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Fr Jean-Louis Rocher to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Sydney, 1 Jan 1846

Translated by Fr Jack Ward SM, March 2010

From the letter that was sent, APM OP 458 Rocher

Two leaves forming eight pages of which seven are written, the eighth carrying only the annotation of Poupinel.

[In the hand of Poupinel]
Sydney 1st January 1846 * Father Rocher

To the greater glory of God, and of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary
Sydney 1st January 1846.

My very reverend Father,
I am all alone at this moment here at the “procure”.[1]
On the 6th December Father Dubreul left Sydney, to go to visit and carry help to the central mission. Here is how things have happened:
On the arrival of the corvette Le Rhin at Sydney, The commander Mr. Berard sent us a list of things which Bishop Douare requested, with 3,675 #. “These things included knives, axes, fabric, candles, livestock, construction timber &.&.” As communications between Sydney and New Caledonia are infrequent enough, we were very hard put to gather for him these different things, when to our surprise Father Calinon (16th Sept.) arrived from Tonga shouting famine and misery of every kind. I have left, he said, Father Grange and Brother Attale in a state bordering on despair. As for Fr Chevron, he remembers a little of the days that followed. He read us a report which is addressed to you, which has been sent to you along with several other letters in the course of the past month. Some days before the arrival of Father Calinon, Bishop Pompallier was very pleased to inform us of a letter from Rome by which he was told that in conformity with his request, the archipelago of the Friendly Islands was given back to him. Given this knowledge, we were no longer able to employ funds of Bishop Bataillon to support the mission of Tonga. Bishop Pompallier was able, but he did not wish to do so. What was to be done? Being unable to leave our brothers without help, we have noted exactly all that we have bought for Tonga, which account will be sent to Bishop Bataillon, who will do with it what seems fair with regard to Bishop Pompallier.
I fear very much that this Archipelago which has just been detached from the Central Vicariate creates fresh troubles. According to Bishop Pompallier, Wallis, Futuna would be part of this archipelago and would in consequence belong to him. I fear indeed that some old geographies, make Wallis, Futuna dependant on the Friendly islands; but other more recent ones make these islands independent, or attach them to the Navigator islands. Bishop Pompallier relies on his letter from the court of Rome, by which he requests that you freely grant him all the missions that he himself has founded. Now, according to Father Calinon, to whom Bishop Pompallier showed his reply , almost entirely, there would be question only of the archipelago of the Friendly Islands; Wallis , Futuna would not be named.
This affair, the objects for Bishop Douarre, then the necessity to get in touch with Bishop Bataillon, so that our dear confreres do not find themselves in need of food and clothing, have obliged Father Dubreul to accompany Father Calinon. Like the ship which had brought him, this good Father was reliable and the captain honest and above all experienced in these kinds of voyage, we lent him £70 pounds for the month. On the 6 December the ship (The Columbine) weighed anchor and set sail for New Caledonia. From there, it was to go directly to Tonga, then Wallis, Navigator islands and Fiji, then return to Tonga to fulfil its contract to return to Sydney. I expect Father Dubreul only in the course of April or May.
Without doubt, the court in Rome has given you notice of this matter which I am going to mention to you, namely the promotion of Father Viard to the episcopacy. This nomination has extraordinarily surprised me, all the more so since Bishop Pompallier told us two months ago, that the best thing for New Zealand would be an English bishop who would be better for New Zealand than a Frenchman, because, said His Grace, the sensitiveness of the English nation which is great, would not then be mortally wounded. Be that as it may, the Bishop has nominated Father Viard who has accepted the coadjutorship of Bishop of Maronnee, with the hope of succession. His title is that of Bishop of Orthosie, an ancient small town, they say, of Syria, which is dependant on Tripoli ( see the Geography of Balby,[2] article on Tripoli) and the promulgation in Rome was made on 7th February 1845, and his consecration will take place in Sydney next Sunday, 4th January, 1846. I have underlined the word “accepted “, because it seems to me that Father Viard , being a religious of our Society, would have had need of your consent in this matter, nevertheless, in the bulls which I have read, the court of Rome does not order him to accept, but leaves him perfectly free.
