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Br Charise to Br Francois, Upolu, 28 March 1859

LO 78

Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS


When Poupinel made his visitation of Samoa in June 1858, he delivered to the brothers the copies of the circulars, books, and personal communications entrusted to him by Francois. Charise must have written his thanks to his superior general at the same time, but we have no copy of this in the AFM. The reasons for the absence from the archives of a number of letters from this period is doubtless provided by Avit in the Annals for 1858, where he reports that during the transfer of the administration from the Hermitage to Saint-Genis-Laval that year a number of documents were lost (AA 226). The more recent circulars Charise received had probably come with the newly arrived missionaries.

The complaints Charise makes about the situation of the brothers is nothing new in this correspondence as we have seen (rf eg. LL 90, 91, 96). Summarising the complaints in the letters received by the superiors in the Annals, Avit writes: “For the rest, the position of our Brothers in Oceania was precarious and very painful. They had gone there as catechists, something which sparked their zeal. Arrived in the missions, they had been considered and treated by the Fathers as servants. The latter had employed them on working on the land, in the building of chapels and residences, in the construction of canoes, boats, even ships… These Brothers had found themselves isolated from one another, accompanied by Fathers who sometimes mistreated them, even left them by themselves often enough to spend weeks, entire months without being able to assist at holy Mass or to receive the sacraments. In order to understand how painful such a position was, one would have to experience it. Thus our superiors would no longer consent to send Brothers to the missions, until the Fathers had resolved to provide them the means of being in community as far as possible and in occupying themselves as catechists or teachers” (AA 217).

In fact, the superiors had not yet taken this step: Avit is simply rounding off a section on the missions of Oceania with a policy adopted only after Louis-Marie took over the government of the Institute the following year.

It is to be noted that what the brothers were asking for was nothing more than what the fathers had obtained for themselves already by the Rome agreement of 1857, recourse to their own superiors in matters of difficulty and the opportunity of religious life in community. As their guardians, the Marist fathers were responsible for this. The difficulties they had with the vicar apostolic were another matter. Charise will elaborate on this in a letter to Francois in January 1860 (L 149).

In his own case, he considered his health problems were affecting his usefulness in the missions and he had approached Poupinel about the possibility of going to Villa Maria to work as a tailor. He communicates his superior’s reply in the January 1860 letter.

This letter is on pages 33 to 36 in the AFM cahier 2.

Text of the Letter

Very Reverend Brother Superior,
I have just received 3 of your Circulars, one of 21 June 1857, one of 8 December, and one of 2 February 1858 with the Memorandum on our Congregation. You cannot imagine how much pleasure they give us. About 8 months ago I wrote you a little letter in which I let you know I had also just received the Circular of 2 January 1857, the Manual of piety and the book of Rules of our Institute from the hands of Fr Poupinel with a letter written in your venerable hand, showing us how much you love us and how attentive your fatherly heart is to the good of your children.
How fortunate our dear Brothers in Europe are to be under the direct guidance of their Superior, to be able to ask his advice and salutary instruction, to be there in the shade of charity and fraternal union, like chickens under their mother’s wings, secure from all danger.
It is not the same with us in the missions. In our isolation, our situation is sometimes painful. We are often treated as strangers, even with contempt by those we wish to serve. This frequently makes life difficult to bear. The climate contributes a lot. Monsignor Bataillon has not yet returned from his trip to France. All the missionaries are awaiting him impatiently. His presence is needed in his vicariate. He is probably bringing with him a good number of priests as well as Brothers. But it is to be hoped that he has learned to profit by his Brothers much better than he has done so far.
Very Reverend Brother, everything I have told you about the Brothers, I have thought necessary, so that you can become familiar with our situation. We are not too badly off. Food and clothing have not been in short supply. I am still portly but my strength is not what it was, and the climate weakens me considerably. I am drenched in sweat all the time, night and day, and because of that I experience pains in all parts of the body. Sometimes, especially in the mornings, I can walk only very stooped. Since I have become a bit of a tailor in this land, and since they have need of one at the Procure in Sydney to make clothes for the missionaries, I have written to Fr Poupinel on this matter. The climate there is much cooler and I might regain my strength and still be able to render service.
Whatever the case, as the good God wishes, I desire to have the strength to work in his service with more ardour and to be with another Brother. That is what I want, for the Brothers are better off with other Brothers.
For about 6 years now I have had a growth in the left nostril which makes breathing difficult. According to the medical books I have consulted it is usually people of a melancholy temperament who are affected by these maladies. They offer as remedy to keep in good spirits, to seek out people who make us cheerful or go out in a vehicle, etc. I didn’t become a religious to lead a comfortable life, but if it is God’s will that this should be so, let him be blessed.
I usually make my meditation on conformity to the will of God, on the evangelical counsels, and on death.
It is a long time since I received news of dear Br Marie-Nizier. Br Lucien, who is on Savai, as well as Br Jacques, are keeping well, according to reports we have received on Upolu.
The faith is not making rapid progress in Samoa, but at least heresy is starting to be unsettled. The ministers are getting worried. Many have run away[1] but not before spreading their infection. It must be hoped that the good God will take pity on those people, for they are certainly deserving of compassion. They are still plunged in ignorance, especially about the truths of Christianity.
Please do not forget me before the good God, and have prayers said for me and for these poor people.
I am with profound respect and sincere attachment, my very Reverend Brother Superior,
Your very humble, obedient, and unworthy son,
Br Charise.


  1. There had been a dispute between the London Missionary Society and the Methodists about who should be running the Protestant missions in Samoa. In 1857 an agreement was reached between the two giving the Methodists control. It was the departure of the LMS missionaries that Charise is doubtless referring to.

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