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12 January 1846 - Bishop Pierre Bataillon to Fr Jean-Claude Colin

Translated by Natalie Keen, August 2010

Source APM OC 418.1

Two sheets comprising eight handwritten pages, the eighth page also bearing the Poupinel annotation. At the top of the fifth page (the first of the second sheet), in the author’s hand the word <<Continuation>> .

[in Poupinel’s hand]
Central Oceania *Wallis 12 January 1846 * Bishop Bataillon

+Mission of Our Lady of Good Hope, Wallis Islands

To Very Reverend Father Colin
12 January 1846

My Very Reverend Father,
I have just re-read all the letters I have had the honour and the joy of receiving from you since I have been at Wallis; the last is dated September 1844; it reached us with Father Junillon in May last year. In that letter you mention you had recently received the first letters I was honoured to write to you immediately after my consecration. There we were recounting to you among other things our view of things, our intentions, our needs, our requests for the missions. It was impossible for you to meet these at the time because the departure was too close and you said the despatch would be left till the departure of Bishop Epalle or that of the new missionaries you were sending us. 16 months have gone by since then and so far we haven’t seen anyone arrive; during all that time, I haven’t missed any opportunity of writing to you and I believe I have sent you 3 or 4 letters at least in which, in accordance with your wishes, I acquainted you with all that was happening in our missions and outlined again our needs, requests etc. although we have not as yet received anything as a result and we might probably be about to do so. I am nevertheless taking the grand opportunity I have to write to you and confirm all my previous advice and give you the news which you wouldn’t yet have received.
First of all I’ll tell you, my Reverend Father, to put your mind at rest straightaway, that we don’t in fact have any bad news to give you at present, that on the contrary everything is going along fairly well and better than we might have hoped, given our unworthiness and our incompetence. But what is the saying: God chose what is weak in the world[1]
As you probably know , we had picked up a small boat which was not yet finished off; we’ve had it completed, acquired the services of a captain of a French warship and by this means have had all the missions visited and established a new one. This boat first of all took Fathers Roudaire and Violette to Samoa last August; on its return, I immediately sent it off to Futuna, Fiji and Tonga to take to the missionaries the relief supplies we had received through Father Junillon and the warship. It is Reverend Father Mathieu, Apostolic Provicar,who did this trip in his double capacity of Provicar and Vice-Provincial. He brought back nothing but good news from his visit. Futuna is a little paradise; the priests there are fine by all reports; in Tonga, the priests are better placed now than ever in respect of housing and food. –The mission is growing little by little. The mission in Fiji which was our chief worry, now seems to be firmly established. You’ll see it all in the attached report of Father Roulleaux and in Father Mathieu’s letters.
During Father Mathieu’s time here, we had the chance to exchange our little boat (it was inadequate) for a nice little brig-schooner, quite new, well built and very sturdy. – Along with our boat, we paid the seller the sum of 1,400 francs. Now we have this little boat in our possession. though it’s not totally paid for, and we are sending it straight off to New Caledonia to visit Bishop Douarre of whom we have as yet had no news since his arrival in that island, though he has received a visit from two ships which took the supplies we had for him. It is Father Junillon who is going to make this voyage. From there, he will travel on to Sydney to have the vessel coated with copper, fitted out properly and to equip it with whatever it needs. –He will get in touch with Father Dubreul who is said to have arrived in that city, [2] as well as with the archbishop who is so well disposed towards our missions; and depending on the supplies he finds, he will bring back provisions for our missionaries; and if while there he discovers priests newly arrived from France, he will bring them back to us.
When he gets back, we will make another visit to all the missions and if we have received some new priests as we hope, we shall set up new missions in Samoa, Fiji and Rotuma. We hope to do this trip ourselves, unless unforeseen circumstances prevent us. ----
I would very much like to have made the trip Father Junillon is making myself, but I can’t leave my post for the moment on account of the catechism we are printing; I am the only one who can compile it. This catechism will have about 150 pages. At present it is half-printed. It is the fourth book in the Wallis language that we are having printed. After that, we shall print the same ones in the language of Futuna, Tonga etc. Tonga already has its alphabet printed. On the subject of the printing house, I’ll remind you what I’ve already said in my letters: that is to send us a brother or two who are very good in that particular field. Mister Grésel is all alone now; he certainly does everything he can, but one man alone in a printing-house is certainly not much. Moreover we are intending to elevate him to holy orders and employ him at the ministry or the school. He is expecting this and I am afraid he might get discouraged, especially if he had to remain in sole charge of such a complicated – and for that very reason - such a slow job. - Please keep this very much in mind. This point –that we should print a great deal and quickly- is very important for the success of our missions. We would need two trusty Brothers for whom this job is their sole responsibility. In addition they will have to train several natives to help them. At the moment we have four who are making a good beginning with their training.
Now allow me, my Reverend Father, to explain to you clearly what I think about our missions and I believe all our Reverend Fathers share this outlook. The difficulties, undoubtedly always major, are nevertheless beginning to iron out a little –We have several settlements, and the Catholic religion is beginning to be known, prejudices are lessening and heresy is beginning to be discredited. –And so if you want us to progress a little more quickly, you only have to send us some subjects. Now that we have a schooner, our position is completely different. Everything is going to be better, and things will happen more quickly. It stands to reason - you can understand it. We will visit the missions regularly. ----We will even visit the islands where there are no missionaries, either to make ourselves known or to bring along a catechist especially to collect a few young folk there, convert them, train them and then take them back to their islands to open the way for the missionaries. The more we can move natives from one island to another, the more the knowledge and love of the Catholic religion will spread, but for all this we need priests. ---If you can send us some (4 or 6 at least) every year, and dispatch them to Sydney at a pre-determined date, we would send the schooner to Sydney annually at the same time to collect them and acquire fresh provisions, and with their arrival we would carry assistance to the missions or establish new ones.