This nomination of coadjutor has been held to more than enough secrecy; I only became aware of it last Saturday at 10 o'clock in the evening; without doubt, as the ceremony had to be announced to the faithful the following morning, it was thought necessary to let the procure know beforehand. Fathers Dubreul and Calinon knew nothing of it. However Bishop Pompallier had received the appointment bulls from Rome a long time before their departure.
After the consecration ceremony, the Bishops must leave in the same week for New Zealand. About 10 days ago Bishop Pompallier hired a small schooner ( “ La Providence “, 55 tons). His Lordship retains it in his service for 8 to 10 months.His purpose is to visit first, all the stations in New Zealand, following which it will set sail for the Archipeligo of the Friendly Islands. Our Bishops must board this vessel to go to New Zealand, but they have changed their minds. The vessel is going to leave on its own in 2 to 3 days.
As for Bishops Pompallier and Viard, they will leave with the corvette “Le Rhin”, which must leave the port of Sydney on the 7th or 8th of this month. The corvette has received an order to return to France. It is said that Bishop Pompallier is going is accepting passage to go to Europe. Now I do not dare to confirm that any further. When you speak to His Lordship about this trip, he always says yes, but in a manner which would make you believe to the contrary.
A new governor has just arrived in New Zealand.[3] His renown appears to be in his favour; they say he is peaceful and above all a good administrator. Now this colony is always in a state off hostility. At this moment 700 English troops are in the Bay of Islands, occupied in building fortifications. Fresh troops and ammunition have arrived from England. The natives, who have as their head John Heke, called the Napoleon of New Zealand, are everyday increasing in number. John Heke has now under his command three thousand combatants. According to a Sydney paper, he has just taken control of a mountain where he is fortifying himself in a manner to make the English despair. Until now, our confreres haven’t suffered any loss from this state of hostility.
Bishop Pompallier has spoken to me of Father Chouvet.[4] It appears that His Lordship has already decided to send him back to Europe. I have advised him that the best possible course is to retain him, telling him that in making him come to Auckland where he will be able to consult, and giving him there some months rest his outlook could perhaps correct itself. What would it serve that his brother confess? This advantage would accrue to His lordship, who has need of subjects, the facility to use another missionary for another station. His Lordship has told me, that in Sydney the Fathers Tripe and Chouvet have been judged by Bishop Murphy, Bishop of Adelaide as men who in a mission would be more harmful than helpful. Perhaps the Bishop will take him on board the Rhin. It would have been better for me to tell His Lordship to send him to the mission base; as we find ourselves in Sydney like a bird on a branch, but I did not dare. Father Chouvet is, I believe, a little hot-headed; I fear that he has aroused some disagreements at the mission base, from the administration at Sydney.
Dr Gregory, Vicar-General for Bishop Polding, is definitely going to Europe some time this month. I do not know all that he is going to tell you about the mission base, whatever it be, our position in Sydney for the past two months has not been very pleasant. Father Dubreul doubtless has told you that it is weakening. We can no longer celebrate Mass in our little Chapel. It is, says Dr Gregory, against canon law and the statutes of the diocese. Now Mass is celebrated at the houses of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity; to which he replies that these two houses are communities , but we ourselves are considered as bourgeois who live in a private house. But the Church does not permit celebrating Holy Mass in the houses of bourgeois. Nevertheless, he is sending these two bourgeois procurators to celebrate Mass four times a week at half an hour’s travel from their house, and calls them to ordain deacons and sub-deacons whenever he desires. This prohibition has surprised us especially as from the beginning permission to celeb rate has been given to us without enquiry. Bishop Polding himself gave us the measurements of our altar. It seems to me that he would have been better able to tell us that he did not permit us to celebrate Mass only when we would have a Bishop in the house. Then we would not have have incurred the expense of the things necessary for a chapel.
