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Also in France: financial support

The young Society of Mary did not have the means to finance the missions entrusted to it. Archbishop de Pins had from the beginning involved the Propagation of the Faith, founded and well established in the archdiocese. It gave the Marist missions impressive support: in the four years 1836, 1837, 1838 and 1839 they donated respectively 25.000, 33.200, 52.181 and 78.000 francs, whereby, in today’s money, we must think of amounts in the order of 250.000, 332.000, 521.810 and 780.000 Euro.[1]

The 78.000 for 1839 were made up of 40.000 handed to the third group of missionaries, Petitjean and companions, that left in May. A sum of 20.000 for the schooner Pompallier was allowed to buy and the refund to Captain Bernard for the loan he had given to the bishop in March 1838.[2] The difference may lie in the fact that the amount for 1838 had been in part an advance on 1839, or in money set aside for another group of missionaries expected to leave towards the end of 1839.

Such sums can only have been brought together by regular contributions of many thousands of generous people, probably reading the Annales de la Propagation de la Foi. The association, organized by Marie-Pauline Jaricot in groups of ten, hundred and thousand members, committed themselves to contribute one sou, i.e. five centimes, a week. The missionaries were very conscious of where their money came from. One spoke of the ‘sacred coins’, deniers sacrés of the Propagation of the Faith.[3] The missionaries themselves were well known to the clergy of Lyon and Belley. They had studied together and had been their colleagues in the ministry. The clergy will have given full support to the fund raising.

And the cream of the nation

Given the image that the Society of Mary was quickly acquiring in France, and the massive support of the laity, it is no wonder that she attracted men of great quality. In the year after the founding chapter of September 1836 no less than sixteen diocesan priests entered the novitiate. By September 1839[4] twenty-seven new Marists had joined the Society, among whom were (Saint) Julien Eymard who would later found the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, two future bishops (Épalle and Viard), one future superior general (Favre), men like Poupinel and Rocher who would soon put the administration of the missions on a solid base and several others who will for ever be venerated as founders of Churches,[5] such as Petitjean in Christchurch[6] and Chevron in Tonga.[7] In assigning the missionaries Colin could maintain the high standards of generosity and commitment that he considered essential.

The Marist Brothers too attracted many candidates. During 1839 seventy-one postulants took the religious habit and twenty novices made their first vows. The Brothers took on six more schools, bringing the total to fifty-two. It was the year that Marcellin Champagnat formally resigned as superior general and Brother François was elected to take his place as directeur général.[8]

Also in France: a frustrated superior

When, in October 1838, Colin had received Pompallier’s letter of 14 May and the letters that Servant had sent to his two friends,[9] he had simply passed them to the Propagation of the Faith. They were published – nearly in full - in January 1839. [10] Once Colin saw them in print, and possibly because of reactions he picked up from Marists or other readers, he made up his mind not to let that happen again.

A few months later, in April, he received the letters sent in September 1838,[11] and at about the same time those from the missionaries of the second group in Valparaiso.[12] This time he did not send them as such to the Propagation of the Faith but asked his trusted friend Gabriel-Claude Mayet to edit them for publication. It was probably when instructing him on what to take out and what to leave, that Colin showed his irritation, and Mayet noted down his remarks.[13]

With all respect for the bishop’s zeal and hard work Colin could only feel distaste at Pompallier’s impatience and his constant moaning about more men and more money. ‘You must know how to put up with things’, he said. ‘Did Francis Xavier have that much money? Was he also not a long time alone? Planting the faith in a country takes suffering. Isn’t that one of the first things in the apostolic life? In four years, if I am not mistaken, Francis Xavier asked eighteen times for more men, and only four times he got reinforcements from Europe’.

