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Money matters

On 13 January 1838 Colin wrote to Mr. Meynis, the secretary of the Propagation of the Faith in Lyon, asking for a generous allocation. He was preparing to send four priests and two catechists in the course of the year. In fact they will leave, quoting Cardinal Fransoni, ‘as quickly as possible’.[1]

Colin argued that he not only had to cover the costs of travelling, but that the best way of getting money to Mgr. Pompallier was to entrust it to the missionaries. Meynis had read Pompallier’s letter from Valparaiso and knew, not only that Pompallier was running out of funds, but also that the 8.700 francs that were sent in May to Valparaiso, had not been there at the Bishop’s arrival. ‘You know, Colin could write, what financial state he is in at present’. He urges that it would be a great advantage if the Propagation could make an advance on next year’s allocation, ‘because you know the problem of transferring money, once the missionaries have left’.[2]

When, at the end of May 1838, Colin received Pompallier’s letter of October 1837 from Tahiti, he forwarded it to Mr. Meynis to support his application. On 8 June he wrote again. The Propagation would have preferred waiting with the subsidy until the end of the financial year, but Colin urged that without the advance on the allowance for 1838 it would be difficult to get the missionaries to New Zealand.[3]

Where to go, and how?

By the time Colin had his second team appointed, in March 1838, four months had passed since he got the letters sent from Valparaiso and he still knew no more than that Pompallier had redirected his planning towards Micronesia. Valparaiso was now off the list as a place for the procure, and the bishop advised against sending missionaries round Cape Horn. He had said the next group of missionaries could best travel via the Caribbean Sea[4] and Mexico to Hawaii, where he was thinking of setting up the procure, although he also mentioned the possibility of a procure in California or Mexico.[5]

Fr. Caret returned from Rome during Lent and met with Fr. Colin.[6] At that moment Caret was probably already booked to leave from Bordeaux in May and Colin asked him to arrange for the Marists to travel with him as far as Valparaiso. Not unlikely Caret convinced Colin that, as nobody knew for sure where Pompallier and his missionaries had gone to, Valparaiso was as good a place to find out as any. Unfortunately, the ship on which he was to travel turned out to be fully booked. Caret sailed from Bordeaux on the Zélima on 31 May 1838 with four priests and twelve Sisters of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts.[7]

Colin then got Archbishop de Pins to approach the minister of the navy and the colonies, Claude du Campe de Rosamel, to whom he had recently forwarded a letter from Pompallier. As Pompallier had suggested, the Archbishop asked for passage on a government vessel to Polynesia or at least to Valparaiso.[8] Even after a follow-up letter the ministry did not answer and nothing came of it.

On 19 May Colin wrote to Cardinal Fransoni to explain why no action had as yet been taken on the Cardinal’s urgent request to get the missionaries on the way. The second group had been appointed: three priests and three Brothers (catechists), and were standing by, but the hope to receive more recent news about Bishop Pompallier’s whereabouts had made him put off the departure. However, Colin added, he had come to the conclusion that it did not make sense to wait much longer, and he had decided to send them as quickly as possible to Valparaiso, in the hope that they could find out more there. A first attempt, namely to have them travel with Fr. Caret has failed, Colin wrote, but he was now looking for another opportunity.

Given the long time since news had come from Pompallier, one could not exclude the possibility that he had perished at sea. Colin mentioned this in as many words to the Cardinal and asked for the broadest possible faculties to allow the missionaries to cope with any eventuality. He proposed that Claude-André Baty be appointed apostolic vicar or pro-vicar in case anything untoward had happened, en cas d’événement.[9] Rome granted all requests.[10]

Shortly after writing to Fransoni, Colin received Pompallier’s letter from Tahiti.[11] As far as there at least, nothing had gone wrong. The Bishop’s enthusiastic descriptions of the newly converted Gambier Islands were a source of joy. But as to further information the letter was a disappointment. If anything it added to the confusion. Colin now learned that, while in Tahiti, Pompallier had also given up hope of doing anything in Hawaii. He was now (i.e., eight months earlier!) looking again at Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and even New Zealand, without, as yet, losing sight of Micronesia. On the other hand, instead of Honolulu, Sydney was again in the picture as a possible base. In fact, the letter left it all very open. Pompallier now preferred the eastern route, around the Cape of Good Hope and Australia, without excluding the western one around Cape Horn. He heaped praise on Moerenhout in Tahiti and his readiness to help the missionaries who might still come his way.[12]


  1. CS, doc. 27.
  2. Cf. above, p. 55.
  3. CS, doc. 37.
  4. He speaks of the la Mer des Antilles.
  5. LRO, doc. 15 [5 & 6], doc. 17 [4] & doc. 18 [4].
  6. Cf. above, pp. 69.
  7. Jore I, op. cit. p. 343. CS, doc. 35. Information thanks to Jean Louis Schuester, SSCC Archives, Rome.
  8. LRO, doc. 20 [5] ; CS 1, p. 63, n. 4 ; doc. 37.
  9. CS, doc. 35 [3 & 4].
  10. On 26 June. Cf. CS 1, p. 64. CS, doc. 54 [5].
  11. LRO, doc. 21. Dated 2 October 1837, it reached Colin after he wrote to Fransoni but before the letter to Meynis of 8 June 1838. CS, doc. 37 [1]. Eight months!
  12. LRO, doc. 21 [11 – 15].

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