For the property of Mary’s-ville, it has been the same, nothing is done without the approval of Bishop Polding, and after we have surrounded the property with a fence, and ploughed a small section of the ground, difficulties arise.
Here is what they want : to have us near them; according to them, one person suffices for the mission base, for they tell us often, that we have nothing to do. Meantime, since our arrival in Sydney we have had tolerable occupation. To establish the procure in their community, I believe that is impossible. A first they had no room suitable to provide for the work. And then, my dear Father, permit me to recall to you that old saying full of sense: One family will be happy enough, if they can be alone to wash their dirty linen….If they at least would agree to let us go into the neighbourhood of Sydney. But they do not so wish; they want us in Sydney itself. When we speak of buying a small house and some acres of land to support the procure, Dr Gregory says that we could regret it. He tells us to rent a place, and lend our money at interest, but the money that we spend on rent , at the end of six years would be more than sufficient to purchase house. And then to leave money in a town with ¾ of the population convicts, thieves? What a risk!
We must hope that Mary will take this matter in hand, and that she will inspire and make known to you he means to pacify everyone, for it would be regrettable to leave Sydney. That is truly the place for the procure. The town of Hobart, capital of the island of Van-Dieman, would be I believe convenient enough. It is an episcopacy. The Bishop has very few priests, and above all no community. Twice a month steamers make the crossing in eight days at most, without counting now many other vessels which come and go. This town is growing very much. Its relations with London become more frequent day by day. The soil is said to be very productive. The climate approaches that of France. We have often spoken of it with Fr. Dubreul. We have been on the point of writing to the Bishop on this point, but we have been afraid. There have arisen grave difficulties between the archbishopric of Sydney and the Bishopric of Hobart. While Bishops Pompallier and Epalle were in Sydney, Bishop Polding brought them together to consider this matter together. I believe that there was an agreement that our bishops signed. I would not now be so certain, which report has been sent to Rome. The problem is of the kind which Dr Gregory must present to Rome.
Knowing the penury of the faithful of the Church in Hobart, I believe that we will be well received there. Three or four times a year ships arrive from London direct to Hobart. The town has, I believe, 12,643 inhabitants, the figure given in the recent census. If you were not able to do business in Sydney, perhaps you would fare better in Hobart.
Tahiti would be still better, but it is only a protectorate that France possesses there, the colony there is very precarious, since the town is not well well stocked. Bishop Pompallier who, I believe, has contributed not a little to carry us through thee difficulties, seeing that we were not willing to go to New Zealand, encourages us to go to Tahiti. Since the departure of Father Dubreul, the Bishop has very often repeated this same thing to me, as also Father Viard. What would you understand ? Perhaps these words of Bishop Pompallier, Go to Tahiti, are only an echo of those of the Archbishop of Sydney. And 0n the day that we are seen to pack our bags and leave, we will have the favour of hearing them gaily wish us a happy trip. Never has anyone spoken to us of Hobart, nor have we ever made mention of it.
We remain at peace till your reply which we await with great impatience. Please pardon me this repetition, if business cannot be conducted in a manner advantageous to Sydney, consider Hobart. There at least, I believe, we will be able to buy a small property which by its revenue will be able to support the future expenses of the mission base. It is true that the French cannot buy property, but for the good of the Society and its missions, I will volunteer, if you deem it necessary, to seek English citizenship; you have only to consent and that will quickly be done.
Several days ago the Archbishop asked me through Bishop Pompallier if we had faculties to hear confessions. I replied to him, no, but only that we hear each other’s confessions by a privilege granted the Society by Rome. The Bishop insistent, have you tried to obtain faculties from the Ordinary of the place? I know, I replied, that Fr Dubreul on our arrival, announced in a general way and in a clear voice our faculties, and how at that moment, we had great troubles, Bishop Polding told him that that was sufficient, that he would see them later, that we were able to use them, we have gone no further until the present time. I know well that when travelling there is no difficulty, but having arrived at our destination, do these faculties cease? Would you kindly let us know in your next letter.
