Marist Studies:About

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This Marist Studies site exists for the community of scholars working in this field, as a way to share resources. Initially it is the place where we can put translations of the Letters from Oceania so that time is not wasted in re-translating them. Hugh Laracy's article below explains the context we are working in:

Girard joins Beaglehole

a note on some new source material

As crowded library shelves amply testify, Christian missionaries have been central characters in the grand narrative of Pacific Islands history since the early nineteenth century. Their significance, though, transcends that of merely being key participants in events that have had a profound and entrenched impact on the Islands and their peoples. For the missionaries have also been prolific recorders of much that they experienced and observed at first-hand. Consequently, their literary remains – of which much is still incarcerated in archives - constitute an invaluable historical source. As if evidence were needed for this proposition, a project currently being completed by Rev. Charles Girard sm, a Catholic priest of the Society of Mary (Marists) offers a case in point.
Originally from Louisiana, and with a doctorate in medieval French from Tulane University, Girard is preparing for publication his transcription of the letters sent to Europe from the south-west Pacific by Marist missionaries during the time of Jean-Claude Colin as the first Superior-general of the Marists. Hence the title of the work: Lettres reçues d’Océania par l’administration génerale des pères maristes pendant le généralat de Jean-Claude Colin, 1836-1854 [or LRO]. Carefully annotated and minutely indexed, and comprising 1400 letters that occupy 8000 pages of text spread through ten volumes, Girard’s opus will be the single most most important foundational contribution to Pacific history in its fullest extent since J.C. Beaglehole’s magisterial editions of James Cook’s Journals, 1955-1967.
The letters, replete with details about the missionaries themselves and their activities and also about the people they encountered, document the beginnings of Catholic missionary work in New Guinea, Solomons, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Wallis and Futuna, Tonga, Samoa and New Zealand. They are all in French and the originals reside in the archives of the Marist Fathers in Rome.
In 1999 Girard produced 25 sets of a four volume selection of these letters. These have since been in considerable demand by researchers. In August 2007, at a major symposium on mission history in Suva, he unveiled a proof copy – of which only four sets have been printed – of the full ten volume work. He is currently engaged in the task of final revision and correction. It is planned to launch the work at a symposium in Wellington, New Zealand, in April 2009. Efforts are also being made to prepare an English translation for publication at a later date.
Meanwhile, the Marists are soliciting expressions of interest from likely purchasers of the LRO in order to decide how many sets to publish (300-500?) and how much to charge for them (given the labour involved, NZ$5000-$6000 per set would scarcely ensure full cost recovery). Further information, and descriptive and explanatory material, about the LRO project – and about the proceedings of the Suva symposium - may be obtained from the following addresses: Hubert Bonnet-Eymard; Girard; Merv Duffy

Hugh Laracy
Department of History
University of Auckland,