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28 July 1837. – Bishop Jean-Baptiste-François Pompallier to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Valparaiso

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, October 2006

J[esus] M[ary] J[oseph]
Valparaiso, 28 July 1837

Father and dear Superior
There is still a chance to send mail to France. I am taking advantage of it to write you again; perhaps this letter will get to you before two others I sent you: one on the 17th by the ship Hudson and the other on the 20th of the same month, by the ship Télégraphe. Both are heading for Bordeaux.
The present opportunity is provided by the mail service from Santiago to Buenos Aires. It dropped letters at Montevideo, after having made the journey by land, while the above-mentioned ships are going to round Cape Horn. At Buenos Aires there are frequent sailings for Europe.
Our departure from Valparaiso will very probably occur next Tuesday 1 August. During our journey from Santa Cruz to Valparaiso we set ourselves to studying navigation: [1] we are going to do so again. This science will be of some use in our islands, where there are only canoes and primitive vessels,[2] and no compasses or astronomical instruments. With the next dispatch of missionaries, if you could send us an octant or a sextant with one or two compasses, and two or three copies of a book on navigation by M Violaine,[3] it would not be an inconsiderable service to the mission. These books are not available here, or, if they are, only at exorbitant prices.
In the preceding letters I told you, Reverend Father, that before going to the Ascension or Pounipet Islands, we would call in at Sandwich, and that there we would leave some of our belongings in the Picpus missionaries' house, where there are still a priest and a Brother of theirs. It is possible as well that I will leave one of our Brothers there until the next dispatch of our missionaries,[4] and I will leave them with my five other companions for the above-mentioned islands.
When I told you, as well, that you could send as many missionaries as you could find, I did not mention the Brothers: we would need roughly as many of them as priests, or at least two for every three priests. I realise that in the first and the following dispatch that you send us, the number of each cannot be very great, taking into account that the Congregation is still being born, and the time needed for the formation of good religious, good missionaries and catechists. However I strongly request you to do your best to send us four priests and three Brothers. Two priests and a Brother would be destined to found a procure house in California or Mexico. That will be easy; the government of California wants them[5] and protects them, so much so that right now it does not want to allow Father Bachelot, prefect apostolic of Sandwich, and another priest, who had taken refuge in [California] on their expulsion from the mission, to leave.[6]
Then the other five subjects would stop off in Sandwich[7] and Mr Léonard Portal[8] in the island of Oahu, and the town of Honolulu. The first is a British missionary priest and the second is a catechist: both belong to the Picpus congregation. Fr Walsh is the only one of the Catholic missionaries who has been able to stay at Sandwich, because he is British. French priests cannot work there -- they are not welcome; at the very most they are allowed to set foot on shore. However, as travellers they can stop over there as circumstances require.
If it is possible for you to send me the number of subjects asked for above, I would be very content. I would, in those circumstances, be able to send the missionaries in pairs, while keeping one of them with me.
As for the selection of Brothers, could you kindly make it not just on the basis of their good qualities, but taking into account as well their trades or occupations. You are aware that the three you had given me have as occupations: one, a carpenter, another a tailor, and the third, a shoemaker; you can make the decision as to which trades we will need for the mission. You will be aware as well, Reverend Father, that each man will need to be provided with several years' supply of clothing and that they should have money for the journey to us and for the journeys to be made over the seas for the good of the mission. Finally let them try to gather together in France old clothes, old linen and everything they can get for the savages. If the skills of weavers could be acquired, they could be taught to make cloth to cover themselves. Oh God! Charity! Zeal! Zeal! The heretics in these islands outstrip us in resources and in all sorts of means.
I have just written to Cardinal Fransoni and had told him about everything; I spoke to him in particular of a procure house to be set up soon, as I have already outlined to you. I have also explained to his Eminence the long voyage which we are making from France to go and begin our work in Micronesia. I have given you the reasons for it in the preceding letters. Another which I omitted and, which I add here discreetly, is that the information about New Zealand which I had in France is not worthwhile. The letters of recommendation for people in those islands would not have any effect,[9] according to what I have found out here. And then, as well as all that, there is no ship to carry us from Valparaiso to that place. That reason does away with all the others. However, dear Superior, apply yourself, please, in terms of your usual wisdom, to justify us before the benefactors of the mission and especially before the Propagation of the Faith. Finally, one of the reasons which greatly led me to decide to travel to Western Oceania by rounding Cape Horn and going through the mission territory of the eastern part [of Oceania], was the idea of visiting Bishop Rouchouze, Vicar Apostolic of the latter, and to consult his Lordship for the well-being of the two missions.
In all my letters I have said little to you about the Rule, how it is being observed. The diary will tell you everything. The vows of religion were renewed in Santa Cruz, then a little, succinct rule, taken from the summary which you sent us, was written out by myself, for the day, the week, the month and the year: each person is faithful in carrying it out. You recommended everyone, from the beginning of the mission, to always send you the letters addressed to France. However I have dispensed from this in some cases, where I was led to understand that that would create problems, having regard to certain people being written to. I thought that you would not find that wrong. Besides, those letters were shown to me. Farewell, Reverend Father, soon we are going to leave. All and every one of the members of the Society of Mary can appreciate my affection and my devotion for them in your own and dear person. Please offer my gratitude and respects to the Council of the Propagation of Faith.
All yours in Jesus and Mary
+François, Bishop of Maronea and Vicar Apostolic of Western Oceania
1) PS In your next reply, notify me, please, of your reception of the following letters I have written to you: 1) 24 December 1836, 2) 16 January 1837, 3) 17 July, with one to my mother, 4) 20 July, with seven others; and another packet of four including one from Father Chanel who sealed it,[10] 5) finally, 28 July, with two others.
[In the margins of p1 and across][12]
2nd P S With the next stage of missionaries, send a good supply of pictures for first Communion and confirmation.
3rd PS We are told here that letters get safely from France to foreign countries beyond the seas when care is taken to frank them from the place where one lives to that where the mail servers entrusts them to the first available vessel going to the place they are addressed to. If you have sent us letters since we left France, please find out what has become of them -- we have received none of them. How useful the Propagation of the Faith allocation for the year 1837 would have been to us, for our voyage from Valparaiso to the islands, if we had received it here before our departure.
4th PS You will find here a copy of the letter sent to the Ministry of the Navy. Please see what would have to be done in France to support me in what I am asking of the King.
5th PS The procure house to be founded could be, in the deed, in the names[11] of the Vicar Apostolic and a member of the Congregation of Mary.


  1. l’étude de la marine
  2. de chétifs navires
  3. sic - according to Girard’s footnote almost certainly Pierre Violier (died 1715) who published a work on navigation that went through later editions -- translator’s note
  4. arrives, he seems to imply -- translator’s note
  5. Northern California was part of Mexico until 1848, when it became part of the USA, but Baja California remained part of Mexico -- translator’s note
  6. They had arrived in Hawaii -- Sandwich -- in 1827 and were expelled in 1831. They came back in 1837 but only a month later were again expelled -- translator’s note
  7. sic - four, in fact, if two priests and a Brother had been left founding a procure on the west coast of North America -- translator’s note] were all information on ourselves and the places where we are would be given them. When they first get to Sandwich, here is the address of the people who will receive them: Father Arsenius Walsh [an Irish Picpus priest - translator’s note
  8. a Picpus Brother -- translator’s note
  9. ne sauraient avoir leurs effets
  10. qui le plioit
  11. ?sur la tête

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