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8 Dec 1836 - Bp Jean-Baptiste Pompallier to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Le Havre

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, September 2006

Ad MDG et BMH[1]
Ingouville, near Le Havre
8 December 1836

Reverend Father
I have just received your letter dated 29 November. You also must have received one from me dated 27 or 28 of the same month. As I still see that we are unlikely to embark before the end of December, I am going to give you some news concerning the mission and the Society, while expecting that this will be the last time I write to you from the France which we are being very much delayed from leaving, to go where God is calling us.
How much joy your letter of the 29th brought us all, Reverend Father! The thoughts about salvation and the fatherly advice it contained were received with gratitude. I had it read at the evening prayer which we all, Fathers and Brothers, offer in common. I have the consolation of informing you that we are already doing our best to carry out, since we have been in this district, the things which your kind concern recommends to us. Every day I give a talk on some religious matter, as I think I informed you in my preceding letter; every day we have the particular examen and evening prayer where the subject for prayer is read and often given by one of us, each in turn. The locality does not allow us to offer prayer in common early in the morning, otherwise that would occur also. On Sundays and feast days we are all employed by the pastors of Le Havre, Ingouville and the districts round about, either to celebrate Holy Mass or to preach; and all of that is done in an orderly and obedient way so that one or another has something prepared in apostolic style, however.[2] The preaching is fruitful, thanks to God; at least the faithful are usually moved to tears. We do not hear confessions, however, because sometimes we would not finish with them[3] and up until now we have been waiting for only the first day of favourable wind to embark, although it is foreseen that we will still be here a little. There have been only a very few people who had asked for some of our men. I have put up with that, while recommending that, prudently, they be sent off to the clergy of this area, who are fairly numerous and edifying, and I see with satisfaction that the faithful understand our position and theirs. Today we officiated at Ingouville (it’s our usual parish, where we live). Monsignor Blanc sang the high Mass and I tried my best to give a little talk to the parishioners on the mystery of the Immaculate Conception and the advantages of devotion to Mary.
For more than 15 days Father Manot, a priest in the group with Monsignor Blanc, has been exercising his zeal by giving the missionaries lessons in English. Fathers Chanel, Bret and Bataillon go to these classes regularly every day with about eight others. Father Servant, who is sending us here a second will, is learning Spanish from one of these Picpus priests who has been kind enough to offer us his services, all of that in charity. As for me, I haven't yet had the time to give myself to studying any language. On the ship I will attend to it if it pleases God. Among the four Picpus priests or Brothers, there are two who can speak the foreign languages which are useful for Oceania and South America: English and Spanish. I will try to learn English in order to dispute one day with the Methodists who infest our missions.
How content I am, Reverend Father, at your accepting the pro-vicariate I set up in France! Our mission can only benefit from it very much. Now you can not only direct your concern for the salvation of our people through the Institute, [4] but you can, as well, canonically take up in France the concerns of the mission itself. All information for that will be given you. You must already see through my correspondence that I am trying to neglect nothing in this respect. Besides I am certain, with a spirit of faith, that the delegation I confidently made you will be useful to your zeal and your prudence; since Our Lord has promised to be with those who have authority in his Church[5] and consequently with those who share its burden and exercise for the salvation of his beloved souls. It remains for me only to keep you up to date with everything concerned with the Rule and the mission: now, be sure that I hold both too close to my heart to let them suffer through lack of your knowledge and your help.
The deed which sets up a pro-vicar in France, which you had been given, I enclose in my letter of the 28th or 29th November. You ask me, Reverend Father, to send you the brief I would have received from Rome about this. But I say that I did not have to, nor could, receive a brief for that. The faculties which our Holy Father the Pope granted me, and of which I left you a copy at Belley, give me this power of appointing -- on my own authority – pro-vicars or prefects-apostolic for the distant mission of Western Oceania. Also, when I wrote to his Eminence Cardinal Fransoni, prefect of [the Sacred Congregation] Propaganda Fide, I asked him for a decision rather than an authorisation, and his honourable reply was: "nihil plana obstat quominus amplitudo tua unum vel alterum ex marianae congregationis praesbiteris in Galliis commorantem deligat, qui tuo nomine ordinarias (underlined) facultates etc.”[6] So the deed I have sent you is truly valid and licit. I have not put in this deed those words which are usually used, I believe, when our responsibility is given to some ecclesiastic who is under the jurisdiction of another: servatis de jure servandis [7] because the Society now in France must, with its members, immediately come under the concern of the Holy See, and, once the formalities about that have been completed, there is no need for another authorisation; it is enough to inform the people concerned, and afterwards each one must obey appropriately on both sides.[8]
