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30 July 1842 — Father Denis Maîtrepierre to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Lyons

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, May 2015

Father Colin, priest, poste restante, Rome Italy.

Lyons, 30 July, 1842

Very Reverend Father.
I have just received a thick packet of letters from Oceania – all from Bishop Pompallier. One letter to His Eminence Cardinal de Bonald, one to the bishop of Belley, one to Mr Meynis. These three letters are under the episcopal seal. I will send them to their destinations only at your orders. A confidential letter to you, which I allowed myself to open, so as to be able to give you a quick idea (of it). Here is what it covers: Thanks for your frankness - a poor excuse for his sharpness – says it is wrong that he has threatened excommunication for nothings, and in particular for lack of politeness – he attributes the lies that people accuse him of, to humiliation and disappointment at not succeeding in ministry – As usual, he blames you for the lack of unity and trust which has ruled the mission, to which your administration has done more harm than all its enemies. At that time, the 15th November 1841, he owed 20 000 francs, and had no hope of borrowing more.
Non-confidential letter – He describes the reasons he has been prevented from giving more exact news and accounts – difficulties concerning places, weather, the multiplicity of concerns – everything had to be created (from scratch) etc, etc... He alone knows the mission’s success; the others know little or nothing about it; the latter see the mission in terms of esteem. He wants 15 priests and 15 brothers for New Zealand, with the money needed to cover the most urgent needs. People come from a thousand leagues away to ask him for missionaries. In the tropics 50 priests and 50 brothers would be needed; the costs there would be a lot less, the subjects find food there. 11stations in New Zealand, 2 in the tropics. Soon he will send someone from the mission to Europe and to Rome.
Letter to the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda – New Zealand, island of Te Waipounamu, Akaroa Harbour (station set up since 15 August 1840) 15th November 1841.
Complaints about not having received the 1841 allocations –
“Anyway I am saddened and forced to tell your Eminence that the administration of my own congregation in Lyons is having a sad experience in communicating with the vicariate apostolic. The irregularity of the mail, or perhaps the negligence or ill will of those deputed to this task make all our communications irregular, but it’s still the case that ignorance about important things, too much prudence, too much hesitation on the part of the superior general and some of his councillors concerning my administration have prolonged a fatal slowness in the progress of this mission, have caused things to be misunderstood, have led to debates, delays and omissions concerning important instructions to be carried out purely and simply in France when I have communicated them to the administration by letters from here, God forbid that I want to accuse of sin Father, the religious Superior-General. To the contrary, I am sure he will be really hurt to find out about the evils afflicting this mission.” Extract from the above letter.
His Lordship thinks that it would be very helpful to the mission if he went in person to Europe and to Rome, but that according to his Eminence’s advice he will try to supplement it by letter and by some delegated missionaries.
He has appointed three pro-vicars, Fathers Épalle, Viard and Baty and a provincial, Father Garin. The death of Father Chanel has been announced.
In another letter the Bishop announces that he is leaving for Futuna, accompanied by the corvette L’Allier to see what is happening in this area, and to recover the martyr’s remains. In his letter to his Eminence, the Bishop says that he is being forced to sell his vessel and some land bought for mission stations, and that the price will not be enough to wipe out his debts.
Two large tables on which he sets out the names of his stations, the tribes included in them, the churches and chapels built, the successes, the baptisms, the burials, the first communions, the fears, the hopes, etc.
I am making haste to warn you about all that, but I think that this letter will not find you in Rome. If unforeseen circumstances still kept you there, I would ask you to write to me immediately, and immediately I would send you all the documents you will need.
Father Dubreuil arrived yesterday after being away a day under eight months. I only had the time to say “Good evening” to him. He is well, and the same Father Dubreuil.
With deep respect, I have the honour to be, very reverend Father,
Your most humble and obedient son,
Priest, Society of Mary.