Father Colin to Father Champagnat. Belley. 11 April 1836.
(CSG 1. 201-203)
Jean-Claude Colin (1790-1875) was one of the little group of priests and seminarians who vowed themselves to the project of establishing a Society of Mary at the shrine of Our Lady of Fourvieres, Lyon, on 23 July 1816, and subsequently founder and Superior of the Marist Fathers. From as early as 1822 he was the prime mover in attempts to gain Rome's approval for the project but it was not until 1836 that Rome gave its approbation, and then only to the branch of the priests as a result of their accepting the mission of Western Oceania, or Polynesia as it was loosely termed. Colin, who had been Rector of the Minor Seminary at Belley since 1829 and central superior of the Marist aspirants since 1830 was elected Superior General in September 1836. Marcellin Champagnat (1789-1840) and Etienne Terraillon (1791-1869) were also members of the original group. Champagnat, who played a key role in helping establish the Society, had founded his branch of teaching brothers in 1817, but they had to wait until 1852 for approval from Rome. At this stage he was working on the revised Rule for his brothers which was to be published the following year. At the same time he was making efforts to secure government recognition for his group. But he did not do this through Fr Depery, the Bishop of Belley's secretary, as Colin suggested, preferring to go to Paris himself. As for the brothers destined for the missions, Pompallier, the Marist delegate in Rome, had already asked him to nominate 3 or 4 brothers from whom they could choose 2 for the first missionary group (Pompallier to Champagnat 17 February 1836. CSG 1. 199-201).
Text of the Letter
- Very dear confrere,
- I am very sorry for not having passed on to you sooner the good news we have received from Rome. On March llth, the priests' branch of the Society was approved by the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, and the same day, His Holiness approved the decree of the Sacred Congregation and instructed that an Apostolic Brief be issued. I have been notified of this by six letters from Rome, two of them from Cardinals Castracane and Sala. I have been so busy that I couldn't give you this happy news sooner. Please see you have prayers of thanksgiving said, and pass on the news to Fr Terraillon. I continue to think highly of him. Take good care in choosing the brothers you are going to give us for Oceania. They must be good religious, grounded in virtue, reasonably well instructed in their faith as well as able to turn their hand to a variety of lesser occupations. I think the departure will take place sooner than we think. So have them ready.
- I am very pleased you are occupied in composing your rule. It gives me real pleasure to hear it. But I am sorry you did not take advantage of Fr Depery's stay in Paris to try and obtain the authorisation for your brothers. It seemed to me a good opportunity.
- We have registered the Masses you agreed to procure for us for a sum of 800 francs. Receive my very sincere thanks. Our missioners have not returned to base yet. The other fathers as well as the brothers here send you their warmest affection and respect. I am thinking of going to Lyon at the beginning of May. I would be pleased to see you there. I haven't the time to check this letter. Goodbye, I embrace you with all my heart and am, in the warmest bonds of friendship,
- Your very humble and obedient servant,
- Colin, superior.
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