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18 November 1841. — Father Jean-André Tripe to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Akaroa

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, August 2014


To Mr Colin, Superior-General of the Society of the Marists, 4 St Barthelemy Rise, In Lyons, (France)


J M J


Akaroa. 18th November 1841


Very Reverend Father Superior
[l]
I have read and made a copy of the letter, full of charitable and fatherly expressions, which you kindly sent to all the Fathers in our mission. My efforts will attempt to put into practice, with the help of grace, the so-salutary advice it contains. Deprived of the striking appearance of worship, of the edifying examples that are found in France, and especially of the blessedness of having our Saviour in our chapels, we experience a need for being aroused as you have deigned to arouse us. May the Saviour amply reward that burning charity you have for us all: if our prayers deserve to be heard, that help will not fail you.
[2]
Since the Bishop and Father Viard arrived in Akaroa, I have recovered that tranquility of spirit which I had tried vainly to find for about a year: that situation however did not influence in any way how I carried out my duties and studies. The Bishop showed every sort of respect and good will towards me.
[3]
Father Viard, to whom I completely opened my mind on my previous dealings with the Bishop, whom he is going to accompany to France, asked me whether I had anything to retract of what I had written to you last year. My reply was in the negative, because my conscience has never reproached me for having said anything untrue. If however I had blamed the Bishop for what had happened to me at the Bay of Islands concerning my trunk which people refused to move after having wiped up the spillage from two vases of oil. and similarly the refusal to have my linen washed, which had been trampled and soiled by animals while it was drying and which I was asked to take to Akaroa in that condition, I would retract it as not being his responsibility, but I don't believe I made that mistake. As for things I did not witness, I believe similarly that I spoke about them faithfully and just as I heard about them. I concede that in complaining to you, my action was serious, but, as well, things had been pushed to an extreme, and I foresaw what would be the outcome for me. Further, my cause was also the same as that of some of my confreres who were complaining without daring to raise their voices. In this respect, everything is now in order, and I bless providence for that. The Bishop knows, through one of your letters, that you have received complaints, but he does not know and he will be left in ignorance of who it was that sent them to you. Now I am going to talk to you for some moments about my present situation and my opinions about the direction that the mission could take, failing better advice.
[4]
The Bishop is leaving me at Akaroa to carry out my ministry among some colonists, while Father Comte is responsible for making journeys among the natives of the surrounding areas, because those people nearest here seem to not want the Catholic religion at all. His Honour the Minister[1] having recommended the colony to his Lordship, it seems that I am here for an indefinite time unless all the colonists take advantage of the possibility they have just been given of returning to France, which certainly will not happen. That recommendation was asked for by commanding officer Lavaud, as he has just told me, because the Minister seemed to have little concern about it, since at the same time he was offering passage to the colonists at the expense of the state. The Bishop thought he could refuse nothing to the government, so as to deserve its protection in Oceania. In the meantime, our ministry is almost worthless because of the indifference of the colonists, who are, after all, only about sixty in number, including the children and the Protestant families: the sailors (less the commandant) come to Mass once or twice a year and when they have been ordered to do so. Father Comte goes on his journeys only two or three times a year, and I, in particular, am making little progress in [learning] the language; not being able to combine practice with study. Several times we have asked to go to the tropics; the promise to send us has been made, but we cannot foresee when the means to do so will be possible.
[5]
As for my opinions about the mission, here they are: it seems to me that we are relying too much on the government' s protection,[2] and are making too many sacrifices on its behalf. First of all, because that wasn't the way that St Francis Xavier acted, then because there would be a way of preventing the loss of missionaries without the appearance of the French flag, through visiting the mission as often as possible. During these visits the missionaries' condition could be seen, their success, the attitude of the natives towards them, and if they were wasting their time or if their days were threatened, they could be withdrawn for a time and brought back after they had brought the faith to other islands; all the more since up till now the ministry to the natives has been almost limited to instruction, baptisms and confirmation for a certain number.
[6]
