From Marist Studies
20 August 1842. — Father Pierre Bataillon to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Wallis
Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, June 2015
- Father Colin, St Barthelémy Rise, Lyons, France.
- Ouvea Island, known also as Wallis.
- 20 August, 1842
- To very Reverend Father Colin Superior-General of the Society of Mary.
- Very Reverend Father,
- I am taking the risk of entrusting a few words to you to a whaling-ship, which still expects to be two years in Oceania, but may come across, during its hunting, a ship going directly to Europe.
- The Bishop of Maronea [Pompallier] left here at the beginning of this month. He is taking several letters for France, all addressed to you. These letters must be dated from last May, because his Lordship had first left here with 500 neophytes, including the king of the island, to visit the neighbouring islands. He came back after two months, and he did nothing but leave again with our letters. Nothing new to tell you apart from that we now have about 50 Protestant natives belonging to Wallis and whom the Bishop brought back from the neighbouring islands where they had gone, and who had been converted to Protestantism. They have brought with them all the lies of heresy against the Church of Rome; we have a new type of struggle with them, which, we hope, will not last long, although they are very stubborn.
- I have told you in my letters that the bishop had not left here until he had baptised the whole island, with the exception of six people who are still in the catechumenate. Our new Christian community is still doing very well and gives us all sorts of consolations. Everything is under way and on the same footing as in old-established Christian communities. We had 700 communions on the day of the Assumption last. What faith and fervour, and purity of conscience are found in most of our neophytes! During the two days and two nights I spent in the confessional at the Assumption, the most frequent difficulty I experienced was in knowing whether I ought to give absolution or not, being unable to find any basis for it.
- The Bishop took Father Chevron away from me at the moment that he was beginning to help me. He sent him on his own to Tonga, where was received with thanksgiving by the group of pagans who had still refused to embrace heresy. Father Viard, Pro-vicar of His Lordship, has replaced Father Chevron. He is already beginning to carry out the sacred ministry. He has very quickly found how to learn the language.
- I am just finishing the baptismal registers. I can tell you the number of the people of Wallis pretty exactly. It’s 2,600, a few either way, all are Christians. The total number of marriages is 424. If the present state of affairs goes on, the island will soon be very populous, because since last January we have already counted 70 births, and very few people have died.
- Fathers Servant and Roulleaux are on Futuna. That island, which gave the crown of martyrdom to Father Chanel, is now entirely converted. While calling there, the Bishop performed 114 baptisms. It offers great grounds for hope. There are greatest reasons for hope in Tonga, in spite of the Satanic anger of heresy, which has spread among all these island groups. So three missions have been begun in the tropics; they could be founded in all the islands, but we lack priests, and money as well. The Bishop is now in great difficulty. He is going to be forced to sell his ship, and will he be able to pay even half what he owes? How will he now visit us? And if he doesn’t visit us, how will he maintain and get the missions to grow? The loss of the Oceanians is not their fault, they are ready to receive life, but they lack priests, and the charity of our Christians in Europe, although already very admirable, will still be found at fault on the day of Judgment.
- So many things to tell you about, Reverend Father. If I had just a half-hour to spend with you. Be still so good as to pray for the least of your children, who is still as wretched as you have known him to be. The overwhelming tasks of the sacred ministry in the last 10 months at least, have made me lose my recollection. Perhaps I will get it back again during our annual retreat, which we are going to have during these coming days. The sufferings and the struggles are not in short supply, but the grace of Our Lord will abound as well, I hope, and in the midst of the trials, I hope to attain, one day, the goal.
- I am, respectfully, your very humble and obedient servant,
- Bataillon, missionary apostolic.
- Cf the two letters from Wallis dated May 1842 and addressed to Colin: docs 143 and 172; three others addressed by Chevron to his family and to Father Auguste Girard: docs 153, 161 and 162. It would be less likely to find, among these letters, those dated in December 1841 and January 1842 and addressed to Colin: docs 119, 125, 126.