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12 Jun 1845 Fr Philippe Calinon to Fr Jean-Claude Colin

Translated by Peter McConnell, May 2010

Very reverend Father,
According to article 3 of paragraph 5 of my rules, I have to write to you twice a year in April to speak to you about each of the Marist missionaries in particular and then about the state of the Marist Society in the mission field.
There being no ship for France prevented me from conforming punctually to that regulation and will no doubt prevent me from doing so in the future. I am going to do it today when I will gather together a lot of details. I shall attempt to put them in the best order. First I shall deal with the marist members beginning with those who have seniority of service or of rank in the apostolic vicariate.
No 1 Bishop Bataillon. You know what the prelate is like. His long suffering sustained by an heroic patience and the delays experienced in the mission fields as much before as after his being made a bishop are a guarantee of the quality of being a missionary and as a child devoted to Mary. While he was under the jurisdiction of Bishop Pompallier, he always submitted to him without reservation as he did to Father Viard, appointed his superior in the mission station of the Wallis Islands, although according to what I have heard both had treated him rather harshly more than once. However I must tell you that the two of us have had rather lively discussions on the way he communicates with our Marist Society within his apostolic vicariate. This communication consists of leaving the clergy in various islands to the discretion of the natives for their board and lodging and in concentrating in the Wallis Islands almost all the resources allocated by the Office of the Propaganda of the Faith. Here in Tonga he left us five clergymen with a sum of 300 francs which Father Chevron, charged by him to get supplies for the community, used to buy medicine and other things for the natives. What I am saying about us should also be heard concerning the clergy at Futuna and Fiji, but I shall come back to that matter in the article entitled Physical management of the Marist Society at the Centre of the Apostolic Vicariate.
No 2 Bishop Pompallier We have not seen each other since our meeting in Rio de Janiero (Brazil) in 1843. At Tahiti where I saw the frigate Uranie again I found out that he was generally liked as much by Admiral Armand Bruat, governor of French Polynesia, as by his officers. The same impression was made on board the corvette Le Bucéphale, which took him to New Caledonia and I have only just learnt from the corvette Le Rhin that he finally made port safely. You know this prelate enough to know that he has a fine spirit, only he has a slight propensity for backbiting and overspending. I had already found that out. When he was still in France he had complained about the Marist Society and the way it had blocked his intentions. In Tonga he welcomed the complaints of Father Grange of whom I shall speak later on and repeated them indiscreetly as well as several other matters as much in front of the commander of Le Bucéphale as in front of Bishop Bataillon and of matters that did not need to be broached unless we say that this comes from an openness which his conscience is less at fault than his judgement. I think I should add that it is a shame that he was so keen to make New Caledonia the centre of the vicariate which is an isolated mission field lacking influence, lacking communication and which from the little information that I have been able to glean, offers only very small chance of success. Had he been able to accept advice to concentrate in the populous archipelago of Samoa (Navigators) or in the Fiji Islands or especially here in Tonga which is in the middle of that part of Oceania what Paris is in the middle of France, Protestantism would soon be at bay. For it is generally believed that once Tonga had been won, the archipelagos roundabout would follow suite. This very remark made Bishop Bataillon realize the importance of coming here to establish his diocese but we must believe that that will not happen for a long time yet. For apart from the fact that there is currently a war between Protestants and Catholics, if the prelate were to leave the island there he would not be able to leave any missionary able to speak the native language. Father Mathieu works as Bishop Bataillon¹s secretary and Father Roudaire seems only to be waiting for the opportunity to join Bishop Pompallier. I do not know, reverend Father, how Bishop Bataillon will speak to you of all these matters, but I think that after the mistaken measure of going to New Caledonia the only remedy is to return to settle in one of the places I have mentioned.
No 3 Father Chevron He has shared the sufferings of the martyred Peter Chanel at Futuna and of Father Bataillon at Wallis. He was the founder of the mission station at Tonga, where he experienced an increase in troubles which few men, I believe, would have been able to tolerate. What is essential here is not only resignation and courage but discernment and prudence because of the Protestant ministers who have at least half the population and who have a great influence on the rest because of their union with the peoples of Vavao and Hapai, which are entirely Protestant. He put up with hunger, want, the scorn and calumnies of the adversaries, etc, with constancy, resignation and pluck, which he was to find only in virtue. Through his gentle and affable nature he finished up by winning the esteem of the pagans and of the Protestants themselves, who show his superiority when their methods and his are compared. He has made great strides at the mission station by destroying the obstacles to our holy religion and stopping the progress of heresy. The change of attitude has already changed much in our favour and all signs encourage our belief that if our resources allowed us to establish two or three mission stations in those parts of the island where our converts are, we would not be slow in seeing the Catholic missionary efforts take precedence over those of the Protestants.