I concede that, to act in this way, a ship would always be needed to be at sea, but it could be looked after very economically, whether by using a ship of the capacity absolutely needed to safely navigate in these regions, or by employing as a captain and as a first mate two Brothers from the mission who would, for that reason, do special training in France. The first mate would watch out to prevent any misappropriation and other misuse by the crew, and could. if necessary, act as captain. In this way, there would be savings in the purchase of a ship, in its repair and [grément - ?], in the appointment of officers and the reduction of crew numbers and finally from more conscientious vigilance and administration.
[7]
As well, a trained and capable Brother would be needed for administering the Bishop's house: a priest seems to be out of place in this task and cannot have the necessary freedom to haggle over purchases in the markets.
[8]
Over and above the savings in money that would result from this plan, the priest administering temporal matters at the Bay of Islands would be available for reassignment. Father Comte and I would be able to be used in other ways without the colony being entirely abandoned it would be enough to visit it from time to time to offer it spiritual help. The government would have no reason to be concerned about this step. The Fathers from the tropics and others who could be placed there could be increased in some manner in the way indicated here: it was still the way of the apostle of the Indies. It seems to me also that Reverend Father Garin could concurrently hold several tasks beyond that of watching over, in a special way, the observance of the Rule, because of the little employment his responsibility would give him, because of the lack of communication with a certain number of subjects who are very distant from the central point of the mission. Such are the opinions which I submit for your consideration and that of people more highly placed in the mission.
[9]
As it might be possible that the Bishop's journey to France might not take place because of obstacles that might arise, and that the confidences I have shared with Father Viard were not brought to you, I am going to inform you about them.
1. ) I have it from the commandant that the Bishop requested from him last year a lieutenant from the naval vessel and 12 sailors to crew his schooner, and that the commander had referred the matter to the Minister of the Navy, but only in respect of the sailors, foreseeing that a lieutenant would not be granted. Those sailors would be sent from France to the Bay of Islands at the expense of the mission and, according to what I believe, appointed by it. The Minister has not yet said anything in reply and it seems he will not reply. On this matter, it has been said that the Bishop is not free of certain human weaknesses.
2.) The same commander has whispered to me that the Bishop was going to secure a bishopric in France. Forced to prove this assertion, because I did not believe it, he said to me, "I have put him on the right track twice and he answered me: it is not easy to get a bishopric - it would have to be offered me. So [his] devotion to the government could have a double motive.
3.) He doesn't understand how the Bishop has not yet made the journey to the tropics and could not do it, since he had taken a place on the L 'Aube which wasn't going there on its way back to France, while the reason for his haste in buying the schooner was the visit to our confreres who are there. He added as well, "What did the Bishop have to do here last year by spending 6 months here?" He regrets having been in the situation of giving the Allier to accompany the schooner and the Bishop in the visit which the loss of Father Chanel made it absolutely necessary for him to do. I beg you to find out the reason for this forgetting the tropics and to prudently question Father Viard about this.
4.) The captain of our schooner said one day, and without any [bad? - word omitted] intention, that the Bishop had made a bad purchase by paying fifteen thousand francs for the site of a church at the Bay of Islands because the value of the land had greatly diminished since the British government had established itself elsewhere. I wouldn't dare to write to you about things like this if you were not committed to us and if I did not see in them the interests of the mission.
[l0]
With most profound respect,
Very Reverend Father,
I am your most humble and devoted servant and son,
Tripe
Miss(ionary) apost(olic)
[11]
The commandant, having become aware that I was writing to you, has charged me with presenting to you his respects, as does M Sainte Croix de Belligny, magistrate and representative of the company.[3]

Notes

  1. Victor Guy, Baron Duperre (1775-1846). Minister of the Navy and the Colonies from 22 November 1883 to 6 September 1836. from 12 May 1839 to 1 March 1840, and from 29 October 1840 until 7 February 1843 (cf Dictionnaire des ministres p 131)
  2. The 'government' s protection' seems to refer to the French government - translator's note
  3. Pierre-Joseph Sainte-Croix Croquet de Belligny, representative of the Nanto-Bordelaise Company, accompanied the colonists to Akaroa. where he was appointed administrator by Commander Lavaud (Cf Buick p Sl-52, 128. 141-2, Jore Vol l, p 198, Vol 2 p 96-96, 99-100)