Apart from that, the responsibility given is really only effective for Oceania and in Oceania; and these areas are very far from the dioceses of Lyon and Belley. Be so kind, if you will, as to tell me soon about the difficulties which you could have with all that.
In the meantime here are explanations which will perhaps be helpful to you. By these words "facultates ordinarias" I mean the powers of hearing confessions and of absolving from all cases of conscience excepting those which are reserved to the Sovereign Pontiff, 2) of preaching, 3) of saying Holy Mass, 4) giving the sacraments of Communion and Extreme Unction to those who are baptised, and baptism to those who are not yet baptised, 5) of giving the nuptial blessing and admitting to the sacrament of marriage, providing there are no diriment impediments.
NB 1) These powers will be null if they are exercised elsewhere than in the places under my jurisdiction, unless the missionaries who have them on departure are thrown, by storm or persecution or indeed by any possible major cause, are thrown, I say, into territories which do not belong to any yet-established jurisdiction. In that case, their powers are valid and licit until they find a favourable opportunity to get to their [original] destination. On this matter, refer to article 31 of the second sheet of my faculties, of which you have a copy: I am, here, making an application of them.
NB 2) These powers will be null again if the missionaries in places under my jurisdiction stop freely in territories other than those for which the Vicar-Apostolic had asked for them from the Superior of the Congregation, and if they neglect sure ways of getting to their destination, where there is still someone officially appointed to direct the mission in that place. These [missionaries] should get in touch as soon as possible with the leader of the mission, who will renew their powers by giving them a new sheet in which everything they need in faculties will be conferred on them.
NB 3) I do not dare speak to you about another situation nullifying powers, because I hope that it will never occur among the missionaries of the Society of Mary, whom I trust will become numerous in Oceania. It is the case in which a priest would unfortunately fall into mortal sin (exterior and certain, involving grave matter) against the sixth commandment with a person of either sex; I mean that then his powers become completely null for his male or female accomplice. But may the august Virgin Mary, our mother, preserve us for ever from the cause of such a nullity. I believe that there you have just about all the explanations concerning the deed I have sent you. Please, Reverend Father, give me freely the comments you judge appropriate on what concerns the exercise of my formidable and consoling pastoral responsibility. Be, I beg you, one of my first counsellors and one of my first aides in relation to this heavy burden which Jesus Christ in his love has imposed on me. How many times I would wish to be with you and, in Rome, with those shining lights of knowledge, sanctity and prudence which I had the happiness to see. But I must not dream any more about that, alas, which I am really grateful for anyway. I will do, with her divine Son and with Mary our powerful mother, I will do what I can. Can it not be said that both will be, until the end of time, with those who legitimately govern his Church? Isn't our Saviour the way, the truth and the life [John 14:6]? And the most holy Virgin, what praise has not been given her by the Roman Church? Ah, it is with just reason that she chants these words in the holy Office: Gaude, Maria Virgo, cunctas haereses sola interemisti in universo mundo! [9]
I am very grateful, as well, for the support of my dear collaborators. Although they nearly always say 'Amen' to me in our little gatherings, they always share with me with simplicity and freedom any thoughts that they have.
I did not have the time to tell you, or, rather, I didn't have enough paper to tell you, in my last letter, that during my stay in Paris I had the opportunity to work at getting our Brothers at L’Hermitage legally authorised.[10] Things were well advanced in their favour when I had to leave for Le Havre. Monsignor de Pins, Father Cholleton and Father Champagnat must be aware of everything, I wrote to them about the situation. Bishop de Pins and Father Champagnat should have written to the Minister for education[11] after my departure from Paris, as a result of the welcome at Court and at the Ministry in favour of our beloved teaching Brothers. So please see Father Cholleton or Father Champagnat to find out the result. It would have been necessary to write a letter of thanks to the Minister as if the royal edict had been soon and certain; if it has been carried out, it would have been up to the Bishop to do it, or Father Champagnat, in legalizing[12] his letter to the Archbishopric. I would be very content to learn of the success of this business.
