From Ph. Duchesne to M.S. Barat in Paris
Tribe and village of the Potawatomi
[21 July 1841]
Confided to St. Anthony of Padua
Dear and venerated Mother,
At last we are in the land where we have so longed to be. We left Saint Louis with the Father Provincial [Verhaegen], who replaces Mgr Rosati in all that is not particular to a bishop, and two other Fathers. At first we travelled by water, leaving on the beautiful feast of St Peter, after having received the visit and blessing of the bishop of Natchez who will have even more problems than we shall. Here they only occur when you are too preoccupied with tomorrow.
The tribe which, like many others, was chased out of Michigan by the Americans, is half Catholic, having a separate village from the pagans who are being converted little by little. Once they are baptised, they no longer revert to drunkenness or stealing. Anything found is put at the church door so that its owner may claim it.
No house is locked and nothing is ever missing. They assemble in groups in the morning for prayer, Mass and instruction. In the evening they again go to prayer. They eat seven times a day. For the present the parish priest does not think it a good idea for the children to learn another language, he fears it might corrupt them. We shall have to see about that later. Above all he insists on manual work for men and women sleep for part of the day. They crowd into our house, which is that of a native, in silence. …
Our luggage has not arrived, so I have to use thick paper. I was ill with a weakness in the head that I have never experienced before. That is my excuse for the letter of which the contents are true, but you will get some exaggerations.
From M.S. Barat to Ph. Duchesne at Sugar Creek
SS.C.J. et M.
Paris 23 August 1841
I have received your letter with such consolation, dear Mother and old daughter, [un]dated and franked from the Potawatomi village. At last you have reached the native shores, so long the object of your ardent desires. May Jesus preserve you and furnish you with the opportunities to do good. We are sending you a few things by those who are leaving, with a little money, for our means are exhausted. … I should be happy to change places with you. Pray for the donors. The things you will receive come from a poor netmaker and his sister, a dressmaker. Each gave one piastre, the fruit of their labors. … Get the native children to pray for us all.
I am sorry your house is only a hut. Jesus will help you. It seems to me you went too soon, next year would have sufficed, but our good Master has allowed it for the best. Have confidence. …
Receive the assurance of the tender and unchanging attachment with which it is sweet for me to say, dear Mother and daughter,
Your devoted Mother
Barat, superior general.
From Ph. Duchesne to M.S. Barat
SS. C. J. M.
Sugar Creek, Potawatomi
22 September 1841
Very Reverend Mother,
Good is being done here so slowly and only as the carefree moods of the natives allow. Nevertheless, the children are good and generally intelligent. They are able to learn easily but are not very interested in it, and one must be careful not to reproach them but attract them with friendliness. Several chiefs of the small neighboring tribes send their daughters, but how are we to provide for them? It would be very difficult without the fine cows of the missionaries, whose milk is almost sufficient food for us. I attribute the renewal of my strength to it for I go twice every day to the church without any help. All the sisters are better too. Sr O’Connor no longer has migraines and Sr Louise seems to be indefatigable and has a good appetite, lard has become like chicken for her. Three people are enough for the work and I am afraid that the children, already reduced, may only be a small number at the time of the cold when the roads are bad.
Deign to bless me, Reverend Mother, and believe me to be
Your devoted servant
P. Duchesne rel. du S. C.