Br Pierre-Marie (Pierre Pérénon) to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Bay of Islands, 2 Nov 1843
Clisby Letter 41. Girard doc. 278
Introduction and Translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS. Summary by Fr Brian Quin SM.
Not making much progress in theology, for lack of a teacher and time, even though the Bishop has lightened his workload elsewhere. He looks forward to experiencing the hardships of the missionary life.
When Epalle returned to France in May 1842, he had two aims in mind, to raise further funds for the mission of Oceania and to give Colin a detailed report on the situation of the mission, especially of the difficulties that had arisen between the Marists and the Vicar Apostolic. Colin presented the matter to Rome and obtained a decree regulating relations between the bishop and the order in the Marist missions. One of the points in this decree was the Society's right to found an independent provincial house. Colin planned to send Epalle back to New Zealand as provincial bursar with enough priests and brothers to set up the new establishment and adequately provide for the needs of the missionaries in the stations. But when plans were already well advanced and Propagation of the Faith had already allocated a very generous grant to the mission for 1843, Pompallier effectively torpedoed the project by writing to Propagation itself in June 1843 charging Colin with financial negligence in his handling of the grants and informing Epalle he was no longer welcome in New Zealand (Hosie op cit 27)  The 1843 allocation was cancelled and the expedition, left without a leader and funds, could not proceed. The three Marists who arrived in the Bay of Islands via Hobart and Sydney on 18 February 1843 would thus have known of Colin's plans, but not of their unfortunate outcome. Fathers Jean Bernard, Delphin Moreau and Joseph Chouvet were in fact the last Marists Colin sent to New Zealand. The first two lived and died in the missions but the latter, a "Marist on trial", spent only three years there before returning to France where, in 1855, he published an account of his experiences and travels under the title, "Un Tour du Monde". The French warship was the "Rhin", a corvette stationed in the Pacific. It had brought the last three missionaries out as far as Hobart at the beginning of the year and was to carry Chouvet, with Pompallier, back to France in April 1846.
This letter is not included in LO but a manuscript copy (where the date is wrongly interpreted as 2 September) has been made from the photocopy of the original in the APM.
Text of the Letter
- Very reverend Father,
- I have been wanting to write to you for a long time. I was awaiting the arrival of some new Fathers because the last three told us a new group was supposed to be leaving about two months after they did. So I kept waiting for this group and we are still waiting. But as a French warship has just arrived and offers an opportunity for sending letters to France, I am hurrying to get this short letter off to you. I haven't much time since at present Monsignor is giving me an examination in theology. This will be the third. He was pleased with the first two and judges me capable of acquiring the knowledge necessary for the priestly state. He has given me a lot of encouragement.
- I am making slow progress in this study for want of time and a teacher. However, several months ago His Lordship relieved me of many of my occupations in order to give me more time for study. I have studied only seven treatises and part of the Decalogue, but with God's grace I hope to complete the course. Let God's will and not mine be done! Still, I look forward to the time when I can give myself to these poor natives whom Heresy is still devouring in great numbers. I am still very happy. I don't know how to thank Jesus and Mary enough for including me among the company of the new apostles although I am so unworthy.
- I left France in order to suffer more and, as it happens, I have had less to suffer since I set out. It is true enough I have not yet been away from the procure and so have not had to experience any of the trials which the missionary life entails. I have, however, made some short journeys with His Lordship and the Fathers, but I have not had to endure sleeping on the ground in a native hut with all the lice and fleas. On the mission one gets used to anything. Trials are no surprise, they are expected. We are the spoiled children of Providence. Our procure is a foreshadow of paradise, since from our arrival we have fitted together like the fingers of a hand. We grow in good understanding like the blessed. Time passes without our perceiving it. We have the happiness of communicating three times a week as well as on Sundays. The Sacrament is just a few steps away. I am still sacristan. When Monsignor is in residence I serve his Mass each day. Fr Forest is our present confessor.
- I do not need, reverend Father, to commend myself to your prayers since I know you pray for all your children.
- Your very obedient son in Jesus and Mary,
- Br P. Marie.
- J. Hosie. Challenge. The Marists in Colonial Australia. Sydney 1987
- This statement tells us more about Pierre-Marie than it does about the actual state of things. There had been tension between the architect Perret and the brothers working with him on the buildings and there was also the tension between Pompallier and some of his priests.
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