No 4 Father Grange he has been assistant to Father Chevron for about two and a half years. He has had his share of suffering which has impaired his temperament. Only it is sad that he does not seek relief in resignation and the spiritual attitude which should activate a member of the marist order. His complaints do not stop with the way Bishop Bataillon runs his diocese, who according to Grange uses up all the resources of the mission and leaves the Marist missionaries in absolute penury. Matters have now reached the point that he needs to return to France. Also as soon as he saw the corvette at anchor he started to prepare for his departure, but having been alerted that his plan was to win over to his point of view the other missionaries and to get from them letters which would authorize his going to you to solicit changes that he does not cease claiming, I thought it was essential to tell him that in a private interview that since he had taken the decision to leave us, I would let him do so. However, I forbade him under the gravest of penalties to advise my colleagues that he was leaving for no other reason than that of his poor health and that he was leaving with the purpose of handing himself over to France. I thought it essential to point him out to you as a trouble maker who shows by such behaviour that he does not have a vocation for missionary work or for religious life. This interview appears to have frightened him and made him decide to stay. However I do not think that we will not be disturbed by him in the future. I have tried many times to appease his embittered feelings by counselling patience. I told him that matters will improve little by little, and that I proposed to submit to you as well a plan for modifying the system which is really quite onorous but there is need for including in that plan moderation and especially charity. It is impossible to make him see reason. His fertile imagination makes us want his departure as soon as he wants it himself. We have to let him do what he wants, not to contradict him in any way, for fear of provoking an outburst which would cause considerable grief to our mission station. If there were Marists here whose vocations were not strong, I would be greatly anxious of his upsetting them by his constant recriminations. However we must judge him fairly because in my opinion he makes a lot of effort to master his feelings and because he bears the mission enough interest not to want to harm it willingly. Furthermore from what he has admitted himself, he has not been happier in New Zealand than in the tropics. He has seldom been able to agree even in France with different superiors. He has a definite character linked to a great active imagination which clouds his judgement. His misfortune in my opinion and in that of Father Chevron who has studied it for a long time is that he has not got a religious vocation. It is a fact that I have almost never seen him make an act of pure subordination. He rarely asks permission to dispose of objects belonging to the mission. He speaks of religious life, of mortification, of vows, etc in a way which scandalizes our brothers. He blames ceaselessly men whom providence makes him suffer. Pray for him, very reverend Father and get our Marist Society to pray for him. Be so good as to write to him some words to cheer him up and to soothe his suffering soul. Nevertheless I think that you should expect to see him return to France without delay. On this very occasion he has delayed his return fearing that in seeing him you would judge him as a disheartened member of the Marist Society.
No 5 Father Servant, superior of the mission station at Futuna. I saw him only very little during the five days that we stopped at that island on our way here. He had suffered greatly from hunger and from other deprivations. He seemed to me to have chest problems and was considerably exhausted. He had nothing to offer us to eat. The bishop left him some sustenance and a sum of two or three hundred francs to pay for the most urgent needs and a native Wallisian to prepare his meals. Brother Nizier is in another mission station five hours away. The prelate complained to the king concerning the lack of food he left his two missionaries. The king responded saying that he too was experiencing shortage of food and was scarcely able to make any contribution but were he to receive some nice presents he promised everything they wanted. I do not know how this situation panned out. To get back to Father Servant it would appear that he has a character that is a little unusual. There had been a quarrel between him and Father Roulleaux in which the bishop judged him in the wrong. The matter went so far as to his banning his colleague and for reasons that we thought very minor. It concerned the lack of deference and for using some funds in temporal matters which Father Roulleaux had permission to use in virtue of the powers given to him by Bishop Pompallier. Father Servant neglects his wellbeing and gives me at first sight the impression of one who has collapsed under the weight of suffering. His soutane is ragged, his hair is dishevelled, his face and hands are smeared resembling something of a mask; he is abstract in his conversation; there is little sequence in his ideas, etc. The bishop tells me to expect to see him always like that. Yet I must say that he is a missionary firmly virtuous, hardworking, resigned to suffering, zealous in God¹s work, etc. except that, according to the bishop, he would not have the qualities needed to head a mission station.
