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4 September 1846 — Fr Jérôme Grange to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, New Caledonia

Translated by Peter McConnell, September 2010

New Caledonia, the 4th September 1846

Very Reverend Father,
Since Bishop Douarre is undertaking the trip to France, I think that for the good of the mission station and of the missionaries, it is very important to spell out the rights of each person, because in all our Society, although rights may differ, it concerns inferiors as well as for superiors, and anarchy is very close to an arbitrary and absolute authority. You can see now the accuracy of observations which I made to you in previous letters. I could quote you facts supporting what I say. I won’t go down that path, but I think that it is absolutely essential that the religious know, through certain rules, if they have the right to ask for something from the vicars apostolic ex justicia if they have the right or not, and what right, to give orders to the Brothers. Whether, in the case of conflict, the Brothers have to obey the religious superior or a bishop, etc --- I think that we should have, even at present, some kind of written ruling, put out by the superior general, because while waiting so long without any written ruling, we would finish up by forgetting that we are religious, and piety and sometimes even charity would be lost.
I asked Father Dubreul for two hinges to shut a trunk; he absolutely refused to give me any although he has given dozens to the natives. Show me your entitlement, he said to me, that you should ask me for that. I have more than the natives, I told him; the hinges have been bought with the funds which have been given to the missionaries and not to the natives.--- When I asked them for such things, I was not refused. Having got them, the same priest reproached me about my food. I feed you, he said, and you do not thank me. Why do you want me to go down on my knees in front of you? You feed me with the funds which are given at least for me as for you. He thought he was making an act of charity when he gave me an old worn out hat which he could no longer use and replaced it by buying one for 30 francs. I said nothing about that but I have been a little peeved off by the matter. Our two young men who buy goods have just done something which has deeply pained us. It was at the time of the French who were shipwrecked in New Caledonia. Bishop Douarre and all of us agreed unanimously that we go on rations for the benefit of the commander and we kept half of the provisions of the mission station of San Cristobal, provisions which fortunately were very substantial. Well, our good priests bartered with the consul in Sydney for the means of having those provisions replaced. So the duty that we fulfilled out of charity, pleasure and happiness and I would even say with justice, our two priests came and spoilt with a single action and besmirched all the mission station and the Marist Society. You understand all the awkwardness of such an action when you realize that the mission station can exist only through the help of the French flag.
Since I have been in New Caledonia, my health has greatly improved.
I have the honour of being, Reverend Father, your humble and very submissive child,
Apostolic missionary