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20 September 1842 — Father Jean-Baptiste Épalle to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Rio de Janiero

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, August 2015

Father Colin, Superior General of the Society of Mary, 4 St Barthelemy Rise, Lyons.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 20th September 1842

Very Reverend Father,
Having left New Zealand on the 23rd May, I went to Valparaiso, which I left on 27th July on a French naval vessel, the Aube. Because this corvette still has to call in at a Brazilian port to get from there to Martinique, in the Antilles, it is impossible for me to stay with it, my mission demands more urgent completion. In all probability I will board an English ship in a few days. I will get to France via England near the end of November or the beginning of December. When I got to Rio de Janeiro, I was welcomed by the nuncio[1] with inexpressible kindness and received hospitality from him. He takes a great interest in the missions, (and) seeing that my resources did not allow me to take the first ship that came along, and my need to hasten my arrival; he offered me his purse, and he did not say that I was obliged to accept it. This letter will get to you through the nuncio in Paris.[2]
As there is some possibility that the mission’s needs will demand a journey to Rome, and knowing as well that it was your intention to go there after receiving the details which I am bringing you,[3] I must inform you that I will be ready to leave the day after my arrival in Lyons, if you think it appropriate, because on my arrival I hope to find some letters from Bishop Pompallier. The nuncio here thinks that simply because I am coming from New Zealand, a journey to Rome is imperative, and he wants to announce it; he is asking Propaganda to be so kind as to be urgent in its dealings with us. That apart, Very Reverend Father, I soon will be in your hands, and I will have nothing to say there, or rather I will have long pages and, in particular, a full heart, but I will have nothing to decide. Do not find it out of place, I beg you, that I beg you to prepare a prompt return for me to New Zealand; away from that land, the rest of the world seems to me to be an exile from the exile of this world here below.
If a dispatch of men was about to be sent, I think, according to the information that I am carrying, it would be better to delay the preparations until my arrival.[4] I have definitely lost the hope that I so long nurtured, of being able to be present at the general retreat. If there was to be a profession of vows on the occasion of the feastdays of the Blessed Virgin during Advent, I would beg you to kindly wait till the last one, so as to show me consideration on this occasion of public exercises; do not forget, please, your abandoned child; journeys, even over the sea, do not sanctify you. Impious words and blasphemies are the only reminders of God; the holiest conversations are those which are the most skilful at turning away conversations[5] about God, his holy mother, and religion. Prayers which are offered on the bridge of a ship, in a circle of sailors, are very badly done; out of the three months sailing, up till today, I have not yet been able to have a cabin to myself. The good God wanted it this way; in return he has granted me that I put up with the sea without difficulty; this last voyage has allowed me to recover perfectly from some exhaustion that I experienced before my departure from New Zealand.
I will see you very soon!!!
Your most devoted son,
Jean-Baptiste Épalle, pro-vicar.


  1. His Lordship Ambrogio Campodonico, Apostolic Nuncio in Rio de Janeiro in 1842 (cf. Notizie 1842, p336)
  2. His Lordship Antonio Garibaldi, apostolic nuncio in Paris in 1842 (cf. Notizie, 19842, p 336)
  3. In fact, when Epalle wrote the present letter, Colin had just finished his journey to Rome, leaving Rome on 28th May 1842, and going via Marseilles and Livorno, Colin and Poupinel were in Rome on the 4th June. The superior General was carrying the text of the rules of the Society approved at the chapter of 18 – 24 April, 1842, but coming up against the reservations of Cardinal Castracane, he gave up pressing the matter and withdrew his constitutions. He had more success in the matter of the missions, because on the 23rd August the Vicariate of Central Oceania was erected, and Bataillon was appointed Vicar Apostolic, and Guillaume Douarre his co-adjutor Colin and Poupinel left Rome on the evening of the28th August, to get back to Lyons on the 3rd September.( cf Mayet, Memoires vol 4 p 1-3, 65 – 68, 78 – 80, vol 5, p9)
  4. Fathers Jean-Simon Bernard, Auguste Chouvet and Delphin Victor Moreau, the missionaries of the seventh group, had already left, having departed from Toulon on 15th August, 1842. They were the last dispatch to New Zealand in Father Colin’s time. The eighth group, which included twelve missionaries, among whom was Bishop Guillaume Douarre, left on two ships in April and May 1843.
  5. les conversations les plus saintes sont celles qui sont les plus adroites a detourner les conversations