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12 October 1846 — Bishop Guillaume Douarre to Father Meydat, Sydney

Translated by Peter McConnell, September 2010

Jesus Mary Joseph
My dear friend and great vicar,
You will no doubt be surprised to see me coming to France after such a short stay in New Caledonia. I have already taken the decision because we have some Catholic chiefs and a good number of natives on the cusp of receiving the grace of baptism. The need of clergy and the good that we would be able to do there were we to have some resources and in particular if the mission station were independent from that of the Wallis Islands, nothing more could have made me more determined to travel to France. My three missionaries (for besides Father Rougeyron who is an accomplished missionary, I have snatched away a further two and been criticized for it). These three missionaries, I say, have strongly encouraged me to make this voyage in the interests of the mission station. Since we left France I have not received a single clergyman other than a missionary from San Cristobal who was sent by his superiors to recuperate from a spear wound and another from Tonga who had withdrawn to Sydney to recuperate as well and whom I also took to New Caledonia. Brother Jean Taragnat {---} an effort. Bishop Epalle left me a Brother, another was given me by the two bursars; I have left the three of them in New Caledonia with three priests and four workers, three of whom belonged to the vessel shipwrecked in New Caledonia and another whom I knew in Lyons. All these workmen whom I am obliged to pay very well and feed have caused me considerable expense and yet I have received only one amount of money from the Propagation of the Faith.
The crates which you were good enough to send me from Clermont and which were so well stocked according to the list which was found in the papers of Bishop Epalle haven’t yet arrived although more than two years have already passed, since you had the kindness to send them to Lyons. I can’t tell you all my projects at the moment; I will tell them to you face to face: our mission station is functioning well, despite our missionaries being without a clothing allowance and money. They are well provided with food, and relying on the three sums of money which I have not yet received, I have borrowed only 10,000 francs; but we have lived sparingly.
I don’t know whether I have spoken to you about the voyage I made to San Cristobal to visit the missionaries of the massacred bishop: it is a new mission station which is now established but which requires a lot of clergy. The Solomon Islands are magnificent; but the jungle is too dense for the air to be pure. Out of nine missionaries eight are sick. The population there is handsome: the men are generally short; that doesn’t stop them from being intelligent and well built; the women are much better than those in New Caledonia but without shame not even having a small belt to cover their private parts. We stayed there only a few days at San Cristobal. I wanted to return to our poor shipwrecked men and as we had contrary winds, we had to go as far as Ndende Island. We saw a magnificent spectacle there; it was an active volcano. Then we stopped near Santo (New Hebrides). A large number of canoes came out to welcome us. However, we decided not to land; but we were rather close to the shore to admire the island, one of the most beautiful and perhaps the most beautiful in the world; its inhabitants look rather like our New Caledonians although their language is different.
I have spoken to nobody about my voyage other than to Reverend Father Colin. I will beg him not to divulge it except to those who can keep the information to themselves. I would be most obliged were you to write to me immediately at the poste restante at Brest, because you will receive my letter only a few days before my arrival, hardly eight or ten days. Do give me news of the bishop, your family, Mrs Desterny, the good sister Magdeleine, Misses Boutrarel and Bargheon, Father Poupard, etc. If Mrs Desterny is still alive, let her know that I will visit her. My dear friend, I am trembling thinking that I will no longer see her and that thought causes me so much pain. Tell me too if La Tourette is still the chapel of the vicariate! Does the bishop want to add it to the list of branches? I would support that action and I have some reason to believe that is his intention.
I will give you personally face to face what I have not written in this letter. I have not spoken of Father Lopeau, although I have always loved him very tenderly, nor have I mentioned our ladies of La Tourette and in particular the Mother Superior and her family to whom I owe much gratitude; but you are there to take my place and I know too well what I owe you and what you have done to doubt for a moment your good will to fill in what I have forgotten. I do not give you any job to do for my mother for fear that she may announce too soon my arrival; if you consider it wise to do so, I beg you to write about it to Father Bégouin.
I am having this letter send to you directly without even mentioning it to our superior. I have no news of the good Father Roudaire. Bishop Bataillon caused me some angst in keeping this good friend from me; His Lordship has brushed up the wrong way two people who needed each other; I do not know whether Providence will unite them in the future. Recently I wrote to that good priest to inform him of what I had decided to do. I will be near the coast of France when he gets my letter.
Pray for me, my dear friend, and get others to pray. I have a great need of their prayers; I have business of the utmost importance to deal with. I am expecting more than a clash of interests; I am used to that and as for what has happened in the past, sooner or later they will have to make amends because the matter which I have to plead, I have already pleaded since my arrival in my mission stations. My viewpoint then is still my viewpoint now and not only mine but also that of all the missionaries who think about the matter.
I will speak to you at greater length. Goodbye, my dear and great vicar, tell the Bishop of Clermont everything you think he should know. My heart is still full of the fresh gratitude for all that His Lordship has done for me; I will perhaps torment him even more in favour of my good parishioners; but there you are! Can a priest forget his children?
Totally yours in Jesus and Mary
+Guillaume, Bishop of New Caledonia.
Sydney, 12 October 1846