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Group three leaving

With departure imminent there was a little panic when the Propagation of the Faith had not yet given any money. On 17 May Colin wrote an urgent letter to Meynis, asking for twenty-five or thirty thousand francs as an advance on the coming financial year.[1] When exactly the money came is not clear. It may have been after the first two left.[2] Before Colin returned to Belley he wrote a gracious letter to the directors and thanked them for their generous support and specifically for their promise to pay for a schooner. The need for a vessel of their own was nicely illustrated by the news Colin just received, that the second group of missionaries had left Valparaiso on the ship of Bishop Rouchouze.[3]

On the Sunday of Pentecost, 19 May, Philippe Viard, Jean-Baptiste Comte and Jean-Baptiste Petitjean made their profession in the hands of the superior general, Jean-Claude Colin, assisted by Claude Girard, their novice master, and Pierre Colin, the superior of the house. Jospeh-André Chevron who had only just joined, was to do his novitiate on the ship under the direction of Philippe Viard.[4] Four men, as Colin wrote to Fransoni, full of zeal and courage, of proven virtue, sound doctrine and adequate learning.[5]

Again Colin was vividly aware of the sacrifice his missionaries were making and how much it cost them. On Wednesday after Pentecost he wrote to Lagniet in Belley that Petitjean and Viard had left and that the other ones would go in a day or two. For three of them leaving must have been particularly painful: ‘The missionaries over whom the Holy Spirit has come down on Pentecost are leaving. The Blessed Virgin has taken three of them by their hair and forced them to leave’.[6]

Only of Chevron there is a record of saying good-bye to his family. He later described it as the most difficult time of his life. He had asked the parish priest of his home parish to prepare his mother, but when he came to say good-bye she held on to him and did not want to let go without his promise to come back and see her again. He agreed he would, turned off and added: ‘in heaven’.[7] He appreciated the special trust Colin had in him by sending him to Oceania without further formation, but Colin was a good judge of men. Chevron became an outstanding missionary.[8] At the end of July the superior general wrote a fine and warm letter to Chevron’s mother:‘I would fail in my duty if I did not share your pain, but even more if I did not admire you for having given one of your children to God to be the apostle of those disadvantaged islands’[9] It is the only letter of its kind found back.

Group two: half-way to New Zealand, the other way around

Having left France on 11 September 1838, the second group of missionaries had an easy voyage. When, after three months, on 12 December, they reached Valparaiso, it looked as if they too would get stuck there, like their bishop a year and a half before. Fortunately, a few days after their arrival, Father Maigret who had been stranded at Pohnpei until 28 July[10] also arrived on the schooner Honolulu that he had bought in Hawaii.[11] He offered to take the Marists to Mangareva, where Bishop Rouchouze wanted the ship for an exploratory trip to the Marquesas Islands. It was foreseen that he would need it for a month. The Marists could stay on Mangareva to learn English and Polynesian.[12] After the return of Bishop Rouchouze the ship would take them via Tahiti to New Zealand, calling at Wallis and Futuna if the winds permitted. Épalle was not much in favour - a waste of time - but he finally agreed because of the opportunity to learn languages. It shows that the superior of the group, Baty, made decisions in consultation with his men.

A thing the missionaries now learned the hard way was to care for the mission goods they brought along. Cases and boxes were not waterproof, clothes had not been packed properly. One cassock had four big holes in it through moisture and mildew. Quite a few things had to be thrown away already. The cases and boxes were not properly labelled and numbered, and there was no list of what each of them contained. Just what was needed to whet the appetite of suspicious customs officers. As a consequence things that should have passed as mission goods, were classed merchandise for which duty had to be paid. Pompallier had warned them about this[13] but evidently nobody had taken notice. Thanks to the Picpus Fathers they got off lightly, paying no more than 24 piastres, whereby Baty remarked that in Sydney things would probably have been a lot stricter.[14] When their goods had to be loaded on the Honolulu, and pass through customs again, the Picpus Fathers were their guardian angels and a good lady was so kind as to make up a proper manifest.

Fr. Baty discovered here that the 8.700 francs that were sent from France in May 1837 had not gone lost but had eventually reached Valparaiso and had been sent on.[15] Transferring money by cheque to Valparaiso had proved easy, but as Maxime Petit found out, it was not a good idea to do it through the shipping company with which one travelled. Settling accounts with the captain for the final fare and the little extras, involves an amount of haggling and one is not in a strong position to haggle with an agent who is holding one’s money! Another lesson for Colin to pass on to the next group: make sure you carry small change and do not try to buy things with large-value coins. Traders and vendors do not want them.


  1. CS, doc. 66. Policy was to wait with disbursements till the end of the financial year.
  2. That would explain why Colin gave Petitjean 2.000 francs in hand when he left. Cf. below p. 132.
  3. CS, doc. 75.
  4. Chevron made his profession on 31.05.1840, on Futuna, in the hands of Peter Chanel, EC. op. cit. p. 489.
  5. CS, doc. 82 [6].
  6. CS, doc. 70 [2].
  7. Chevron to parish priest, 22.05.1839, APM, personal file. Cf. CS I, p. 124, n.1.
  8. Chevron to Colin 23.11.1839 from Sydney: je sens tout le prix de la faveur que vous m’avez faite en m’admettant si facilement au nombre de vos missionnaires.
  9. 30.07.1839. CS, doc. 84 [1].
  10. On 10 November the Honolulu had called at Mangareva. Cf. Jore, II, p. 117.
  11. Cf. above, p. 71.
  12. The Polynesian dialects of the Eastern Pacific were known to be closely related to Maori.
  13. LRO, doc. 17 [8]. That letter written from Valparaiso had reached Lyon in November 1837, months before the second group was appointed. Were the instructions passed to them?
  14. APM, Baty to Colin, 25.01.1838. From Pompallier`s letter of 23.12.1837 he could have known that things were a good deal easier in Sydney!
  15. This is as much as Baty could tell Colin at that stage. Baty to Colin, 12.01.1839.

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