No 6 Father Roulleaux. He has been removed from Futuna to be put in charge of the mission station in Fiji ( Laqueba Island) with Father Bréhéret. He stayed until five o¹clock with Father Servant in the part of the island called Poi where Father Peter Chanel was martyred. He showed great enthusiasm to have a parish church built on the very spot where our venerable colleague was martyred. He had obstacles to surmount in achieving that, either through the laziness of the natives or through having to appease the divisions among them. That stirred up enemies most of whom showed signs of regret when he left. We have been together for pretty well one month. Whether during our crossing from Futuna here or whether during the time our ship was at anchor he always seemed to me to have a gentle and affable temperament. However the bishop attributed to him his share of blame in the arguments with Father Servant. It would appear according to what he himself has told me that the first source of troubles with his colleague arose from the fact that one of them looked after temporal matters and the other spiritual according to Bishop Pompallier’s plans. Furthermore he is pious, attentive to his work, speaking freely of God and of Mary, often consulting on various points of his holy ministry in the simple humility of a young priest whereas he is more than forty years old.
No 7 Father Mathieu admirably suits the office job. He is cool and collected, methodical, accurate, knowledgeable in administrative matters, a gentle nature, respectful, discreet, outgoing. He should have been chosen to play a direct role in converting pagans because of his passion. It has been a sacrifice for him to remain at Wallis where there are no pagans left. I think that he would be more useful in the mission field in the role that he plays at the Bishop’s side. His not very exuberant nature together with his shortness in stature would give him few opportunities among the people who love tall people, open faces, playful personalities and those knowing how to hit while the iron is hot.
No 8 Father Roudaire will be able to give great service to the mission in his capacity of printer. We have just seen here some of his essays which are very good. Moreover you know that he has a nature that is a little different, not entirely religious enough, changeable in tastes and occupations, very busy over minor details, has a lot of humanity, makes some complaints about the administration of the Marist Society in France relating to the missions, on the rebuffs he experienced before his departure. He did not act impartially in sharing items as the representative of Bishop Pompallier. We have really needed a great deal of restraint in regards to Bishop Bataillon so as not to complain about the amount he was given either in money or in goods. It remains a fact that we have not been pleased about that matter. The dire need of several mission stations results in part from that obviously selfish distribution made by Father Roubaire.
No 9 Father Favier is a strongly virtuous missionary who did not have second thoughts during our long journey from Toulon. He has a slightly eccentric by nature which sometimes makes him a little peculiar. He found travelling by boat tiring and it made him a little sombre. Several times he had to be helped not to become misanthropic. I see him as one who makes more effort to reach an attitude of mind which is humble, pious, punctual, often consulting matters on spiritual life and the sacred ministry. I hope that he will attract the blessings of heaven on the mission station which is entrusted to him. It is a very appreciated advantage for him that he will be working in a field watered by the blood of the first martyrs of our Marist Society.
No 10 Father Bréhéret He is assistant to Father Roulleau in the mission field of Fiji (Laquepa Island). He is like Father Favier as regards his religious qualities although he is less outgoing, but he is better in judgement and is more open to learning. He is phlegmatic by character, balanced, a little slow, gentle, retiring, dedicated to hard work and tough physically. However, he is unsure of himself, a little inexperience, has little imagination and has not much to him.
No 11 Father Rougeiron in New Caledonia. In dealing with him at Toulon before boarding ship, I noticed his piety. It is particularly apparent; he speaks a lot about what he saw and especially about our future destiny. He is brave to the point of presumption, although I think he is fearful in the depth of his soul. He is cheerful, always smiling, more inclined to accept the views of others than sharing his with them.
No 12 Father GrézelI I have already spoken to you about him in the letters from Rio de Janiero and from Tahiti. He was a burden for Bishop Guillaume Douarre during the passage from Toulon. It would have been well to have sent him back to France. At Wallis he was happy with nobody and Bishop Bataillon told me that he could not imagine that he would ever be able to admit him to the marist order. He is melancholic, touchy, easily offended, never sure of what to do. If he has not changed since then and, if the bishop had not succeeded in employing him in a printing job, I think that the only good thing to do would be to send him back to France.
No 13 Brother Joseph-Xavier Luzy He worked well and has suffered much in his first year of his being in Wallis. He is on the go, intelligent, hard working, deeply pious, out-going. His courage seems never failing even in the most rigorous trials. He suffers from two handicaps: elephantiasis in one leg and dropsy of the scrotum which have been operated on by a French doctor but the problems have come back. This medical condition combined with a strong personality perhaps makes him inclined to be short-tempered which he is criticized for and which makes dealing with him a little fractious. He is also accused of being selfish, not for himself personally but in the interests of the mission station where he serves. Given the task of distributing things to the various stations, he has always increased the share for the Wallis Islands at the expense of the other mission stations. The bishop has told me that he has not minced matters with him about his behaviour. He agrees with his faults but returns to them on the first opportunity.
