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3 September 1846 — Fr Pierre Rougeyron to Fr Jean-Claude Colin

Translated by Peter McConnell, September 2010

New Caledonia, the 3rd September 1846
Very Reverend Father,
It has been decided that Bishop Douarre should go to France. Please take cognizance of the fact that it is not because he wants to see his fatherland again that he is undertaking such a long and difficult journey. He foresees a lot of troubles and difficulties, but his fatherly feelings for the missionaries and pastoral feelings for his flock compel him to cross these obstacles; his filial love for the Marist Society to whom he brings glory as a member, is not one of the least determining reasons for his departure. He has consulted us all for such a great undertaking. We have all found his reasons to be great ones and so we have approved and appreciated his planned trip.
Father Superior, we feel our loss. We lose a good father, our strength, our light and our consolation. The mission station will suffer from this loss. Like young orphans on a distant shore, amidst a wild and cannibalistic people, whom can we look to for help in the time of our need? What will become of us in such a long time of absence? Having been consulted myself in particular, in my capacity as pro-vicar, I was unable to refuse my consent to a plan which should bring up such great advantages.
The summary of the sufferings over the last 21 months have, I am quite sure, sickened your heart with sorrow and perhaps made you even weep bitterly. Well, very Reverend Father, the prospects of a similar future appals us and with reason. For three years we have received only one amount of money and more than half of the amount was lost on incidentals. Administrative shortcomings should be made known. We are four hundred leagues away from the Wallis Islands and there is still a small impediment that keeps us under the authority of the Wallis Islands. A separation is essential for New Caledonia and a separation will always be necessary too for any country where similar matters occur. It is difficult that they should occur otherwise, after the little experience that we have acquired. If the separation is not possible a bishop is not needed. A mere superior missionary would suffice. It has been three years now that the bishop has been together with an ordinary priest in this country, the wildest of all countries. No reinforcements have come to us from France or from the Wallis Islands. We do not even know if we can get any. However, it is good that you should know this, Reverend Father. Every day we are exposed body and soul in this huge country.
For our spiritual needs, we are always obliged to go separately to do a bit of missionary work, and you know what was said Vae soli! = Woe to the one who is alone! Furthermore should one of us die, what would become of the other one, deprived of a confessor on an island where one rarely sees ships?
For our temporal needs every day we try to prepare ourselves for death, because we can be massacred at any moment by those barbarians and put into an umu; there would be even less danger if there were several settlements in this big island; those different settlements would give help and inspire awe in the natives.
There are two other priests at the moment with the bishop but they have not been sent; they are there because of circumstances. They are Reverend Fathers Grange and Montrouzier. Touched by the needs of the bishop they have consented to staying there with me until a new directive has been given but at any moment I could lose them.
I am telling you as my father, Reverend Father, our troubles both temporal and spiritual. Be so good as to take all I am saying in good heart! I think my intention is pure in front of God. I have not given up hope about converting my natives. These troubles themselves, these crosses make me see good signs in the future. They are the ones giving us hope that we will succeed with grace from on high so our dear Marist Order, our Mother, has indeed grown after being well and truly scorned by men.
Very Reverend Father, I am not telling you anything else in particular, leaving to the bishop the pleasure of telling you face to face all the details.
I am sending you by way of Bishop Douarre a little work which I think will give you a little pleasure. They are some observations on the habits and customs of the New Caledonians relying on examples which I have seen myself. If there is something you think should be made public, you will do well to do it, because the officers of the ship which was wrecked ask us a lot of questions on what I have written to you; I think that they also take notes only for publications after taking them back to their country. For the glory of the Marist Order and its mission stations, it is useful that the discoveries should be made by us, missionaries and Marist missionaries.
Be so good as to forgive me, Reverend Father, the liberty with which I have spoken to you. In concluding my letter I dare to beg you to give a special part of your good prayers to the one on whom the responsibility of the mission station in New Caledonia rests. I do not need to tell you from my part that I have never forgotten you and also all the members of the dear Society of Mary. It is with these sentiments that I have the honour of addressing you.
Rougeyron Marist
At this very moment I have just seen one of our little children coming to me tearful, asking me if it is really true that I wanted to leave them. When I replied that I will never leave them and that I wanted to die in their island and to be buried among them, his bitter tears were changed into joy and he threw himself into my arms to embrace me. I am telling you this as one of the consolations of being a missionary.