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Doc. 15 - July 17, 1837

Bishop Jean-Baptiste-François Pompallier to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Valparaiso

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM

J[esus] M[ary] J[oseph]

Valparaiso 17 July 1937

Father and dear Superior
I am writing to you to day in great haste; it is to take the opportunity given by a ship leaving for France. Very soon, I am told, there will be another leaving from the same coast. I will take advantage of it to write to you in a more considered way about things concerning the mission; because I have to get together several important comments to send you so as to be useful to the missionaries whom you can [send in as great a number as you will have available. Messis multa… oremus Dominum messis ut operarios mittat [The harvest is great... let us pray to the Lord of the harvest that he may send workers... Luke 10:2].
Here we are in Valparaiso[1] in better health than when we left Le Havre, where it was already good. Our journey was long, difficult and sometimes a bit dangerous, especially from the Malouines [Falkland] Islands to the island of Chiloé. The good God put us through a fairly stern test, but still showed himself to be a good, powerful and consoling Father. I will not give you much news -- you will find enough in the letter I am writing to my mother and which I ask you to read and seal before sending it on to her .[2] I only want to inform you of a piece of news which will not fail to console you, while putting to the test your feelings for one of your spiritual sons, whom the Lord no doubt crowned in heaven when we were in the midst of the ocean. Dear Father Bret died from an illness of about 19 days in length, from two days after his embarkation at Santa Cruz, to the equatorial line. At first there were only vague and passing headaches; then the fever took hold of him; it was reduced; he seemed to be recovering,[3] then he relapsed and did not further recover. Up to the last day he was conscious; he himself told us of his approaching death; we could not accept it. All sorts of care were given him, but God had decided to take him from us and to crown him in advance in heaven. Alas! May his plans be adored and his holy name be blessed. Let us hope that this dear collaborator will be henceforth a most devoted intercessor with God and Mary on behalf of the mission to which he had consecrated himself in this life. Be consoled, venerable Father, and may the peace of Jesus Christ be with you.
In the next letter I will send you the diary of our journey, which is not quite written up.[4] I will also write to Monsignor the Administrator and to His Eminence Cardinal Fransoni. The difficulties of disembarkation, all the civil formalities to fulfil, then a journey I made with Father Chanel to Santiago, have prevented me from preparing my correspondence.
We arrived in Valparaiso on the vigil of the feast of St Peter and St Paul. We found none of our belongings damaged by the sea. We constantly wore ecclesiastical dress on the ship, during the voyage.
South America is not peaceful. On our arrival we learned of the recent assassination of a famous Minister of Chile, called de Portales.[5] Some days after, when I was leaving for Santiago, eight of those responsible all their accomplices were shot for this act. Others were held in custody. All Chile is as it were in a state of siege internally and at war externally. Several neighbouring republics are taking its side against others.[6] So I do not think it is opportune to set up a Procure here in Valparaiso. Besides, New Zealand, into which I thought I could immediately penetrate, does not present us with any favourable opportunity. There are no vessels nor ships about to leave right now for that region. To tell the truth, there is in fact one, which is American, but it is commanded by Protestants, who had expressly said that they would be very wary of letting on board for that big island any Catholic missionaries. The upshot is that I have been forced to use a ship which will bring me to harbour at Sandwich [Hawaii], via the Gambier Islands and Tahiti; which will bring me the inexpressible consolation of conversing with Monsignor Rouchouze, who is in the Gambier Islands.
As I am assured that right now a Procure could be set up in Sandwich, and that the main roadstead of that archipelago is very frequented, I am deciding to move all our belongings into a safe storage place which has been offered me. From there we will go to Micronesia to Ascension Island.[7] So from now on the missionaries whom you send will be able to go through the Antilles [West Indies] and Mexico, go to Sandwich to rejoin us; they will avoid the rough southern seas and will shorten their route by about more than 3000 leagues [15,000 km]. If I had known that Providence wanted us in Micronesia, certainly I would not have gone round Cape Horn. Apart from that I am very happy to have got to know, through this long journey, the Picpus missionaries, our neighbours, and to visit their Vicar Apostolic as well as their whole mission.
But I am forced to end; soon I will write to you about everything with more deliberation. The missionaries and the Brothers will also not fail to write to you expressing their contentment in their vocation and the feelings of respect and attachment they have towards the Society of Mary in your person. I am one in heart and mind with the same feelings,
Venerable Superior,
your very humble and obedient servant,
+François, Bishop of Maronea and Vicar Apostolic of Western Oceania
PS Please put in an envelope the letter to my mother for whom you will have paid the delivery cost. The address is at the beginning.


  1. they arrived 28 June -- translator’s note
  2. Doc 16
  3. convalescent
  4. Doc 12
  5. Diego Portales was Prime Minister of Chile 1830--37 -- translator’s note
  6. Peru’s and Bolivia’s attempts to federate led to Chilean opposition in a war from 1836 to 1839, which Chile won -- translator’s note
  7. now Ponape - translator’s note

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