Waldensian Review No 126 Summer 2015 - Page 12

in San Remo, Oneglia and Pietrabruna. However, things at the school began to become problematic at this stage, and this began to affect the church as well. The problems seem to have arisen because Benemann was a foreigner, and some people would not take communion from him because he was not a Waldensian Minister. Pons’ ill-health forced him to return to the valleys and a teacher named Martin Astegiani took his place. The latter was an ex-Waldensian and a member of the Plimuttista Movement (possibly the Plymouth Brethren) and later wanted to take over the leading of the church as well. Mrs Boyce did not like the idea of this at all. Not long after his arrival, the Prefect of the area, under pressure from the Bishop of Ventimiglia, ordered the school to be closed because Astegiani had no teaching qualifications and official permission to run the school could not be given to Benemann as he was a foreigner. While Astegiani was away in Pinerolo taking exams, the Tavola Valdese sent Paolo Charbonnier to keep the school going. Astegiani returned and looked after the school while Benemann was away in Prussia. In Benemann’s absence, Astegiani managed to turn some of the congregation against their minister, and on his return in March 1869 Astegiani left to form a group at Borghetto di Bordighera, taking six or seven people with him – which was a disaster for a little congregation totalling about 20 people. Louisa obviously suffered because of the situation in Bordighera. She wrote to Revel of ‘a great deal of trouble and anxiety at present ... the matter which I have so much at heart that I could not rest satisfied without myself writing a few lines on the subject ... in confidence as to a friend ... that every day that he remains with us is doing an injury to the school and the work in general’. She then mentioned the ‘opposition school close by’ which had been established by the Jesuits in 1868, hence the urgency for a good replacement for Astegiani. In the same letter she continued: ‘The work here is still in its infancy and requiring great care and watchfulness. These are enemies eagerly looking out for any mistake or failure on our part’. The Jesuits had indeed opened a school in the same area, and Benemann tells Revel that the Bishop had started a war against them. The hatred instilled by the Jesuits led to several attempts to intimidate those involved in the work of the school: stones were often thrown at the window shutters. Ironically, this situation contributed to the little school developing into an orphanage, which helped immensely in the work of evangelization in the area and seems to have been something Mrs Boyce had looked forward to from the beginning. Benemann quotes Mrs Boyce in his Memoirs as having said, ‘We need to see the closure of the school as a sign to begin something that 10