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1 October 1846 — Fr Jean-Louis Rocher to Fr Jean-Claude Colin (1), Sydney

Translated by Peter McConnell, September 2010

Ad majorem Dei gloriam & Dei genitricis Mariæ Virginis
Sydney 1st October 1846.

Very Reverend Father,
Good news! Mary has watched over our dear colleagues at San Cristobal; they are all safe. Since the departure of the ship which left them on that island, the natives have not attempted to kill them. At the start there have even been plots made in that regard, but very luckily, they did not attempt to put them into effect. At the moment the missionaries go fairly far into the interior of the island without any danger. They seem to be feared and loved by those poor natives. Already, a tribe in the north of the island and sent several deputations to get us to come and stay with them, but the missionaries have not considered it wise to split up yet.
The island of San Cristobal is full of yams, taro and coconut trees; the missionaries still have a little of their old provisions when Bishop Douarre and Father Junillon arrived. So they did not suffer as far as food is concerned, but God has not left them without trials. They have all fallen ill with fever; several were still very weak when the schooner arrived, yet none was in danger of death, but they are on the way to recovery. Despite that, they are fill of courage and burn with the desire to return to Ysabel. They attribute this sickness to the humidity. In these islands it rains pretty well every day, and as the sun penetrates the soil with difficulty because of the thickness of the forests, very harmful miasma almost always live there.
I am letting Father Junillon who is writing to you and in particular to Bishop Douarre who has just arrived from Sydney and is leaving for France in a fortnight’s time, to give you much more details about our colleagues at San Cristobal.
On 26 September I received news about our Reverend Fathers Chevron and Calinon, missionaries at Tonga tapu. They are quite well; their health is starting to become more resilient. But the good Brother Attale is still languishing. Nevertheless he does a little work with the sick whose numbers increase day by day.
We are making rather slow progress, Father Calinon writes to me, but we hope that soon progress will accelerate. A new church has just been blessed at the village of Holonga with the full approval of the chief of Mua (Tugi). Our opponents lose as we gain. They have just done to themselves something which will hurt them for a long time. They did something which is yet very good since it is the reform of a very great abuse which, it is a fact, they were the authors of. Here is the fact.
Up until now those priests had allowed divorce according to the writings of Moses, they said, based on the text of scripture: si dormierit vir ejus, nubat (sic) =If you find a man sleeping with a married woman, they will both die. Now the learned ministers said, if the bond of marriage is broken by the death of one of the partners, all the more reason that it should be by the death of the soul; now every person who sins gives death to his soul (Note that according to them every sin is mortal); his partner then has the right to send him away and to look after himself elsewhere. Such a doctrine has produced such a great mixture that now more than a genealogy is embroiled in it. For a certain time matters went well to the liking of the doctors and the disciples who based their views on the bible. Both groups claimed that they knew perfectly the meaning of the Bible, inspired directly from the Holy Spirit. Finally when matters came to a point that they thought they needed to qualify all those couplings involving adulterers, excommunicates, etc ordering each one to give up his present partner and take back the former. That created an extraordinary row in the sect. There are some who submit for a few days, others don’t want to hear about separation; some consent to breaking the present marriage but want to break the first as well; several threaten to change religions if the peace of their household is upset to that point. Men swear, women cry, children are all dumbfounded at being bastards. Formerly the ministers, having the reputation for being oracles of knowledge and holiness are not any more than knaves, hypocrites, idiots, etc. The one at Nukualofa Mr Thomas, when going into the church to climb into the pulpit found it all daubed with filth. Isn’t it the case, adds Father Calinon, that here as in a lot of other places on earth, the one who would like to do good will suffer persecution.
During the month of July Father Chevron almost drowned when he capsized in the bay about 22 arms length from the shore. He was rather lucky to be fished out by the natives who were taking him in their canoe.
After these interesting details is a list of different objects which we are going to prepare for them. I have received 1000 francs for this purpose.
They tell me nothing about the visit that they had from Bishop Viard. Only they forbid me to mention the errands that they give me because they hope to receive some help from New Zealand. That makes me think that they have adopted a neutral position.
Very Reverend Father, I finish my letter begging you to accept my deep respect,
Your very humble and
very obedient child in Jesus and Mary,
Missionary priest.