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5 Nov 1836 - Bp Jean-Baptiste Pompallier to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Paris

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, September 2006

Paris, 5 November 1836

To Father Colin, Superior of the Congregation of Mary
Reverend and very dear Father
Always I am waiting to write to you about the result of one matter or another; at last I have to give in to the desire I have about it, apart from writing to you again before embarking
We all arrived in Paris in good health. Our stay in this capital has been happy; we were all accommodated at the [Paris] Foreign Missions;[1] several of us are still there, because of the delay of our vessel at Le Havre. Brother Joseph Xavier [Luzy] has become a little ill, or rather, it’s an indisposition which he had already before our travels, which has come back to him. Father Dubois, Superior of the house, and Father Langlois, Rector[2] who are extremely attentive and good to us, have pointed out ways of helping this good Brother. I sent him to a hospice for religious with a letter of recommendation from Father Dubois: there every care has been lavished on him; the doctor has seen him and decided that he can embark without any risk to his health. Let us bless God in these circumstances for coming to our assistance and preserving a Brother in the mission, who may be of great use [to us]. Every day I sent one of our Fathers to visit him; already he can leave the hospice; soon, that is, in two or three days, he will be discharged.
With what joy and with what respectful gratitude we all received your good advice and a summary of the Rule. Your two letters got to us in Paris a few days after our arrival in this city. I will try, with the grace of God, and I will put a great amount of zeal, under the protection of the Most Blessed Virgin, into having put into practice the Rule and the spirit of the Society, concerning which, you are so kind as to delegate to me your authority. Never doubt, Reverend Father, the attachment and devotion I have for the Society of Mary. May I be allowed to certify to you that I accepted, from the beginning, the Oceania mission, in view and principally in view of the good that I presumed must result, and which has in fact resulted, on the part of the Holy See, in favour of our small and beloved Society. Be sure as well that I am personally convinced that we will accomplish nothing in the missions if the missionaries, who have the outstanding grace from God of being employed there, are not good religious and do not hold onto, from the bottom of their hearts, the rules of their institute and its spirit. It is true, as you feel and pointed out to me before my departure, that the Rules may not entirely be able to be followed in the missions, as they are in [French] communities.
But I know, like you, that their spirit and way of life shall always be observed as closely as possible; that is what brings down on missionaries who live according to the Rule and their apostolic work the blessing of God. So even if you had not judged it appropriate to delegate to me your authority in matters of the Rule, or that the responsibility placed on my weakness by the Holy See did not allow me to accept the responsibility and the exercise [of your authority], you could imagine, on the basis of the conviction and the feelings which our Saviour has graciously given me, how much I would be concerned that all the Religious on the mission observed perfectly the rules and spirit of their institute. Ah! How dear to me is the salvation of the people for whom I am now responsible, in the love of Jesus Christ! How much I have at heart everything which could contribute to bringing it about! Unity is in everything a fertile reason for success, although the good God also blesses the missions in which there are two authorities or delegations: one depending on the Holy Father the Pope in the person of the Vicar Apostolic, set up for the salvation of the natives and any person who lives in the mission territory; and the other depending on the Superior General of the order in the person of a Provincial, for the perfection of the religious in their holy state. But if these missions succeed, it is importantly because the religious live very much according to the spirit of their institute; because when they become slack in this, they soon cease to obey the Vicar Apostolic in what concerns him, and in that way they compromise the success of a whole mission; another reason therefore for the latter not to harm an institute working under his jurisdiction, but on the contrary to use all his wisdom and authority to help maintain a good religious spirit. And so, Reverend Father, by accepting the efficacious means that your confidence offers me for the welfare of the mission and the missionaries, I do not believe that I am going against the intentions of the Sovereign Pontiff to whom I have solemnly promised immediate faithfulness and obedience. I would take pleasure in supporting your fatherly solicitude in carrying out, in their regard, the delegation you give me. I receive it with respect as a further duty to be accountable for to God in your person; I receive it as coming from the Holy Father the Pope through you; I receive it in the love of Our Lord, in the dilection of his most holy Mother, in the bonds which unite me to the Society of this august Virgin, in the attachment and devotion that I have constantly had for this dear Society and which I will keep for it always... If God has seen fit to bless, up till now, my weak efforts to help bring it into existence,[3] be certain, Reverend Father, of the intentions I will form at the ends of the earth, for its unity, its solidity, its development and its perfection. How grateful I am for the prayers that the whole Society is offering for our work in Oceania and ourselves! I carry in my heart, as if they were my own children, the missionaries it has given me to share the apostolic Ministry which the Lord Jesus has entrusted to my unworthiness and to bring back to his sheep fold his sheep who are not already in it. All for the glory of this good master and for the honour of Mary!