Time has not hung heavy on my hands in my solitude. After devoting some hours to the business of the mission, I work at the study of the English language, then at the controversy. The pronunciation of the English will not be very difficult for me, but what costs me most is speaking this language. I haven’t enough boldness, which is one of the reasons why perhaps I do not help Fr Dubreul enough. On the other hand I cannot bring myself to speak and act as he himself does when he visits the shops. I am afraid of false compliments. I let him do as he wishes, I look after the books. Perhaps you will see him in France this year, however there is nothing certain. If Bishop Bataillon considers this trip to Europe to be necessary for the good of the missions and the base, above all if Fr Dubreul finds the resources with the ship which he has hired to go to New Zealand it is quite possible that he may make the journey. He has, I believe, firm views on this subject.
I have sent by the corvette le Rhin which leaves for Europe, a small crate containing some plants from New Holland, insects and shellfish on behalf of Fr Montrouzier. Also a large packet of letters coming from the mission centre. All these letters are addressed to the relatives of the missionaries. All those to your address I sent to you a month ago.
I have still not received recent news of Bishop Epalle. I had expectations of hearing from him for only two months, that is to say on the return of the vessel which carried him. I am very worried.
Permit me, my very Reverend Father, to join all my dear confreres who have the good fortune to come today to express with a lively joy their sentiments and sincere good wishes which fill their hearts for your good health. For myself, deprived of this consolation it is to Mary that my poor heart has recourse, today. May she grant my feeble prayer, and the Society will for a long time still have the happiness of growing under the eyes of the most loved and tender of Fathers.
This is the very sincere wish of one who has the honour of being,
Your very humble and very obedient child in Jesus and Mary.
Missionary priest
Br Augustine gladly sends his very respectful respects and begs you kindly to accept his wishes for a good year.
If you should have occasion to see my family, please tell them that I am always very well and that I will write to them shortly.
General statement of expenses incurred by the mission base from October 1844 till 6 December 1845, the day of the departure of Fr Dureul.
Travel 15,000
Books 11,500
Chapel 1500
Rent & Maintenance 700
Furniture 4500
Wages 600
Different trips 200
Wages & meals of a domestic 600
Unloading & transport 200
Household Expenses
First month 400
For two months 600
For four months 1250
Office Expenses 100
Gifts 800
Losses in exchange transactions 2000
29,950 francs
There are several items which are a little exaggerated. With Fr Dubreul away, we were not able to give very precisely an accurate account. Other items also cannot be sufficiently assessed.
A statement of the funds of the procure.
The Bank of Australasia in Sydney is in debit to the procure since 5 day of December 1845: 1276 pounds sterling or 31,900 francs.
Which sum is divided as follows:
For Bishop Bataillon £ 543 10 4
Bishop Epalle £ 567 8 6
Fr Jacquet £ 3
Br Charles, gardener £ 30
____ __ __
£ 1143 18 10
Taking away the above total that the bank holds £1276; the difference will be the sum that the procure possesses in its own name in this same bank.
In the bank £ 1276
For apostolic vicars £ 1143 18 10
____ __ __
Difference £ 132 1 2
Plus what Bishop Polding owes £ 67
Actual holding of the
Procure will then be: £ 199 1 2 or 4,976 francs 45c
Expenses 29,950 #
Dep in Bank 4,976 # 45c
_____ ___ Received from Propagation of the Faith
Total 34,925 # 45c 35,000 #
This will be then 73# 55c that will have been spent, without the notes and which it will be necessary to know for the balance to be correct.


  1. The Society of Mary Mission base. See Sydney Procure.
  2. Adriano Balbi (1782-1848), geographer of Italian origin. He published in 1826 an Ethnographical Atlas of the earth, and in 1832 a Concise Geography several editions) (Internet:
  3. Sir George Grey, Governor as from 18 November 1845 (cf. Encyclopedia of,NZ, vol 1,p.867,877-878).
  4. Read: Chouvet ( and not Chaurin). Auguste Chouvetmade his Marist profession on 13 July 1842 (cf.APM, Register of Novices,1,n108, p.22).On the 15 August 1842, he left for New Zealand with Jean-Simon Bernard and Delphin-Victor Moreau; they arrived at the Bay of Islands on 18 February 1843 (cf. doc. 247,§ 31).Already in 1844 he expressed his disappointment (cf.doc.333, § 18). In 1846 he returned to France and left the Society (cf. APM, Departures from the mission: 1836 – 1859, n 25,p.4-5).