No 14 Brother Marie Nizier at Futuna I have seen only very little of him. In a long private interview , he made a very favourable impression on me. He appeared to me to be gentle, humble, confident, pious, a little unsophisticated and even a little faint-hearted. He had only just recovered from an illness which was believed to be fatal and he was still quite exhausted. He has the reputation of being above average in intelligence. He has been rather quick in picking up the local language and he has written some memoirs on Father Chanel. I have not seen them but they are said to be good. His condition relative to exhaustion and deprivations no more than those of the priests is scarcely better than in the first period of this mission station. The natives have been baptized too early and a large number keep their pagan customs.
No 15 Brother Attale. He is here in Tonga and in very similar to Brother Nizier as far as his religious life in concerned. His courage and his trust in God and in Mary have never faulted. Even in the most critical times. He has a gentle personality and altruistic He submits absolutely to his superiors, forgoing any kind of earthly comforts. Since he has been in the mission field his life has been nothing but a long martyrdom and will be so for a long time yet. On more than one occasion he has been so exhausted from deprivations that he was thought to be near death. I believe as do my colleagues that it is nothing less than a miracle that he has survived. Moreover he is especially loved by the natives and he gives them invaluable help in treating their sick. By doing that he has gained a skill which I think we would not have guessed him capable of when he was in France; for in point of fact he is rather dull mentally and not really up to intellectual matters. Nevertheless, and don¹t forget this, very reverend Father, brothers of this ilk give more service to the missions than the priests themselves, not in instructing but in gaining the affection of the natives. That is the major trump card here. Send us some of that type and count on our success among the natives!
No 16 Brother Augustin Drevet is at Wallis He is particularly recommended by the bishop for his skill in building churches and other buildings. He is a man of real quality albeit a little effusive. He has had his share of trials, especially in New Zealand. He is more gentle by nature than Brother Joseph. He has never been heard to utter a complaint nor a nasty word against anybody.
Nos 17 and 18 Brother Renaut here in Tonga and Brother Perrol in Fiji (Laquepa) have both shown on their journey from Europe piety, and a real vocation. They have a gentle, submissive and humble personality but little aptitude in intellectual matters. That does not matter. They will carry out important duties in the mission field and will particularly lead holy lives.
Nos 19 and 20 Brother Jean Taragnat and Brother Blaise Marmoitton are in New Caledonia. They are the two more intelligent of those who came with me from France. I do not know if they are the most virtuous. Bishop Bataillon seems to have forewarned me against them and in particular against Brother Jean Taragnat because of his quite explicit opposition to leaving in the Wallis Islands articles left by Bishop Pompallier. He carried out only part of the instructions of His Lordship and with protests that brought no edification to anybody. You will recall of course, very reverend Father, that before leaving Lyons some Marist members from Auvergne had shown a special interest in favour of New Caledonia. It seemed that they wanted to make the future mission station in New Caledonia the main one in the apostolic vicariate and to treat the others, even those already established, as adjuncts. I had the opportunity of noticing later on that this tendency has increased and I see it as the beginning of a future division unless it is controlled. Bishop Bataillon has very definitely felt the same. Perhaps he will speak to you about it because that is more in his domain than in mine, but in any case I think that it important to give us on that issue clear instructions to avoid if possible any kind of divisiveness.
You have no doubt known before me that Father Viard had stopped in New Caledonia before continuing on to New Zealand. Bishop Pompallier claims him back with pressing invitations to join up with him again without advising Bishop Bataillon nor me. However, it seems that this priest belongs to the central apostolic vicariate as well as Father Chevron and others. I would be very appreciative if you would give me your advice on this matter for similar cases which could develop later on. In any case, I am going to inform Farther Viard of the way I see matters and I am telling Bishop Bataillon and Bishop Pompallier that they can use the powers of the provincial as well as their own to keep him if they consider it appropriate.
Reverend Father, here is what I had to tell you about the staff of our Marist Society in the tropics. Perhaps I have gone over the boundaries of my brief in speaking to you about the two prelates. I have heard a certain rumour going about that their being bishops puts them outside the Marist Society, but I know that that is not the opinion of Their Lordships. In any case I would have done it only by analogy because of the very close ties which draw us together. Besides I do not think that I have told you anything about their personality which you did not already know and if I should cease doing it, be so good as to let me know.
Temporal governance of Bishop Bataillon relating to members of the Marist Society.