I have received two letters from Rome. In one is an indult which the Holy Father the Pope has given me for a personal privileged altar, which is perpetual and daily, with the faculty of granting it for three days a week to the missionaries of Oceania. [4] Gratitude to the Holy Father and love to the Lord! In the second was enclosed the cheque which completed the allocation of 20,000 francs[5] which the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda had promised me. I cashed the money from this cheque in Paris, with the 20,000 other francs that the [Society of the] Propagation of the Faith still owed us.
In this same second letter were several faculties granted to the Vicar Apostolic of the mission: 1) that for appointing in France and in the Society of Mary a pro-Vicar who could legally act in the name of the latter, in dealings with the Propagation of the Faith in France, to collect allocations from it, to give it the receipt and to notify it of how the money was used; this pro-Vicar will also be able to give ordinary faculties to the missionaries who will come to join us in Oceania, in a word, he would make present[6] to the Society of Mary the special concerns of the mission in choosing subjects and for everything. That would be quite easy, because the Society makes them present so well herself. Everything would be done, it goes without saying, with the consent of the Superior General, in what concerns the appointment of subjects. Since the Holy See has decided it appropriate, for all missions entrusted to religious orders, to separate pastoral jurisdiction from religious jurisdiction among the members of the same congregation, it is important for us now and in the future to establish a good deal of harmony in these two aspects, in addressing the needs of the Society and those of the mission. I have no need to affirm, here, my devotion -- you read it clearly enough in my heart.
I was told, at the Picpus [general house] that Father Coudrin, their Superior General, had offered himself to be pro-Vicar for Bishop Rouchouze, [7] and presently he is. I myself very willingly offer you this responsibility: to whom could it be better entrusted? If, however, there are reasons, Reverend Father, which would not allow you to accept it, you would hand it on to some other man, among the older and more experienced members of the Society. But I am strongly of the opinion that in any case it should be someone who lives close to the Superior General and as much as possible in Lyons, to facilitate and simplify our relationships with the Propagation of the Faith. As I cannot very much rely on receiving a letter from you about this matter before our embarkation at Le Havre, which will occur on the 10th of this month, I am going to send you in two or three days a deed formalising this delegation of powers, in which the place of the name of the person to be given responsibility will be left blank, to give you the freedom to write there the name of whoever you wish, if possible trying to choose someone who combines the desired qualifications and which you judge desirable better than I can. If it is permissible for me to get you to do once what I want you to do, you would be forced to add to your own religious Superiorship the first apostolic provicariate of a poor bishop in the foreign missions. Consider a little whether it is not the will of God, whom you could refuse to nothing? But I am perhaps writing at too much lengths and I still have a lot of important things to tell you. I am going to do so in the form of an analysis.[8]
The second faculty granted in the second letter from Cardinal Fransoni[9] is to be able to receive into the mission priests of good standing who would not even be members of the Society. But I will not use this power except in a case of extreme need: non expedit [it is not expedient] in every respect, it seems to me.
Before my departure from Lyons, I left my will with M Viennot.[10] You are included among the sole legatees along with Father Champagnat; my intentions are for the Society of Mary in your persons.
I have left with Father Champagnat my power of attorney for all my possessions, with all my family documents. There is nothing available right now except about 400 francs[11] in rent a year and payable every six months. Father Champagnat can formalise all of them legally, but he will dispose of them only if you think fit, because I am leaving this rent to the use of the priests of Mary, whose constitutions I wish to observe as much as I can. Only a pressing need in the mission would lead me to claim them. In the meantime, it is indeed just to consecrate it to the good of the Society of priests, according to your judgment; it will be a small recompense for the expenses which dealings with the mission will occasion it, and the responsibility for a pro-Vicar who can subsequently take care of it exclusively in France.
All the priests and Brothers have put their temporal affairs enough in order, only I do not clearly remember whether Brother Marie-Nizier has told me personally.