If you wish, my Reverend Father, we shall agree on one thing: let us agree on a meeting in Sydney every year in December. You will send us some subjects from France so that they arrive at Sydney in December (as far as possible of course) and I’ll send the schooner from here for you every year so that it will be in that city in December. It will take advantage of the favourable winds which prevail in January and February to return to the tropics – and on its return (around Easter more or less), we shall do the rounds of the missions. If, my Father, this suggestion is practicable and you are happy with it, please let me know for certain and our agreement will then be finalized. - This will certainly save money and time.
Up till now we have only been feeling our way, you might say, but now we are beginning to move forward confidently. The requests for subjects that I have been able to make up till now were a sort of gamble because in actual fact we were not at all sure of being able to place them, but today we are very differently placed. If the Propagation of the Faith can continue to help us to meet the upkeep of the schooner (we don’t believe it will be very expensive) and the needs of the missionaries, we’ll be able to transport the subjects into the islands and, as they are beginning to get a taste of Catholicism in these parts, we have reason to believe that we shall be able to set up missions in almost all the islands of the Apostolic Vicariate. Moreover, even supposing that no other island wanted to welcome us in, Samoa, Fiji and Tonga where we’ve set up already can for a few years absorb all the subjects you can send us; but it is especially in Samoa that we can’t wait to place a large number of them.
For the moment, I am going to outline our most pressing needs: an additional 6 priests for Samoa; 4 more for Fiji where we’d like to set up two settlements in two large competing islands – 2 for Rotuma which is in fact asking for some, so it seems – two for the college or at least one. And then we have New Caledonia and the Hebrides, I don’t know what needs they have for priests. I’m not referring here to brothers who must always be sent in proportion: one brother to two priests will do if needs be. - But it would be best if there were as many brothers as priests, especially in the missions which are in the process of establishing; it would therefore be good at least from time to time to send more than one brother to two priests [p.6] so that we might then meet the most urgent needs.
Please, my Reverend Father, never forget us and please as far as possible take account of our comments and the requests herein and those we have already taken the liberty of making in our earlier letters. A word now especially about the mission of Our Lady of Good Hope.
We have given this name to the mission in Wallis to reflect the coat of arms you wanted to choose yourself and send to us. This mission is still going well, thanks be to God and to the Blessed Virgin. You must have heard that we had the war. This news alone must have alarmed and concerned you – but don’t worry, everything has turned out or will turn out well. I’m not revisiting the details of that business; they must all have reached you. I’ll simply say that peace has been achieved, that the small number of heretics who had caused all the trouble, though still recalcitrant, have nothing but shame for themselves; that our community is simply stronger in faith because of it and that by all appearances, in a little while in Wallis there will be but one flock and one shepherd. – Our novices are still holding on well, as far as human weakness allows. School lessons are still being done regularly and most of the young people read fairly well, not only in their own language but also in Latin; moreover we are teaching them to sing the Kyrie, the Gloria in excelsis, the Credo, hymns etc and already we have celebrated several high Masses sung solely by the natives. – You would think when you hear them that you were in a church in Lyon.; there is both a female and a male choir. Catechism is held regularly twice a week, one for the small children and then the catechism of perseverance, which is a sort of small course in history and theology.
Our whole community gathers in two large main villages, that of Our Lady where the cathedral is and that of Saint Joseph to which the Reverend Father Mathieu ministers, an hour at the most from the cathedral; in a remote, isolated spot is the site of our college (still under grass). We haven’t put up much in the way of building there yet because the work in hand hasn’t yet allowed us to but we are planting coconut and banana trees, yams etc. When Father Junillon returns from Sydney, I think we’ll be able to begin building there.
A word about our new schooner. - We’ve given it a name from the local language – Fetuu-aho (star of morning). [3] It is only 60 ton-weight; that’s all that’s needed for these parts. - It is very solidly built. - When it has been completely restored - it will go possibly ten years without requiring any expense (an exceptional advantage for a new boat). We have as our captain a first-rate French sailor to whom we give only 150 francs per month. His deputy is another sailor, his friend, to whom we give 80 francs. The rest of the crew is made up of only 5 men to each of whom we give 40 francs. These men are all established in Wallis and are family men. In addition, these men are totally reliable and committed to one another, an extremely rare thing. You might say that it is only now that we are starting up our missions, because it is only now that we can begin to get moving.
If things are reasonably priced in Sydney, there’ll be no use sending from France the various items we can find in that city. As we learn from our experience, we’ll put you fully in the picture. We should like, if possible, to set up an order for provisions which we could maintain, even in the event the Propagation of the Faith were to fail us. I’ve thought of an idea which suits us pretty well. If we can carry it off, our schooner will meet its own expenses. - We’ll let you know about our idea when we have tried it.
I’m probably forgetting lots of things you’d like to know but in addition I’m afraid of tiring you and trying your patience by such a long and hurried letter.
Please, my very Reverend Father, always remember in your prayers and Holy Sacrifices the one who will always call himself the last of your children as well as
Your very humble and obedient servant
+Pierre Bishop of Enos, Apostolic Vicar


  1. 1 Co 1.27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise: God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.
  2. Antoine Dubreul arrived in Sydney with Jean-Louis Rocher and Brother Auguste Leblanc on 13 April 1845 to establish the base for the missions (cf. doc. 363, paras 2-3; 398, paras 2-3).
  3. Words in native Wallis language: fetu’u =star; ‘aho=day, daytime