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30 July 1840 — Bishop Jean-Baptiste-François Pompallier to Father Jean- Claude Colin or to Father Victor Poupinel, Bay of Islands

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, December 2011

Father Poupinel, priest of the Society of Mary in Lyons, 4 Bartholomew Rise, Lyons, France

J(esus) M(ary) J(oseph)
Bay of Islands 30 July 1840

To the Reverend Father Superior-General of the Society of Mary in Lyons, France, or to Reverend Father Poupinel

Very Reverend Father
A ship is shortly to set sail for Valparaiso, where there are safe opportunities for (going to) France. I am quickly writing these few lines to you.
I am about to buy a schooner of 120 tons, the only one on sale in the Bay of Islands; it will cost me 25000 fr,[1] which means that all the money which Fathers Pèzant and Tripe have just brought me is going to be used up in this purchase; then I will need, each month, to pay for the captains and the seamen and their food and general expenses, roughly 1250 fr[2] per month. Could you, please, as soon as possible, inform the gentlemen of the [Society for the] Propagation of the Faith about this huge expense, absolute necessary for this mission; and about the great need for money into which it will put me.
Send me regularly the allocations of the Propagation of the Faith, otherwise, if through failure to borrow from them in this way, I was obliged to sell either the ship or some land belonging to my mission stations, it would have a most harmful effect on this mission.
A very important point: can the money being sent in future be always exchanged in Paris into currency before it leaves – that is, into British gold. This costs less to transport, and this currency can be more easily used in the areas where we are up till now. It is probable, even, that very soon only British currency will circulate.
3 or 4 bells – 120 pounds in weight – would be of great use for the main chapels of the mission.
But two letterpress production presses and good presses; can there be all that is needed in big letters to show up the main points of the readings for the schools: copper moulds would be even better for these last-mentioned items.
I thank Father Poupinel very much for the zeal and concern he shows for our mission. I am truly edified by his letters, and my neophytes echo my gratitude and my prayers to the Lord for him and all the benefactors of this mission. I am going to write to those gentlemen or to that Society which has sent the church vestments. From here, from New Zealand, I am sending Father Poupinel and the people asking for it, my blessing in the Lord.
+ J(ean) B(aptis)te François, Bishop, vic(ar) ap(ostolic) of Western Oceania.
[8] (In the margin and crosswise)
PS 1) How grateful our catechumens and neophytes would be, if the charity of the faithful of Lyons and elsewhere continued to send clothing for them. + François
PS 2) Something which I have just found out, and deserved to be the first thing mentioned in my letter: that there is, at Our Lady of the Hermitage[3] one of our Brothers who was employed in the French navy, and who, I have been told, is capable of being a captain to command ship: there is the man we need here to command the mission vessel; through such an important task, his services would be worth at least those of a Vicar-Apostolic to the mission: that may be puzzling for you; it is not for me. For all the charitable reasons that consume the heart of the Reverend Superior-General and of the Society of Mary, I ask for him, that man. And if that man could form for us other Brothers in the navy, that would be wonderful. The Brothers of Mary[4] would really shine out in the sight of God and of the whole Church, because then we would have a ship at once totally religious and totally apostolic. May it be done! May it be done!
+ J(ean) B(aptis)te François
Our missionary Fathers, when they left France, provided themselves with far too many books; it is an expense for the mission, without any point, because here people have little time for reading, but what is worse is that they do not bring the books they really need, even when several of them had them in their libraries in France. So several left behind their commentaries on Holy Scripture, books of first importance and quite indispensable for working among people who are being ravaged by heresy and which you often need to have at hand.
I would like there to be at least two copies of Menechius’[5] commentaries for every three missionary priests. Apart from that very important work, here are others that are necessary, and necessary for each priest:
1) A small missal with the Prefaces marked for plain chant.
2) A totum or Breviary in one single volume.
3) A holy Bible.
4) A New Testament with the Imitation of Our Lord in one volume.
5) A little book of meditations for every day of the year, eg Médaille, in two little volumes.[6]
6) A copy of the theology of Propaganda.
7) A Roman gradual and vespers.
8) A Roman ritual.
9) A perpetual Ordo.
10) A Cobbett’s English grammar for French speakers[7]
11) A French and English dictionary and the reciprocal in one volume.
12) For three priests:
1) Two copies of Rodriguez On Christian Perfection
2) Two copies of a Church history required at Propaganda in Rome. Here is the title: Historica eccelsiastica, variis colloquiis digesta ductore fr(atre) Ignatio Hyacintho Amat de Graveson[8]
3) Two copies of Canon Law: Devoti institutionum canonica (to be got from Propaganda)
This is what I see as important in the matter of books right now. But later on other requests will be sent to you as ongoing needs and experience make us aware of them. But in that matter you, for your part, have to extract these requests from our letters and begin a record book in which to write them as a memorandum. For lack of that precaution, we see that my past requests have been in part forgotten, because once I have made them I have not repeated them in subsequent letters. Then people have only paid attention to the most recent letters which could make other needs known, without withdrawing the earlier ones which had been set out, very far from that, but, to the contrary, by supposing them to be well known and well remembered. From the failure to notice past requests, our Brothers of Mary have not come here in sufficient numbers; it was thought that as my letters last received just before that departure of missionaries did not make any mention of the need for Brothers, there was no need to send me any, if there wasn’t one for helping the four priests leaving. Alas! How much this deprivation of Brothers who had been asked for in the preceding letters has harmed the mission’s works! – we have a real need of 100 little bells, weighing 5 or 6 pounds each, for the chapels in our tribes.
François, Bishop, vic(ar) ap(ostolic)


  1. about £1000 - translator’s note
  2. £50 - translator’s note
  3. Our Lady of the Hermitage: The training centre of the Little Brothers of Mary
  4. Little Brothers: Champagnat’s order – later the Marist Brothers of the Schools
  5. Cf Doc 38 [26]
  6. Pierre Médaille Meditations sur les èvangiles do tous les dimanches de l’année, sur les mystères de Notre Seigneur, de la Sainte Vierge, et sur les principaels fêtes des saints (Lyons, undated; Paris 1744, about sixty editions up to the end of the 19th century). (Cf Dictionnaire de spiritualité, tome 10m col 890-891)
  7. William Cobbett, Le Maître d’anglais, our grammaire complete de la langue anglaise, Paris 1816
  8. Ignace-Hyacinthe Amat de Graveson: Historia ecclesiastica variis colloquiis digesta ubi pro theologiae candidatis res praecipuae, non solum ad historiam sed etiam ad dogmata, criticam, chronologiam, et Eccelsiae disciplinam pertinentes, per brevies interrogationes et responsiores perstringuntur et in praeclaro ordine collocantur, various editions in 9, 12 or 4 volumes (Cf Dictionnaire de theologie catholique, tomelo, col 1766-68).

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