Now here is some information still useful for the mission: there is at Le Havre a ship which will leave in January for Valparaiso: it provides a favourable opportunity for letters and orders to be sent on to us, if there are any, when we have gone. I am told that this ship is called the Calibri. You will know that things, that is, parcels, boxes, trunks or packets sent by carriers to seaports to have them put on board, are liable to storage fees in the carriers’ depots while awaiting loading on board. These fees are pretty steep. We were unaware of that in Lyons when we asked the haulage contractor to store our things in a depot at Le Havre. We paid what was customary for that, except for a small rebate. However it was a contractor, the one in charge of our supplies which came from Lyons, who had these storage fees paid back to us when he found out that we were missionaries: it was a real gift he gave us, because the fees amounted to about 150f.[13]
Now in order not to have to pay these fees, the supplies must be sent directly to the owner of the ship that one wants to charter, or rather, at Le Havre, to Messrs Gamares Brothers, haulage contractors, Rue d’Orléans; these Christian businessmen have had the kindness to offer their good services to take into the depot our mission supplies. It is enough that they bear my address.
It would be very useful to the mission if a priest or a Brother learned medical skills in a fair way. These Picpus priests have taken this important precaution for their mission.
The man or those men who work in the printing press should get moulds for the print characters and the material for making them.
Two things very advantageous to the mission, which we do not have and which it would be good to make later on; the first, which seems to me almost indispensable, is a communications base to be set up on the west coast of South America or in some port in New Holland. These two places have the most frequent links with Europe and the countries of our mission. But to put up a useful enough house, we would need money, because the money we still have will hardly be enough for our journey into the territory of our jurisdiction. Let us expect everything from God and let us act: let us cooperate with his providence. This house could also be used by new missionaries who would finish their formation there.
The second thing, which is not necessary, is an establishment of the Society to be erected near Le Havre or Bordeaux. How important it is that some trustworthy and devoted people take up, at seaports, the concerns of the missionaries who must embark! The Fathers and Brothers who would live in this establishment would, besides, do a lot of good in the area. People are full of veneration for foreign missionaries and for their confrères who obviously co-operate in their difficult tasks and journeys.
A priest I know, one of my old friends, is asking to come to Oceania and to be received into the Society! He is an excellent candidate. He is about 40 years old, from the diocese of Lyons but presently parish priest of the main parish of the town of Tours. He should write to you; in the reply I made him, I directed him to you. If he comes to you, receive him well; he will be a good acquisition for the Society in every respect.[14]
I beg you to make sure of saying encouraging things to Father Curty of the diocese of Belley: he has written me a letter I am very happy with, and I have not, up till now, been able to answer him.
I do not need to advise you, Reverend Father, to keep my letters or at least to record on some register the main items in them concerned with the good of the mission. I am sure that your wisdom will understand the need for that. Before my embarkation, I will write to you again. I am also awaiting your reply to these two letters -- of 27 November and this one, today's. In Christ and Mary.
Your very humble and obedient
Francois Pompallier, Bishop of Maronea
PS I am going to write to the Prefect of Propaganda and inform him of your acceptance of the deed I have made out to you.


  1. Ad m(ajorem) D(ei) g(loriam) et b(eatæ) M(ariæ) h(onorem) To the greater glory of God and the honour of Blessed Mary
  2. à l’apostolique toutefois
  3. nous n’en sortirons plus
  4. the Society of Mary - translator’s note
  5. a possible reference to Luke 10:16 - he who hears you hears me... - translator’s note
  6. No clear obstacle prevents your dignity from choosing one or another from the priests of the Congregation of Mary living in France who in your name [may exercise - translator’s note] ordinary faculties etc
  7. with all provisions of the law having been observed
  8. doit obéir en son sens de part et d’autre
  9. Rejoice Virgin Mary, you alone have destroyed all heresies throughout the world
  10. for teaching - translator’s note
  11. ministre de l’instruction publique – François Guizot - translator’s note
  12. en faisant legaliser
  13. £6
  14. Father Girard’s research shows this man to have been Father Jacques Suchet. He did not follow up on his interest in the Society of Mary but in 1839 left for Algeria to be parish priest of Constantine - translator’s note

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