Nothing more can be done to organise the missionaries, except to give them their responsibilities. Preparations for embarkation have absorbed us, in spite of the more than ten days’ delay we have experienced. Besides, non expedit [it is not expedient] yet, so soon, according to what I believe.[12] Only I am drawing up, before embarkation, a sealed document in which will be appointed a pro-Vicar who, in case of my death, will straightaway be provided with general powers for the mission.
In Paris I had all the favours of the Court and the Minister relating to my position: five or six letters of protection from the Minister of Foreign Affairs written to the Consuls at Val-paraiso and the chargés d’affaires for France on the west coast of South America; letters of the same sort from the Minister of the Navy for the captains of vessels on station in the South Sea or in Oceania, [and] a letter from M the Secretary for colonies[13] for a Frenchman who is reputed to be a king in New Zealand. [14] Gifts from the King (1,000 francs – about £40) without my having asked him for it, from the Queen (500 francs – about £20), from Madame Adelaide, Princess of Orleans (a good supply of white calico for our future baptised). It can be said here that the French state has shown itself docile to the Holy See by not only showing goodwill to the mission but cooperation as well. May Jesus Christ, the master of hearts, be blessed for everything.
The Reverend President of the Irish seminary[15] has given me a letter for the Vicar Apostolic of New Holland, [16] Dr Polding. He promised me to get us a letter of protection from the British Foreign Secretary, [17] something seen as indispensable for protecting us from the annoyances given by the Methodists, who are seen in a bad light even by the British consuls who are in Oceania. But this letter will only get to us in Val-paraiso; it was necessary to write to England, and the formalities are not yet completed.
Father Coudrin, Superior General of the Picpus Fathers, is offering us all the help he can. In another letter, I will point out how correspondence for the mission should be handled.
Our expenses in Paris were considerable. We will have only about 24,000 francs [about £1,000 - translator’s note] to take to Val-paraiso, to stay over there and to take us 2000 leagues[18] further to our destination. Let us have confidence in Divine Providence, but let us cooperate with it by the means it gives us through the Propagation of the Faith in France. The allocation it gave us was for 1836; we have to be careful to plead our interests to its council either by letter, or, preferably, at its meetings, to get us one[19] for every year indefinitely, including 1837, which we will soon enter.
I will send you, if I can, before embarking, all the receipts for our purchases and the total description of our positions. But all that has been done so much in a hurry that some work is involved in giving a truly intelligible description of them which has no need of a verbal explanation. If, through forgetfulness, some debts have not been paid (which I do not think is the case, because I had almost everything bought for cash) I think that one could ask either Father Champagnat who has my power of attorney, or yourself, and you would kindly pay them out of the as yet undetermined but promised allocations from the Propagation of the Faith.
Father Forest was to give you a list of a few possessions that I left in the tower for the priests of Mary in Lyon. It's not worth worrying about. I have told M Viennot to arrange with the owner of the little tower for the cancellation of the lease which was in my name. In the coming letter I will tell you more of things that you should know about, or which will be useful for your administration. I have just been told that the departure from Le Havre has been again put back two days to the 12th. I have time to receive a letter from you, if you had something to tell me about.
Your very humble and very obedient servant,
Francois Pompallier, Bishop of Maronea,
Vicar apostolic
PS If [you write] a letter, [send it] to Paris, to the [Paris] Foreign Missions, 120 Rue du Bac; Attention Father Dubois; or to Le Havre, poste restante.


  1. Missions Étrangères de Paris
  2. of the seminary
  3. Before being consecrated as Bishop in June 1836, Father Pompallier had been one of the priests associated with Father Colin in working as a Marist and seeking Rome’s official approval for the Order -- translator’s note
  4. This meant that the Bishop had the Pope's permission to use a portable altar, the permission being perpetual and available every day, and Pompallier could give his missionaries the same privilege for three days a week -- translator’s note
  5. about £800
  6. épouseroit
  7. A Picpusian, and a Vicar Apostolic of Eastern Oceania - translator’s note
  8. en forme d’analyse
  9. Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide
  10. M Viennot was a lawyer at this time, and a tertiary Brother of Mary - translator’s note
  11. about £16
  12. He was right -- they would not leave France until Christmas Eve 1836 -- translator’s note
  13. de St Hilaire
  14. ‘Baron’ Charles de Thierry - translator’s note
  15. in Paris, Father Patrick McSweeny - translator’s note
  16. Australia -- translator’s note
  17. At the time this was Henry Temple, Lord Palmerston, 1784 to 1865, later in his career Prime Minister -- translator’s note
  18. 10,000 km
  19. an allocation -- translator’s note

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