost a lot of its lustre in its finishing, [7] but the price was reduced, and in effect was not high.[8] As we do not have exact measurements for the clothing of Fathers Chanel and Chevron and Brothers Michel, Joseph and Marie-Nizier, as well as for the shoes of Brothers Marie-Nizier and Michel (the last are those which are numbered), I would very much like someone to make what are judged to be appropriate comments on these items, and on the clothing of all the others as well, even on the shape of the coats and smocks for the savages. I will do all I can that these last-mentioned be as decent as possible. We will not be able to rely on gifts for very long. It would therefore be important to know how much money I would later be able to devote to the purchase of the necessary goods. The tailor doesn’t know whether Father Bataillon’s soutanes have Father Servant’s name, and vice versa. As well, we have noticed, but too late, that several pairs of trousers were poorly sewn. In future I will take precautions to avoid these problems.
You will find two more pairs of shoes than the number given to each person[9] and a pair of boots.
We very much want the detailed summary of things necessary for the missionaries and the mission which Bishop Pompallier has promised us; because[10] we would very much prefer to concentrate on only the most urgent expenses, or at least to start with them. I am very disappointed that the silversmith in Paris, who is in fact a very honest man, sent cruets made of silver.[11] I hadn’t given enough detail in my letter; on another occasion I will do something to lessen this expense. He sent some souches[12] which I had not ordered. I made a point of writing yesterday to Paris, but probably it was too late. I bought a certain quantity of knives, scissors, thread… an expense which I would not have made, if I had [p3] known of the gifts which were going to come to us very late. You will see that unfortunately we have spent a very considerable amount, but the orders demanded a lot (of money) and there were many people travelling. In fact we spent almost nothing on liturgical items and church linen. Almost all the liturgical things and a lot of the linen were given, as to the two earlier groups of missionaries, by M. Grouet, curate at St Sauveur de Caen and M. Le Veneur, also a curate, at St Gilles de Caen (Calvados), who lead the Society of pious souls to provide liturgical items for the foreign missions. You ought to receive a box which will leave Caen immediately. It would be very appropriate if the Bishop could write to them, (or) at least have a letter of thanks written to them.
I will ask not only for them, but for us as well, for a great number of other benefactors, and for many other people who could be useful to us, that the missionaries do what they can to send us curiosities from your country, like shells, plants, seeds,[13] interesting rocks. That is important. Another thing that produces a good effect is that someone from time to time writes interesting letters without however containing too many important details, to people who are known to be full of zeal for the missions. Through letting them have a glimpse of the needs, these charitable people offer gifts, which lessen expenses. St Étienne and St Chamond[14] have given us fine and plentiful gifts; I have written a[?][15] list of the people who have displayed the greatest zeal, at least in Ly[ons].[16] The varnished engravings[17] were bought by Miss Monavon with 100 francs.[18] Bishop De Bonald sent (it?) to her. We all hope they will have a good effect. It is hope that one of [the engravings] of St Joseph will be for the Hokianga mission and that a Blessed Virgin may be sent to the mission in Wallis.
R Father Superior (General) would be pleased if sometimes missionaries wrote to their Bishops.[19] These letters interest them and more strongly encourage them to contribute to the welfare of the missions. A letter directly contributes to making your work prosper. I think that letters written to the Fathers of the Society in general would have a good effect. But M. Megnis especially recommends that facts be given; details, even small; exact descriptions; that figures be stated. He would strongly recommend to the missionaries the method used by the Picpus Fathers[20] who in their missions regularly keep a short journal of what happens to them, so that when they come to write their letters, they have all the matter (available).
I am sending to the missionaries the list of what the packages contain; as well there is another list attached inside the lid of the box.
I have seen Miss Bertrand, who has been for some time in the novitiate of the Sacred Heart of Ferrandière; she commends herself strongly to your prayers, and Miss Monavan as well – they are very grateful that Father Baty has given each of them a god-daughter; they are sending them gifts. I promised M. Monavon that he would be godfather to a chief, and that it would be to you, Reverend Father, that I would commend this matter. The young David ladies and Miss Eroton have been full of zeal.
[In margin p3]
I had real pleasure, Reverend Father, in carrying out some little requests to the[21] communities, for which you made me responsible. I have commended your work the conversion of the Oceanians and the departing group to the prayers of a number of convents.
The situation is critical. Everyone thinks we are on the edge of great misfortunes, and you don’t have to be a prophet today to predict great calamities. [22] We hope in the mercy of our God, who is beginning to punish us in quite a terrible way. If the good God punishes in a harsh way, at least, I hope, he will not punish for a long time, and that soon we will be able to send you new help and new confrères. Many[23] are sighing after the group departing, and there will be a possibility of sending them.
I have the honour to be, with deep respect, Reverend Father, your very humble and obedient servant,
V Poupinel
Marist p[riest]
[In margin p 2]
I have sent exactly everything which has been given us for missionaries in particular, but we have not been able to keep packages in their original state. For the rest, everything is to be shared between Fathers, and they will have to be careful to acknowledge receipt to those responsible.
M. Pédélupé, one of our novices, is the one who has given me significant help in packing our boxes.
We have had made three different sizes for the shirts and the stockings. They are distinguished by numbers.
[In margin of p1]
The [Society for the] Propagation of the Faith has sent 400 francs[24] given it for 400 Masses to be offered by the Oceania missionaries. I will give the same advice to Bishop Pompallier as well as to the missionaries who are leaving, and who will be able to offer (them) during the voyage if they can and if they wish.
We haven’t been able to put a lot of order in the boxes, because we were obliged to pack as the things came to us.
Please pray for the repose of the soul of M. Meynis’ father.


  1. - illegible word
  2. This seems to have been written as an afterthought - translator’s note
  3. 1840 - translator’s note
  4. Quoi qu’il en soit de moi
  5. Almost immediately on entry to the Society, Father Colin made him Procurator for the Missions and Secretary General - translator’s note
  6. of missionaries - translator’s note
  7. un drap qui a beaucoup perdu au déchatissage, quant au brillant
  8. dans l’origine n’était pas haut
  9. ?de plus que le hombre de (s?) donné à chacun
  10. ? Word hard to read
  11. and therefore more expensive than Father Poupinel wanted - translator’s note
  12. meaning?
  13. biosecurity not a concern then! - translator’s note
  14. two towns southwest of Lyons where Marists were already in ministry - translator’s note
  15. words partly obscured
  16. another word may be obscured, too - translator’s note
  17. gravures vernies
  18. word obscured
  19. the Bishops of their home dioceses - translator’s note
  20. These men were already working in French Polynesia - translator’s note
  21. religious, presumably - translator’s note
  22. France under Louis Philippe – 1830 to 1848 – experienced great tensions arising from, among other things, rapid industrialisation, increasing disparities between rich and poor, the rise of socialist thinking… - translator’s note
  23. confrères? - translator’s note
  24. £16 - translator’s note