Another thing Colin missed was piety! ‘Where is Our Lady in all of this? The Picpus Fathers put a statue of Our Lady in the pagan temple’, he said, and ‘when we took possession of Puylata we went on our knees and put an image of Our Lady in every room. Mais eux rien! Nothing of that with them! The history of our mission must be edifying!’[14]

What also irritated him was that Servant constantly called Pompallier His Grace (Sa Grandeur) and used phrases such as: ‘I had the honour to accompany His Grace’. Inappropriate for a simple missionary bishop in New Zealand! He grumbled at Pompallier’s description of the new house at Papakawau: ‘the whole episcopal palace!’ And he found the bishop’s remark that for those missions one needed great virtue and scholarship pretentious. He even thought of inserting bits and pieces of his own into the letter, such as: ‘as long as a missionary has his head on his two shoulders, he knows no fear’.

In short, what he wanted to see in the letters was ‘modesty, simplicity, devotion to Our Lady and a manly nerve that rallies the readers with the courage of lions!’ In the end he had Mayet cut out the offending bits but he refrained from entering phrases of his own. In any case, the Annales did not publish the censored version! We do not know why and the amended text has not survived.[15] Only a year later the Annales published again something of the Marist missions: Baty’s letter from Tahiti. It was published without substantial changes.[16]

Colin’s annoyance is understandable but a bit unfair on Servant who, with Brother Michel Colombon, suffered most under Pompallier’s bad temper. Of course, Colin did not know then that Pompallier insisted on reading all of Servant’s letters. Nor did he realize that Pompallier expected the pompous language to the point that he told off his hosts in Valparaiso for failing to comply. Also, his anger gets the better of him when he does not see that the remark on the ‘episcopal palace’ was ironically meant. In the end his magnanimity carries the day. He praises Pompallier as a ‘man of vision, of a truly evangelical vision; he takes long strides, towards his goal, sees nothing but his goal, and even if he makes a wrong step or two, he achieves what he set out to do’.[17]


  1. In my estimate of comparative values, cf. Excursus B, above, p. 100.
  2. For the loan from Captain Bernard, cf. below, p. 113.
  3. Cf. Wiltgen, op. cit. p. 24. Petitjean to Colin from Boulogne, 25.05.1838, APM, 1405/20043.
  4. Cf. CS I, pp. 652ff
  5. Although coined much later, the expression ‘founding new churches’ applied to religious, is so appropriate here that we allow ourselves the anachronism. Cf. the Directives for the mutual relations between Bishops and Religious in the Church, of 14 May 1978, AAS, LXX, 1978, p. 478: sollicitudo in novis fundandis ecclesiis.
  6. Mary Catherine Goulter, Sons of France, pp. 35ff.
  7. Jean Coste, Lectures on Society of Mary History, p. 242
  8. LC, p. 459ff.
  9. LRO, doc. 24. Servant to Buffard, 22.05.38 & to Thiollière du Treuil, 22.05.38, LRO, docs 26 & 27.
  10. Annales, LXII, January 1839, pp. 140 – 157. On 1 December he wrote to Pompallier, and 2 December the novices at Puylata also wrote. Both letters are lost. Cf. Pompallier to Colin, 20.08.39, LRO, doc. 35 [1].
  11. Pompallier to Colin, 04.09.38 & 14.09.38, LRO, docs 29 & 30, and Servant to Colin , 16.09.38, LRO, doc. 31. That these letters arrived in April is clear from Colin to Fransoni, 26.04.39, CS, doc. 63.
  12. 25.01.39. Cf. above, p. 103f.
  13. MM I, pp. 186 – 189, printed in full in CS, doc.64.
  14. This is not mentioned in Pompallier’s account of the visit to the Gambier Islands. The nearest he gets to it is that a pagan temple was turned into a rural chapel (LRO, doc. 21 [4]). Did Colin’s imagination supply the statue? Or is this another trace of Caret’s visit (cf. above p. 69)? As he was on his way from Rome when they met, he may have carried the statue of Our Lady that Pope Gregory XVI had donated for the Gambier Islands. Cf. Annales, January 1840, LXVIII, p. 89.
  15. Colinian language: une mâle intrépidité proper à aguerrir les lecteurs et à les remplir d’un courage de lions.
  16. Annales January 1840, LXVIII, p. 86ff. The letter is dated 15 April 1839. It reached Lyon in early December, cf. CS, doc. 114 [6].
  17. CS, doc. 64 [6].

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