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2 April 1842 — Father Jean-André Tripe to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Akaroa

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, April 2008

J(esus) M(ary) J(oseph)
Akaroa 2 April 1842

Very Reverend Father
The ship which should carry the letter I wrote the day before yesterday[1] not having yet raised its anchor, it seems to me to be appropriate to set down some details which could justify me against what people could criticise me for in your presence, those being absent sometimes seeming to be worthy of condemnation over vague accusations.
The first thing I was criticised for, was for wanting to reform things during my stay in the Bay of Islands: here is what would have occasioned this criticism. From the time I arrived there, Father Epalle acted towards me with cordiality, and even with an unreserved familiarity, to the point at which I thought I could make some observations about what I saw to be out of order. For example, he put his watch on the altar while he celebrated Mass; twice he had left it at the latrines, where I found it, and those places were shared by the workmen as well as ourselves. An altar stone had been broken because a very heavy object had been allowed to be placed on the altar; rain would fall in a storage area and damage things belonging to the mission, etc… It was natural enough to point out these lapses, but my remarks were deplored: I was inferior, and was made to feel it. From then on, I maintained almost absolute silence and allowed the water to flow in. Contradictions in deeds and words followed: a bitter tone was used in discussions which I did not provoke; concerning theology and sciences, and in the area of sciences I had to listen to absurdities proclaimed with pitiable conceitedness. All that went on without the knowledge of the Bishop who, hardly knowing me except through the Father’s reports, apparently believed I had a reforming attitude, and saw me, I believe, as being full of my own importance. It is true that I had rebuked Father Epalle for his provocative remarks, and I had as well made some remarks to the Bishop on the spelling of some words in his writings, but however with all the reserve that I owed to his status. On one occasion only, I made complaints and this was after my trunk twice received the contents of a vase of oil without anyone wanting to move it. My action had no other result than a long exhortation to patience and blind obedience. I needed such an extraordinary situation to make complaints, because the Bishop had already made me suffer from insults [2] which I was far from being used to. I was told at recreation, during which, for the second time, I was enjoying myself on the guitar: What are you doing there with your instrument? You should be studying. That was the finish for me with musical instruments, so I left them behind on coming to Akaroa; but all the same the Bishop asked me one day in front of the gentlemen from the Aube why I had not brought them. As an answer to my repeated request to have my watch repaired – it had been stopped by water damage – and on the point of leaving the Bay of Islands, where there was a watchmaker, I got the reply from the Bishop: mine doesn’t go, either. However the repair work was eventually done. I couldn’t explain this manner of acting, and I thought it was the result of a new system of perfection worked out specially for me because of my age and my long experience; but believing myself very inclined to pride, I yielded to it all, and observed patience. During a conference of priests concerning the explanation of the Rule, I suggested that through trials that were too harsh, one could sometimes force a man to leave a community, and I mentioned situations I was personally aware of: my claim was rejected as an attack on Superiors, whose conduct a subject must never scrutinise.
The second criticism, forcefully made to me by the Bishop, was to have revealed to the gentlemen on the Aube what went on in our community at the Bay of Islands. I replied that I had said nothing other than that we were in a great mess, in material terms, because of the mix-up of our trunks and things which had not yet been sorted out.
The third was not responding to the Bishop when he gave me advice on how I should carry out my ministry to the colonists. I was happy just to listen, and learnt nothing new, having been a priest for 17 years, during which I had looked after, on my own, a parish numbering about two thousand souls. As well, I hardly understood the implication of the Bishop’s advice, that is, that I should consider myself as knowing nothing.
The fourth and greatest accusation was to have said to the Bishop, at the request of Father Comte, that his spiritual and temporal administration did not have the approval of his priests. Here I was only my confrère’s instrument, and I did not expect to suffer the whole force of the Bishop’s indignation. What really affected me in this business was that after having got me to play the role of informer by means of skillful innuendos, such as the glory of God, the good of the mission, the need that a Superior has to be aware of his subjects’ attitudes; the Bishop did not keep this revelation secret from Father Comte and came down on him as he did on me. When I added that this belief was shared as well at the Bay of Islands, I meant that Father Epalle had spoken to me several times of the neglected situation of our Fathers in the tropics, adding that according to what a ship’s captain had said, one of them had left the priesthood. I had heard talk of the same sort regarding temporal matters, and even another priest said in my presence, when we saw a nice ship: if the Bishop saw it, he would want to have it, he has a craving for everything. I see the description as ‘conspirators’ which has been given Father Comte and me, as inapplicable to us: from the time we become members of an organisation we have the right to be aware of the way in which the members are managed, especially when that has the disapproval of most of the priests; and if it is otherwise, the priests in the tropics have not the least bit to say about the state of abandonment in which they have been left, although the rule or the Society assured them of being helped. And on this matter I will allow myself to quote you something which the Bishop let slip and which was repeated to me by Father Viard. It was said that, not being able to visit the stations in New Zealand and the tropics before going to France, he had to sacrifice the feet for the head. [3] It was that saying that, in one of my letters, I promised you to prudently get from Father Viard. [4] You can imagine that with delays like this, zeal for the tropics may cool a little, and if the journey to those shores did occur, it was only the result of circumstances and when it was no longer possible to put it off.
The permission to return to France was given jointly to Father Comte and me, without ever having been revoked, because Father Epalle in one of his letters encouraged us not to use it; but as it was given us by the Bishop in a lovely moment, I would not like to use it, and I beg you again to grant it me yourself.
Commander Lavaud asks me to offer you his respects and greetings.
I have the honour of again being, with deepest respect, Father Superior,
Your most humble and devoted servant
Missionary priest


  1. Doc 137
  2. m’aviat déjà fait assuyer des rebuts
  3. sacrifier les pieds à la tête
  4. Cf. Doc 117 [9]

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