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When the missionaries were on the point of departure, somebody in Lyon suggested to follow the example of the Foreign Missionaries of Paris. Recalling the words of the Prophet: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, those who stayed behind would kiss the feet of those leaving.[1] Most Marists considered that too dramatic. Not our style! Colin heard about it later and agreed: keep it simple and fraternal![2]

On 8 August 1838 Fr. Jean-Baptiste Chanut took the coach to Bordeaux to take up his appointment in Verdelais, Maxime Petit and Jean-Baptiste Épalle travelled with him. They arrived on Saturday the 11th and were received by Father Cambis at the major seminary. On Monday Cambis accompanied them on the steamer to Garonelle, a landing place on the Garonne from where pilgrims used to walk up to Verdelais.[3] They stayed with the parish priest.[4] Petit and Epalle returned to Bordeaux to meet Baty.

Baty wrote Colin an emotional letter of farewell and left Lyon with the three Brothers on Sunday 26 August. They arrived in Bordeaux on Wednesday[5] and had a look at their ship, the Basque, and at the accommodation on board. Loading was nearly finished and the ship was on the point of moving to Pouillac, near the mouth of the Gironde. The missionaries received a lot of help from the Mother Superior of the Marie Thérèse Sisters and from a fine Catholic layman, Mr. Fresquet, who ran a business in the port.

As Archbishop Donnet planned to go to Verdelais for the installation of Fr. Chanut on Sunday 2 September, Baty and Épalle went there as well. Petit and the three Brothers remained in Bordeaux. There were plenty of bright ideas on what last minute purchases could be useful, but Baty as superior and Petit as bursar held the purse-strings. Perhaps because of that there was a bit of friction between the priests and the Brothers. They had never lived together in one community before.

Shortly after Baty left, Colin received Pompallier’s letter from Sydney that put an end to all the uncertainty.[6] He rushed the letter (or a rapidly made copy) to Bordeaux. It just caught the men after they had boarded already. Thus, only on the point of leaving they found out where they had to go! They now knew that Bataillon and Luzy were on Wallis, Chanel and Delorme on Futuna. They also knew that Pompallier, Servant and Colomb had reached Sydney and would by then most probably be in New Zealand. The new missionaries also understood that London – Sydney was definitely the only route for the future, but obviously the present arrangements could not be changed. Baty was grateful:

We received the letter of Mgr. Pompallier that you have been so kind to forward to us. It has given us great pleasure. We have blessed God for the protection he has given to our confreres, we are all anxious to join them and share their labours…[7]

Money matters

On 20 July Colin could tell Fransoni that the Propagation of the Faith had given 33.000 francs over the financial year 1837 and 30.000 for the year 1838. A total allocation of 63.000 francs. This was to cover both the travelling expenses for the second group and the allowance for Bishop Pompallier and his men.[8]

Perhaps recalling the lost 8.700 francs, the directors of the Propagation proposed to give the missionaries 50.000 francs in hand and to keep 13.000 back as reserve. Colin approved.[9]

When the missionaries were about to leave, the Propagation of the Faith handed the fifty thousand francs to Pierre Colin, who as superior of Puylata, acted as general bursar. Pierre Colin deposited the money in a bank and got the bank to write out a personal cheque for that amount on the name of the bursar of the group, Maxime Petit. Baty carried the cheque when he left for Bordeaux[10] and passed it to Petit. Four days before their departure not all bills had come in yet, but Petit reported that they had spent 21.700 francs and reckoned that by the time they would reach Valparaiso, their funds would be down to 43.000 francs.[11]

Handling the large cheque proved not as easy as they had thought. By some sort of misunderstanding the cheque stipulated that it could be cashed only in Paris. The bank in Bordeaux wanted to charge Petit 5% on the 50.000 francs for the days it would take to forward the cheque to Paris and get the endorsement back. Petit decided to take only part of the money in cash and leave the rest with Fresquet who would deposit it in a bank. The ship’s owner and the captain gave Petit a cheque for the same amount, to be paid out in Valparaiso. They would then charge 5% for the time it would take to send the cheque back to Bordeaux and have it refunded by Fresquet. At first sight this might look a serious loss, but as Maxime pointed out to Pierre Colin, for the same number of days the same money was gaining an interest in Bordeaux and with a bit of luck one could even make a profit![12]

Catholic theology of the time considered lending for interest immoral and the professors at the seminary where the missionaries lodged, were horrified.[13] They saw Maxime Petit heading for eternal damnation. For a businessman like Fresquet it was the most natural thing to do. The rector of the seminary, Cambis, sided with his staff, but granted that Petit could have a special grace of state[14], allowing him to make a responsible decision! Petit suggested to Pierre Colin that if the superior general disapproved of his solution, one could ask Fresquet to take up the deposit. Because of all the fuss Petit missed the party in Verdelais, but when he finally got there, Baty and Épalle put his mind to rest and approved of what he had done.

On Monday 11 September 1838, at eight o’clock in the morning, the Basque sailed out of the Gironde into the Golfe de Gascogne, heading for Valparaiso. The six Marist missionaries joined about forty passengers, men, women and children. Many of them were practising Catholics, happy to have priests on board, and to attend Sunday Mass whenever the weather permitted. One was the Marquis de Larrea, the Ecuadorian ambassador to the Holy See, to Rome and to France, a widower with two children.


  1. Jesajah, 52, 7.
  2. CS1, p. 80, from Mayet, MM. I, 234f. Plus simple, plus fraternel!
  3. Information from Fr. H. van de Wielen, sm, for many years the parish priest of Verdelais.
  4. CS, doc. 46.
  5. CS, doc. 47.
  6. How could a letter sent from Sydney in December arrive only in September? Did Pompallier entrust it to a whaler or to a French ship going via Valparaiso, instead of using the ordinary mail via London? He occasionally did so even later from New Zealand, cf. the complaint of Colin, 22.04.40, CS, doc. 154 & LRO, doc. 84, [1].
  7. Baty to Colin, from Pouillac, 07.09.38. APM, 1404/20033.
  8. CS, doc. 42 [1].
  9. CS, doc. 43.
  10. Pierre Colin to Petit, 18.08. CS 1, p. 80f.
  11. It means they had received more and large gifts on top of the 50.000 from the Propagation of the Faith.
  12. Petit to Pierre Colin, 08.09.1838 (postmark), APM, 1404/20033.
  13. Cf. Exodus 22, 25.
  14. A theological nicety, assuming one gets special graces and enlightenment for the work one has to do.

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