The system of governance is the same as that of Bishop Pompallier in New Zealand, at least in the beginning of his episcopacy. It consists of putting the missionaries in the various islands, giving large presents to some chief who consents to take them under his protection, who promises even to feed them and to house them and so to leave them to his discretion and to that of his people. This seems rather simple according to our European ideas but to make you appreciate how it actually is in these islands, I would need several pages of explanations and I still doubt whether I would be able to make myself understood in France. I will not be able on this occasion to go into the necessary details. The vessel is leaving tomorrow morning and although I have worked day and night to write my letters to the two bishops and to each of our priests I have to leave this article unfinished. You know only, very reverend Father, that despite help brought to us from France in 1843 all our members, except those in the Wallis Islands and in New Caledonia are in a position similar to that of Father Chanel and Father Bataillon in the first years of their mission. From this very point we right here now are aware that we belong to a powerful nation which protects us; no attempt is made to lay hands on us.
These people are extremely poor, extremely lazy and consequently even extremely famished. The principal king of these archipelagos would think he lived in luxury if he were able to have one meal every day as one would have in France eating nothing but our potatoes. If that is the case of the kings, imagine what must be the case for tribesmen. And yet we are unable to live as the natives for besides the difference in temperament we lead a very active and laborious life. The natives rest when they are very hungry. For us, that is impossible. The mission would not be slow in being wiped out. We have to be constantly on the go, going and visiting some natives, receiving visitors, treating the sick, making long and frequent trips in stifling heat to visit and sustain our nascent Christian communities. All that is a pressing duty and involves absences and fasting such as are not included in the rules of the most austere religious orders. I have even strong doubts that there has ever been anything similar experienced by the desert anchorites of the past. As far as I am concerned I admire men who can live on so little and short of other miracles, they are in my opinion top class.
Furthermore, if we do not die from destitution, we are not less immune from it and our continuous ability to endure such trials can be considered miraculous. Nevertheless that is the reason for Father Grange collapsing under the weight of this burden, and if I strenuously opposed his plan to board the corvette Le Rhin to visit the mission stations intending as I described to you in my assessment of him in section 6 of this report, I did so fearing only that he would discourage the other missionaries. That is what I felt had to be done in such circumstances to ensure that he did not, perhaps by his actions, compromise the existence of several mission stations. If he returned to France, and if he explains his case to you, you will find him fundamentally rational. You would disapprove only of the way he planned to act.
What is the solution for all that? It is simple, very reverend Father, it would be to give the missionaries items that they may exchange for food. There is something that you would definitely find peculiar and that is that items bought in Europe for less than 50 francs, could feed a man handsomely here in Tonga and in the islands where we have mission stations. For the cost of five centimes you can buy a fowl or a duck, for two and a half centimes a dozen eggs, for five francs a 50 kilo pig and so on. The bishop opposes this procedure, using the excuse that it would introduce trading among the natives and it would turn them into traders. We have, the two of us, discussed this question which I have spoken to you about, and we have deliberated almost to the point of coming to blows. I thought it my duty to take such action with His Lordship because I had seen destitution in Futuna, seen it in Tonga, and predicted it in Fiji. Furthermore my colleagues, who had beaten me in going to these countries, all expected to depend on the provincial for their temporal needs and had spoken to me accordingly asking me to bring an urgent change to the present system, which is penalizing them. Not being able to get anywhere with the bishop, I had to yield in virtue of an article of my rule, keeping the right to inform you of the situation.
This is the problem which I am putting in writing asking for you to solve. I need to know when the provincial should use his funds to build up the possessions of the Marist Society as is written in its rule dealing with such points as travelling by boat to visit colleagues scattered through the islands. I had not spoken to you earlier on, guessing that rules regarding this matter were a concern between you and the bishop, considering that he is the one who has allocated moneys intended for the expenses of the mission stations. If these rules have been forgotten or that it has been left to the good graces of the bishop, you can see what has resulted from that measure. The provincial has been distanced from help the centre could provide, having not the slightest resource to visit his colleagues nor to help them in their dire straits. That, very reverend Father, is what I am sending you for your consideration. I would not speak to you in that way if I alone were concerned. I have as yet seen only the first signs of destitution and I am robust physically but because you have given me, despite my unworthiness, the responsibility for all our missionaries in the tropics, it is quite reasonable that I, close to you, should be the one to speak to you as their spokesman in order to revisit the question with Bishop Bataillon. We hope that you will take this message to heart, which is not unfeeling in this matter.
It is in this expectation that I beg you to believe, very reverend Father, that I am the most devoted and most respectful of your children, in union with your holy sacrifices and in the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Marist priest.
Mission station of Immaculate Mary at Tongatapu 12 June 1845