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4 November 1842 – Father Pierre Bataillon to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Wallis

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, October 2015

Father Colin, Superior, 4 St Barthelemy Rise, Lyons, France.

Wallis Islands, 4 November 1842.

To Very Reverend Father Colin

Very Reverend Father,
I am very happy to once again have an opportunity to write to you. It was the Bishop himself who took away my most recent letters, which informed you that the Ouvea or Wallis islands were totally Christian, and it was a French corvette which was going to be responsible for that. That ship was sent specially to visit our mission. The French admiral commanding the stations in the South Seas and living on the Marquesas Islands, of which France took possession just last May, having heard through long-circulating rumours that we were being harassed in our mission, immediately sent us the Embuscade, a corvette with 34 guns and a crew of 230 men to help us. Having found the Wallis Islands in the best dispositions, it would have stayed there only a few days, but it had the misfortune to run aground on entering the harbour, and was forced to spend nearly six weeks with us while it was being repaired. At last, it is about to leave. The commander of the corvette is M. Mallet. He is a man who seems very interested in our missions. He has offered us every service and has placed himself entirely at our disposition; it seems that the admiral and all the French commanders in these seas are also inspired by the best dispositions towards us. They are aware of the whole importance of the work of the French missionaries, and they want to support them. May God always be blessed, he gains glory from everything. Now that there is a permanent station in the Marquesas Islands, we are led to hope that we will often be visited by some French warship. God will turn everything to his glory. We had reason to fear that the long stay of the French corvette might do serious harm to our new Christian community, but all sorts of precautions were taken. The commander shared our concerns, and, thanks be to God, things went off well. The commander and most of his officers, very well intentioned, kept a close watch on the crew, every Sunday led it in worship, gave them every opportunity to be able to approach the sacraments, and last Sunday we counted 40 sailors at the holy table, and twelve of them communicated for the first time. That very much edified our newly-baptised. We profited from the presence of the corvette to baptise two chiefs who had not been baptised earlier. The ceremony took place last Sunday in the church of St John the Baptist, which is the main church in the mission. The commander had done everything to dress the ship in flags. He had 80 men bearing arms. With his lieutenant he was godfather to the two chiefs, and ten others of his crew were godfathers to ten other catechumens who were baptised at the same time. That was the end of the baptisms; no-one is left except for some Protestants who have come from neighbouring islands but belong to this one, and have not yet wanted to convert to Catholicism. In time we hope to win them over, and we commend them to your prayers and holy sacrifices. After that, the French showed themselves to be very good and kind to our islanders. They overwhelmed them with generosity. The commander gave all sorts of good advice to our king, and backed up the advice which we gave him for the good of his people and the prosperity of his islands. He gave him a flag to make his islands an independent country, and concluded with him a treaty of alliance in the name of France, and his majesty Jean-Baptiste Lavelua[1] has just sent a letter and gifts to his majesty King Louis-Philippe, as a sign of his alliance. We have reasons to believe that all that will, later on, produce happy results. Finally, we only have to congratulate ourselves on the coming of the Embuscade. Two doctors who were among its crew did a lot for suffering human beings. They used their skills especially on the hydrocells[2] which are very numerous in these islands, and completely cured them all. We profited from such a fortunate opportunity to have dear Brother Joseph operated on – he was afflicted by the same condition – if that had not happened we were under orders to send him to New Zealand to get his illness treated. These gentlemen, the doctors, had examined the island’s needs, in terms of medicines, and wrote out a list of medicaments, equipment and medical books which should constitute the dispensary of the mission in Wallis. Father Viard is to send it to you. It seems that it would be easy to find someone in Lyons who would take on the responsibility of filling up this list without any cost to the Society.
The mission schooner has just arrived from New Zealand. It brings us Brother Augustin[3] with a loom for weaving cotton and some other little things. The captain has to take it to Valparaiso; it has also brought a priest [4] to Tonga to be with Father Chevron. I haven’t yet received certain trunks that I was told were addressed to me from France, and in which are some gifts for our king. At the Bay of Islands they were entrusted to a whaling ship which had left before the schooner and which still has not arrived.
It was Father Viard, the pro-vicar, whom the Bishop left here in the place of Father Chevron. Our ministry is very difficult but it is full of consolations. The new Christian community here is sustaining itself and is still making further progress. On all the ordinary Sundays we count 300 to 500 communions. Last Assumption day we counted nearly 700, and we would have had them all, I think, if we had been able to hear them all.[5] Everything is up and running now in our Christian community. We only have to keep it going. Please keep on praying for us, and the Blessed Virgin will still protect us. We are going to focus more particularly on what concerns the material well-being of our newly baptised; teaching them to cultivate cotton, spin it and weave it, to build houses for themselves that are more healthy and more convenient, to read and write etc,... to raise cattle and grow European plants etc, etc.. Those are the Bishop’s intentions, which always embrace the double blessing of religion and civilisation. It’s a little new world which is to be created.
I have nothing in particular, Very Reverend Father, to communicate to you. The least of your children is the one writing to you and who, for that reason, specially commends himself to your prayers and holy sacrifices.
The least of your children and your most humble and respectful servant,
Bataillon, missionary apostolic.


  1. Lavelua was his dynastic name, his personal name was Vaimua ( cf Rozier Ecrits Chanel p 206; at his baptism in 1842 he took the name Soane Patita (John the Baptist) cf Henquel p 28.)
  2. Hydrocells(?) The hydrocell is a serious swelling of the scrotum
  3. Brother Marie-Augustin (Joseph Drevet), cf. doc 202 [1 -2], 209 [14], 217 , [32], 221 [4], 239 [5].
  4. Jerome-Basile Grange ( cf doc 161 [12], 202 [1], 205, [3], 217 [6]
  5.  ? Nous les eussions, je crois, tous eu si nous eussions pu tous les entendre. « entendre » could imply that a person was expected to have his/her confession heard before receiving communion – translator’s note

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