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The letters sent from Santa Cruz, Valparaiso, Tahiti and Sydney together make up an impressive testimony of how faithfully the missionaries responded to Colin’s request to write to him frequently and to let him know everything. The near absence of letters in the other direction is sad. It was not Colin alone. Nobody thought of translating the early enthusiasm for the missions into writing a simple letter. They could have been sent on good luck via any of the different ways that had been suggested. Colin’s recommendation to have all letters pass through his hands, possibly had the unintended effect that nobody else took an initiative.

Before their departure Colin’s main concern had been the spiritual preparation of the missionaries. As to the practicalities, he had good reasons not to get involved. But the same Pompallier had also made it very clear, if only by appointing Colin his pro-vicar in France, that he wanted Colin to take an active role from then on, in supporting him and his missionaries. When, in late March or early April 1837, Colin got the letter from Santa Cruz, he took up contact with the Propagation of the Faith and obtained an advance of 8.700 francs. By then there was little he could do than send it to Valparaiso. When he got the mail from Valparaiso he sent a parcel of mail. At that point it was all he could do.

Whatever misgivings Jean-Claude Colin had had about Pompallier as the leader of the mission, the man had proved to be an undaunted pioneer. He never gave up. He was adaptable, could drop earlier plans and improvise. His docility to the Roman perspective that made him take the western route, disregarding the advice of Pastre, and without fully researching the best way to get to his mission field, made the opening of the Marist missions in the Pacific needlessly difficult, dangerous and expensive.

The constant changes at least illustrate the extreme difficulty of Pompallier’s undertaking, compounded by the wrong start.
  • When leaving France, the plan was: Valparaiso - Gambier - New Zealand.
  • In Valparaiso it became: Gambier - Hawaii - Micronesia.
  • In the Gambier Islands he changed to: Tahiti - Hawaii - Micronesia.
  • In Tahiti he changed to: Micronesia (direct) – Sydney – New Zealand
  • On the way it became: Tahiti - Tonga - Wallis - Futuna - Sydney - New Zealand.

It turned out as Rouchouze foretold him: whatever plan you make now, in the end you will get somewhere else. And as Pompallier admitted himself: we went the longest possible way, le chemin de l`école.

But he pushed on regardless. With barely a penny in his pocket, he went ahead with just one priest and one Brother and continued the planning for a procure in Sydney. Cholleton’s choice of the leader had not been so bad after all.

It looks as if Pompallier had feared all the time that Colin would not be a good hands-on manager. He betrays these feelings by the tone of his letters and the repetitive detailed instructions. Perhaps Cholleton had similar misgivings when he bypassed Colin at the crucial decisions of the beginning. The first year Colin had little opportunity to prove the contrary.

At first Colin did not catch the seriousness of Pompallier’s financial situation. He took no action until he got the letter from Santa Cruz. Then he did not contact the Picpus administration to find out if there was not a way to get the money in time to Valparaiso (there would have been a little chance)[1]. As it turned out, it was too late to reach the missionaries there.

While the missionaries now faced the challenge of first contact with people of alien cultures and in strange countries, the Society and its superior had to invent ways of supporting them on the other side of the world.


  1. Mail from 8 May had reached Valparaiso on 8 August, cf. above, p. 55.

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