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5 September 1846 — Fr Jean-Louis Rocher to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Sydney

Translated by Peter McConnell, September 2010

Ad majorem Dei gloriam & Dei Genitricis Mariæ Virginis

Sydney 5 September1846.

Very Reverend Father,
On August 12 I had the honour of receiving your letter dated March 26 which was addressed to Father Dubreul. I find it difficult to tell you all the pleasure it gave me not only for the interesting details that it contained but also for the good news that it brought me that soon I was to receive a letter from you. So I am waiting for it really impatiently.
I gave the letter addressed to Bishop Polding to Doctor Gregory who has taken account of it and seemed most satisfied with that task.
As for the little packet for Father Collomb, I am keeping it carefully until he arrives. If circumstances should arrive and he doesn’t come to Sydney, I will do my utmost to have it sent to him what you have intended for him.
We haven’t yet received any news about the Arche d’Alliance. Ships which have recently arrived in Sydney from Tahiti have not mentioned any in their reports. It is true that Bishop Marceau went to the Sandwich Islands. It is not surprising that we have as yet not heard from him because the winds are not favourable for coming from those islands to our centre in Sydney.
I was very much surprised to hear that in March you had not yet received the results of our conversations with Bishop Pompallier. I don’t know what to put that delay down to, the first copy was sent to you about mid-October 1845, together with several other letters which were addressed to you by the late Bishop Epalle and his missionaries. A second copy was sent from Sydney in the course of December last year. I hope that you now have received them, as well as several letters which I wrote to you at the beginning of the year, and sent by different ships leaving Sydney for Europe.
Please receive, very Reverend Father, my very sincere thanks for the interest that you have shown towards the councillors of the Propagation of the Faith. Already as I have had the honour of telling you in one of my previous letters, I received a letter of credit for 10,000 sent by Father Poupinel. I am now waiting for the letter that you told me about in your last letter; as soon as I have received it, I will let you know. Father Dubreul having left for Europe, I believe that I don’t have to write to the members of the Propaganda Office.
I received news from Bishop Douarre. His crossing from Sydney to New Caledonia was not the most pleasant. He had scarcely lost sight of Australia when he was confronted by a great storm; everything that was on deck was jettisoned; they were sheep, timber for building purposes and various small crates. His Lordship arrived in good health despite that trial. The same goes for Father Junillon who was with him.
Bishop Bataillon’s schooner also experienced rough weather before reaching New Caledonia. It lost a cow, a sheep and several poultry. It must have left for San Cristobal between July 12 and 15. I am waiting for it in Sydney with great impatience.
La Seine, a French warship, coming from Tonga and the Wallis Islands, was shipwrecked in New Caledonia two leagues away from the Bishop’s residence. The accident occurred at 4-00 am on July 4. Bad weather did not cause that accident. But not knowing enough about those latitudes, the ship was driven onto a coral reef. They tried hard to free it, but in vain; it was beyond being able to be refloated. Unfortunately the sea was very rough soon after. So the ship was raised up by the force of the waves and crashed down on the rocks. A mass as heavy as that, falling with all its weight on the coral reef, could not tolerate that act for long without being irreparably damaged; also after a few hours the ship was taking in water in numerous places. So Mr Lecomte, the commander, ordered the abandonment of the ship and it was effected in a commendable way. Not one man lost his life. All told, there were 227 men on board. The force of the waves succeeded in disengaging the ship, but no sooner was it afloat than it suddenly disappeared under the water. They could not rescue anything from the ship save some rifles and a little amount of biscuits.
I am waiting for the arrival of the commander in Sydney to learn whether he has any letters for us from Bishop Bataillon.
All the crew went to Bishop Douarre who welcomed them with all possible cordiality. Very fortunately His Lordship was arriving from Sydney with a ship carrying provisions. Bishop Bataillon’s little schooner arrived there a few days after that accident. They took half the food destined for the mission station of San Cristobal. As there was in those latitudes a ship which was carrying sandalwood, they hired it too to send it to Sydney which it reached at the beginning of last month. It had on board three officers and fifty men. The consul immediately wrote to me to ask for the cost of the provisions that Bishop Douarre had removed in that way from the supplies destined for San Cristobal. All the items were fully replaced. We needed two days to rig the vessel and load it with 400 barrels. It left for New Caledonia on the 12th of last month. The 53 men who are at present in Sydney are leaving for Europe. We are waiting here for the rest of the crew, towards the end of this month.
In one of my last letters I spoke to you about Father Angelo Confalioneri, a missionary with Bishop Brady. He came to Sydney to go on to Port-Essington. We have just learnt that the ship which was taking that missionary was wrecked in the Torres Strait and that he perished.
Some days ago I received a letter from Father Forest who said that Father Baty as well as Brothers Emery and Luc have been quite sick, but that at present they are beginning to recover. He did not say anything about the condition of the mission station.
According to an order from the Propaganda, the Passionists who were at Moreton Bay under the jurisdiction of Bishop Polding have just arrived in Sydney. They visited Bishop Brady. Those good priests came to the bursar’s office and told me about a lot of their troubles. I do not know why Doctor Gregory wanted to pay them for their passage only, claiming that he did not want to incur any other expense. Yet those religious had only very old habits and no money to replace them. They begged me to help them a bit. I could not stop myself acceding to their wish; I gave them two pounds sterling.
I am sending you in this letter the account of the bursar’s office, an account which follows that which Father Dubreul had to send you on his arrival. I have sent as well a statement of the total amount and the use to which we have made of the money drawn in May and June 1846 from Paris and Lyon. These accounts had to be presented to you by Father Dubreul, but as I told you in one of my last letters, several mistakes occurred. The present accounts, which I am sending you, I believe to be accurate as far as possible.
Please be so good as to tell me next time that you will write to me, that it is the time of the year when you want to receive the accounts of the mission funds. You have to count on at least five months for the passage.
There is one rather unpleasant thing which occurs at Sydney; requests are continual. I have explained our position several times to several of the bishops who are at the head of all these demands, but in vain. We have to give all the time. I can’t understand why these people don’t stop demanding money. You hear them muttering sometimes, but in spite of that, money collected is always very substantial. If one were happy as in France to have a five franc coin, one could perhaps open his drawer with less pain. But, not at all, five francs ( four shillings in English money) is nothing here. The least we can give our French priests is one pound sterling (25 francs). Doctor Gregory and the others never stop telling us that it would make a very bad impression if we gave nothing and if we did not give in a way appropriate to our position. What should we do, please? Since Father Dubreul’s departure, five francs have been spent in that way.
Since we are in Sydney, we received from the missionaries who are in the islands, a great number of letters destined for France. Those letters mailed at Sydney cost the bursar’s office at the end of the year a rather considerable amount. Up until now, I have not charged the various mission stations for fear of annoying our dear colleagues informing Lyons of their situation and of their troubles. Please tell me what your opinion is on this matter?
With the greatest impatience we are waiting for the result of the decisions on the matter of the bursar’s office. In my opinion, it has always been my opinion, the decision should not come from Sydney.
Please do not send money by way of Bishop Polding. The 2000 francs paid by us to Lyons to Bishop Favier, the goldsmith, through the archbishop of Sydney were used up by requests. A warning for the future.
Very Reverend Father, receive the assurance of my profound respects and be so good as not to forget me in your holy Masses
Your very humble
and very obedient son in Jesus and Mary,
Missionary priest.