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July 1847. – Letter from Jérôme Grange to a Father

Translated by Mary Williamson, May 2010

Based on the script, APM ONC 208 Rougeyron.

Written on only one side of the page; date written in subsequently at the top of the page in another hand; the letter is not signed, but seems to have been written by Grange, who says he is at Baïao ( fact confirmed by Rougeyron, doc. 664, ∫ 6); here the author speaks about Rougeryon in the third person (cf ∫ 2, below); the only surviving evidence of this letter seems incomplete.

[p.1, at the top of the page]
[written in subsequently]
July 1847

New Caledonia

My Reverend Father,
I am profiting from the fact that a small ship is leaving for [-----] to send you a few lines; perhaps you will receive them more promptly than by any other means.
Our mission is not nearly as advanced as you would have hoped. The savages are far from improving in relative proportion to the sacrifices we are making for them, seeming to profit from our kindness by becoming even more wicked. All the demons of hell seem to be unleashed and our savages show themselves to be their willing servants. Unfortunately we have had to split up, though very unwillingly. Fr Rougeyron has been settled at Poébo with four Brothers or European laymen. I have stayed at Baïo with the other Brothers and two men left with us by Mr Marceau. The savages, hiding their deep-seated treachery, just waited till we had separated, to attack us individually, steal from us and kill some of us. They tried to carry out their assault against both camps at the same time. Fortunately we were warned in time and were able to thwart their wicked plans at least up until now. I have to tell you that they started by laying waste all our plantations. The beautiful fruit trees that we had planted and which were thriving no longer exist. They also killed several of our livestock, etc….. They set upon us even in our home. We have had to take refuge in a sort of fortification where, turn about, we keep watch day and night, to prevent the savages from getting in. Fr Rougeyron has done the same at Poébo and unless we have a change of heart we will rejoin forces, if possible, when either the brigantine Anonyme or the Arche d’Alliance arrives and will make every endeavour to retain at least one of our settlements until we receive further instructions. We can only trust in God’s protection, the intercession of Mary and the sustenance of our Prayers.
Last June, on 21st, 140 savages descended on us like angry wolves. A few rifle shots, fired in the air, frightened them and they fled. This fear however did not deter them from returning to the attack and they managed to enter the church and carry away everything they could lay hands on. My great fear was that some misfortune would befall our savages; fortunately nothing happened to them; we contented ourselves with frightening them. We are waiting for the Arche d’Alliance, which should be coming to visit us again. In the meantime we have had to dismantle our church and use the material from it to build barricades to protect ourselves. Bishop Collomb, who is with us at the moment, having come from New Zealand after his consecration, finds himself not a little embarrassed, as some of his accoutrements are in danger of being pillaged.
We cannot go out of our little fortification, as the danger has not yet passed. Do not distress yourself however, my Reverend Father; God has protected us up till now, and we have confidence in him. Only one English gentleman has been killed by our savages. Alas! These unfortunate natives do not understand what they are doing; they deserve our deepest compassion. The more they persecute us, the more we love them in Jesus Christ, who died for them as well as for us. We continue to pray for their conversion; and we would give a thousand lives if needs be, to accomplish this task and bring them happiness. Nevertheless, we do not know what God has in store for us here amongst them, nor what will become of them. If we are forced to withdraw, I greatly fear that their salvation will not be accomplished and other men, less patient than the missionaries, will come and exterminate them. May all those for whom the propagation of the faith is important pray for our poor New Caledonians and for those of us who have such great need of Heaven’s protection.

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