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When Colin heard that the Delphine had left, he could look back on an eventful year. The Society of Mary for which he had worked twenty years had been approved. He himself was elected its superior general, and the mission in the South-West Pacific that was so intricately bound up with the approval of the Society, was launched.

In a way he had been fortunate. Pompallier, fully supported by Archbishop de Pins and his vicar general, Cholleton, had gathered a splendid group of young men for the pioneer group. Colin`s own contribution was to involve the Marist Brothers of Marcellin Champagnat in the project. Colin had been able to get the support of Mgr. Devie in Belley to release Peter Chanel and Claude Bret.

The archdiocese had gained adequate financial support from the lay association for the Propagation of the Faith in Lyon and from Propaganda in Rome. With the men of his team Pompallier had himself taken care of the thousand and one details, the purchases, the dispatching of the goods, the travelling arrangements, the laying of contacts etc. There had been no reason for Colin to get involved in all the practicalities. He had wisely let everyone do his own thing. It had left him free to concentrate on what he considered by far the most important thing: the spiritual preparation of the men.

He had evidently succeeded in arousing in them a holy enthusiasm, built, not on a spirit of adventure, but on total commitment and radical self-denial. They were a cheerful group of eight men, ready for anything that might come their way. Ready to die on the ocean, as one of them soon would; ready to die as martyrs, as another one would within a few years. None of the priests and only two of the Brothers had done a regular novitiate, one of the priests had come into contact with the Society only a few months before his profession. But the spiritual influence of Colin and Champagnat had been of such quality and so intensive as to mould them into the nearest thing to an ideal missionary team.

Pompallier too was determined to be as much a religious and a Marist as he felt his ecclesiastical status permitted. He had done his best to step over his feelings towards Colin, and was sincerely committed to be a good religious superior as well as a good bishop and to accept the guidance of the superior general in matters concerning the religious life of his men. He had appointed Colin to be his provicar in France and donated his personal income to the Society.

Colin had not had any say in the choice of the head of the mission. From the beginning he had his misgivings. But, from the moment he found out - and by then the selection was to all practical purposes irreversible - Colin stepped over his feelings and did everything possible to back him. In fact, he did more. Disregarding Roman directives, going in fact against canon law, he appointed, probably with the agreement of the missionaries, the Vicar Apostolic to be the Marist superior as well. In the eyes of one historian: ‘What had been calculated …. to help avoid an explosive situation was in reality destined to bring it about’.[1] History will show whether it had been a wise decision.

An old Polynesian proverb says that the seaworthiness of a canoe shows only when it reaches the open ocean.
Jean-Claude Colin SM, Founder and first Superior General


  1. Wiltgen, op. cit., p. 131.

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