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Fr Colin to the Fathers and Brothers of the Hermitage. Belley. 10 January* 1838

(CSG 1. 249-250)


Pompallier wrote a number of letters to Rome and Lyon while he was in Valparaiso. In an earlier letter to Colin (dated 28 July 1837) he had asked for four priests and three brothers, proposing to use two of the priests and a brother to set up a procure in California or Mexico. At this stage he was thinking of establishing his base on Ascension Island, and so considered the best route for his missionaries would be via the Carribean, Mexico, and the Sandwich Islands (rf R. Wiltgen: The Founding of the Roman Catholic Church in Oceania, 1825-1850 (1979 p 140). He left Valparaiso on the 10th of August, and, at the time Colin was writing this letter, was just landing in New Zealand.

The next group to leave actually comprised three priests and three Brothers. The correspondence of the period gives us some idea of the dilemma faced by Colin in choosing the personnel. In the case of the Brothers, for example, it appears to have caused differences between him and Champagnat. Writing to Francois from Paris in June 1838, the latter insists: "I have good reasons for selecting Br Francois-Regis as the next to go out - Br Marie-Augustin will be posted some other time" ( Sl 376 English ). Br Avit in the Annales, however, refers to a letter of Colin's dated 14 July which states "Br Regis was not suited for the missions of Oceania" ( Abbrege des Annales 349 ). Avit assumes the Br Regis referred to was Br Elie-Regis (Marin) since he goes on to say the Brother was sent out anyway with Colin's agreement. But it is just as likely that both Champagnat and Colin were referring to Br Francois-Regis (Boiton) whom the Founder intended should go to Lyon to be trained in printing, presumably for the missions ( Sl 373 Eng.) As it was, both Elie-Regis and Marie-Augustin left for Oceania and nothing further is heard of Francois Regis, who appears to have left the Society the same year (S2 233).

The Circulars date this letter the 10 February *. But we know that Champagnat who was in Paris at this time, had already received a copy from Francois on the 2nd of February, feast of the Purification (Sl 318). Although the group eventually chosen were originally expected to depart in the middle of the year, they did not in fact sail until September.

Text of the Letter

My very dear Confreres and Brothers in Jesus and Mary,
The last letter from Valparaiso, dated the beginning of August, informed us that Monsignor Pompallier and our other Confreres and Brothers were still in that town but about to set out again for their destination. We can, then, reasonably assume they are now actually among their islanders, that they tread the virgin soil they have most ardently desired - that land which Providence has designated the portion of the children of Mary. Our task, the one assigned us who do not enjoy the signal happiness of being able to share the honourable labours of our most worthy Confreres, is to go about procuring for them workers full of the spirit of God. Under the auspices of the most tender as well as the most powerful of Mothers, these workers will fly to their aid, going eagerly to help them prepare the untilled land for cultivation.
By means of his ambassador {Cardinal} Franzoni, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, who wrote to us on the 26 December last, the Pastor of Pastors, the Sovereign Pontiff, is already pressing us to send reinforcements for the apostles, and to send them as soon as possible. Consequently, my very dear Brothers, we are doing our utmost to prepare for the departure of three or four priests and two catechist Brothers. It is certainly no small consolation for me to see the zeal of many of you ardently expressing the wish to be part of the second apostolic colony. And certainly such pure and generous zeal is in our eyes not the least of the signs of Heaven's protection. The difficulty is not in finding workers but in making a choice from among them. This is going to embarrass me because, considering the number, we cannot let all those who ask go.
It is here more than anywhere else that I feel the full responsibility of my position. It is here that I need all the members of the Society united with me to pray fervently to Jesus and Mary, that they come to our help and allow me to recognise the ones thev have destined for the sublime vocation of the apostolate, for such a vocation can only come from above. That is why I am asking all the members of the Society, of whatever branch, to redouble their fervour, and to offer especially to God, for my intention, from now until the feast of the Purification:
1st: an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament;
2nd: each priest, one Mass at least, each Brother and each Sister, three communions.
3rd: everyone, three Ave Marias daily.
Each one will add to these whatever prayers his zeal inspires, such as the holy office and the Rosary. You may even invite those pious souls with whom you are associated to unite their prayers to ours for the same end.
It is with sentiments of the most tender affection that I presume to call myself, very dear Confreres and Brothers,
Your very humble and obedient servant,
Colin. Superior
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