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22 June, 1847 – Letter from Fr Jean-Louis Rocher to Fr Jean-Claude Colin

Translated by Mary Williamson. April 2010

Based on the document sent APM OP 458 Rocher.

Sheaf of 4 written pages.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam & Dei genitricis Mariae virginis.

To the Very Reverend Father Colin.
Superior General

My Very Reverend Father,
In my last letter, sent from Sydney and dated 18th of last month, I informed you that I had decided to accompany M. Marceau on his latest expedition to visit the area of the islands of Oceania. One thing is certain, if I have dared to absent myself from my dutiful position, I have done so only after serious reflexion; but as this is just a general round trip, and as the Arche d’Alliance should be returning to Sydney to take on her cargo for France, I hoped you would not think this a rash decision, especially as I will probably never have such a favourable opportunity to see all my colleagues, get to understand their needs, and gain a clear insight into the functioning of our missions and the equipment that suits their needs.
Fr Chaurain, who I left in charge of procuration, is up to date with all the business affairs. Before I departed I left him all the necessary powers of attorney, so that I do not think he will find himself in an embarrassing situation if by chance he has to deal with any business matters that may arise.
The same difficulties which prevented me from accompanying Monseigneur Collomb to New Zealand, almost caused me to miss this voyage too. There was a serious problem with the title of the property that we had promised to buy. This had been kept from us and had only just been discovered by our lawyer. The vendor had, by registered deed, given this property to his children. Although English law does not recognise such deeds, the children would nevertheless have been able to institute legal proceedings. Very fortunately, this deed gave full powers to the children’s guardians to resell, so it was only a question of finding out if the guardians themselves wanted to accept the money and give us a receipt. At first they formally refused, but after a few days reflexion they sent us their agreement. So when I left Sydney, everything was agreed upon and arranged and the bill of sale should have been settled that same week.
So I am hoping that since my departure no other difficulties will have arisen and that Father Chaurain is now installed in our new dwelling.
This property has 18 acres. There is a newly constructed sandstone house. It is positioned on the crest of a small hill which overlooks the entire property as well as a very pretty branch of the Paramatta river. The land slopes down gently in front of the house, with a very fine orchard, a vineyard and a vegetable garden, which is bounded on one side by a small fresh water stream. This acquisition cost us 27,500 fr. which we will pay in cash, earning ourselves a discount of 800 fr. which we will not receive in cash but in something of equal value. As there are 4 acres which are too rocky for general use, I think we will need to buy 8-10 extra acres to graze some animals. It is for this purchase that in my last letter I begged you to be kind enough to again plead our cause with the directors of the Propagation of the Faith.
I intended to write to these gentlemen to thank them and at the same time inform them of this new purchase; but having undertaken this voyage, I am not able to acknowledge this debt of gratitude for several more months.
When I left, the procurator had in hand around 32,400 fr. From this sum we advanced 1,000 fr. to M Marceau for New Caledonia. So, deducting the total sum for the property, plus the legal expenses, which will certainly be high, along with those for shifting house, we will have less than 3,000 fr. for the entire rest of the year.
(Don’t forget that, included in the 32,000 fr. are the 2000 that Fr Poupinel sent to Fr Dubreul on behalf of his brother).
This voyage of mine will cost the procurator nothing. The worthy M Marceau, who was so anxious to have a priest on board, is not charging me a penny and I have taken only 200 fr. with me, to cover any of my needs.
When I went to see Dr Gregory to say goodbye, he received me very warmly and begged me, (if you can use such a term) to forget all that had happened, explaining to me that things had been misinterpreted and misunderstood and that he most certainly had great affection for our Society. He warmly approved of the trip I was going to undertake and after having granted me all the necessary powers, he gave me permission to keep the Blessed Sacrament on board, so that during our passage from Sydney to Tahiti we had the pleasure of receiving Holy Communion every day.
We had a swift and very agreeable passage. We took only 31 days to cover 12,000 leagues, which worked out at 40 leagues per day. Tahiti is very peaceful. Queen Pomare is here at the moment, and the day after tomorrow she will leave with Governor Laveau on a tour around the island.
The corvette the Brillante left Tahiti some time ago to visit the islands of Oceania. M Marceau said that they had a very reliable crew and he did not think our gentlemen-passengers would have anything to complain about.
Tomorrow morning the corvette the Somme should leave for France; she will carry this letter; I would have very much liked to tell you a little about Tahiti, but this is impossible, as we only arrived 24 hours ago.
We will be in Tahiti for at least three weeks, before leaving for the islands of Samoa and hope to be in New Caledonia towards the end of November. From there we will set sail for the Solomon Islands, so I do not think we will be back in Sydney before the end of February of next year.
I promise that I will do my utmost to prepare for you a very detailed report of our journey, which will certainly be incredibly interesting for me.

We could not be happier to have Fr Jean with us. Considering his infirmity, we feel he would be best to remain with the procurator. He longs for New Caledonia, but in spite of that, is quite resigned to doing whatever you instruct him to do.
I am hoping that when I return to Sydney I will find at least two new Brothers, sent to us by you, to help us with the cultivation of the vineyard and with all the various works associated with the procurator’s responsibilities.
I conclude, my Very Reverend Father, by sending you my most sincere good wishes,
Your very humble and obedient servant in Jesus and Mary,
Missionary Priest.

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