Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Missionnaires Au Quotidien a Tahiti. Les Picpusiens En Polynesie Au XIX Siecle

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Missionnaires Au Quotidien a Tahiti. Les Picpusiens En Polynesie Au XIX Siecle

Article excerpt

Missionnaires au quotidien a Tahiti. Les Picpusiens en Polynnsie au XIX si4cle. By Pierre-Yves Toullelan. [Studies in Christian Mission, Volume 13.] (Leiden: E.J. Brill. 1995. Pp. xii, 342. $91.50.) This handsomely produced work is not the history of the Church in Tahiti under a different title; in fact it makes no attempt to describe the growth of the Church there. Rather it is a study of the 163 Picpusian missionaries who went to Oceania between 1834 and 1914. After a brief background about Oceania and a short history of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (popularly know as Picpusians from the street on which their mother house was built), the author uses the personal correspondence and journals of the missionaries to describe their arrival and first impressions, the structures which governed their life, the tasks which they undertook, and the effectiveness (or lack of it) of their work. The author has obviously studied the sources carefully and shares with the reader many quotations from them. He highlights a number of aspects of missionary life at this time which can easily be forgotten in an ordinary study of church history. Some examples of this would be: many of the missionaries, especially in the early years, although devout and coming from very Christian villages, were not well trained in theology and tended therefore to replicate the church life and structures they knew at home; the vicars apostolic were for the most part appointed at an early age, and since their absolute control of the vicariate was complicated by the appointment of a provincial superior, there were many and serious conflicts in which the individual missionaries often got caught; because of the distances between islands the missionaries lived a lonely and seemingly abandoned life although accusations of moral failures were greatly exaggerated; the work in the islands was deeply affected by the changes in the French government at this time and the changing fortunes of the Congregation which often determined the number and ages of the missionaries arriving in Oceania; the missionaries had a great impact on the social life of the islanders through their schools, medicines, and farming. …

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