28 August 1847 – Father Pierre Rougeyron to Bishop Guillaume Douarre, New Caledonia
Translated by Mary Williamson, July 2011.
Based on the script, APM ONC 208 Rougeyron.
Sheet of paper forming four pages, three of which are written on, Poupinel’s annotation on the fourth page.
[ in Poupinel’s handwriting] New Caledonia, aboard the Brillante, 28th August 1847. Fr Rougeyron to Bishop Douarre, Bishop of Amata.
- [p.1, at the bottom of the page]
- Bishop Douarre, vicar apostolic of New Caledonia.
- Aboard the Brillante, 28th August 1847.
- God, the absolute master of all things and whose intentions are unfathomable, demands of you, at this time, the greatest of sacrifices; so may you Lord Bishop, fall to your knees and, prompted by feelings of the most fervent of faiths, go up the holy mountain to offer a new sacrifice to the Lord. Bishop, it takes a generous soul to remain calm whilst surrounded by the greatest of trials and it is because I know the sentiments that inspire you and have always inspired you during difficult times, that I am not afraid to broach the subject straight away and say to you, My Lord, that New Caledonia counts amongst its martyrs Brother Blaise. The church has been burned down and our two settlements at Baïao and Puoébo pillaged; after being under siege for more than three weeks, where each moment seemed likely to be our last, divine providence, in which lay our only hope, sent a warship, the Brillante, to save us. Right now, we are all on board and making sail towards Sydney.
- Bishop Collomb, Fr Verguet, and Dr Baudry, in New Caledonia at the time and witness to the events, have written and signed the short statement that I am sending you . I am hastening to write this letter as I anticipate that I am going to be short of time. If I am able to write at greater length and give you more details, rest assured that I will hasten to do so.
- Rev. Fr Roudaire arrived here in New Caledonia on the Brillante. Like us, he is very upset at the losses we have suffered. However, in the midst of these misfortunes some consolations arise. The dear Brother has only exchanged this mortal life for a better one. His beautiful soul is in Heaven, as you will be able to conclude from the enlightening details of his death.
- It is true that we are leaving New Caledonia, scene of our successes and our sufferings, but I hope we are not leaving forever. I am taking with me to Sydney five charming little children, three are Christians and two others, who are novices, are brothers and high chiefs of Pouébo. When they have grown up I intend to take them back to the island. They have behaved admirably towards us. It is true that we are leaving New Caledonia, but I have left there a scattering of Christians, six Catholics, four children nine to ten years old and two adults, Michel and Grégoire. It is a little mustard seed which will perhaps grow into a large tree. . I believe that Michel is devoted to us in a fearless manner; he promised me that he would continue the mission and convert his fellow countrymen. Is God not all-powerful? Does he need us, miserable souls that we are? Is he not able, from these stones, to create children of Abraham? . All our Christians have proved themselves worthy of the name, so faithful to us, even in times of misfortune, that I would have wished to die amongst them; but this idea was mine alone and Bishop Collomb, who I looked upon as your representative, disapproved of my idea. So I am returning to Sydney where I will raise these children; when you return, if you consider it suitable, I will be able to return to New Caledonia. If, before this time, more missionaries come to join us, we will go and found another establishment elsewhere.
- Try to finish off your affairs at once, for you are indispensable; we cannot take any action without you. As I think I have already said to you, bring some families with you, as they will be our guarantee. Make arrangements with the French Society to establish small colonies in the islands where you expect to settle yourself. Without this precaution, according to everyone, the mission will not succeed in Melanesia, at least not in New Caledonia or the New Hebrides, which I think will be in your curacy. Everywhere the natives set upon the white people. In all parts of New Caledonia ships have been attacked, as they have been in the New Hebrides; in San Cristobal the natives are as thieving as in New Caledonia; we have fears for this mission too.
- Passing near to Anatome, where the corvette was going, we saw Tanna, where we learned that the missionaries, being afraid, had fled. On Anatome the natives are even more deprived than in New Caledonia; they have the same customs, but not the same language.
- I believe that the only thing that we could do, for the time being, would be to have a large number of young people who we could bring up well and train as catechists. These good Christians, here and there, in the worst areas of your curacy would prepare the way for your missionaries. But it would be necessary for a ship to go and visit them from time to time. In this way, I am convinced that the mission would have more success and in much less time. So try to obtain sufficient funds to support such a training. If you do not approve of this step it is an urgent necessity, I repeat, that you assess the safety measures for the missionaries. I do not see any other way than to establish small colonies in areas where you will place your missionaries. The French Society is created really by providence to achieve this goal. Even if people in France are astounded by these measures, they do not just come from me, they come from all the missionaries and all the sailors who know, even of only slightly, the islands of your curacy. The measures followed in Polynesia are not practicable in Melanesia. The people and the resources are different in these islands. The natives are greedy, thieving and extremely cruel. Almost all these islands are poor, the inhabitants dying of hunger. Do not take anything with you, it is to invite death; to take food and clothing with you is most certainly to expose yourself to death and pillage. So, Bishop consult with others and take action whilst you are in France. If necessary, mount a little crusade to spread the word for the funds and the people necessary.
- Our material losses are considerable. We have calculated them at fifty thousand francs, not including the store of provisions left by the Seine. These government provisions met the same fate as ours. I am busy preparing a report about it. Fr Chaurain, the procurator, made a decision to borrow ten thousand francs from you, to send us some stock to New Caledonia; the ship that he had chartered arrived at exactly the time that we were leaving the island; you can guess the loss. Bishop Chaurain is certainly not at fault, for according to what he told me, you had given him the authorisation. I am not yet able, in this letter, to give you an account of the 20,000 francs that Bishop Bataillon sent us, because Mr Marceau, into whose hands it was placed, has not returned it in kind and it is not possible for me to settle my affairs with this Captain, as he is still in Wallis; I think though, that the mission in New Caledonia will be without debt, despite our disaster.
- This change in the attitude of the New Caledonians will be a strange shock to you my Lord. Indeed, there is much that confounds me too. I cannot explain this episode except by thinking that God’s work has been obstructed. If in the end, seeing better times arriving for this island evil has been unleashed to drive is out, there are no forces that have not been brought into play to satisfy its anger towards us. A frightful epidemic has occurred. We should have all perished, but no, Mary saved us; only our cattle were carried off. The evil spirit has then suggested to the natives that it was we who had caused the death of others whilst we were left standing.
- Some missionaries were promised to Bouarat, chief at Hienguène and these missionaries not having arrived, Bouarat was furious with us and, hinting to the folk of Baïao the presence of a demon, suggested they should massacre us. There, Bishop, are some of the causes of our persecution. I will tell you about the others in another letter. I would simply add that if Bishop Collomb had not taken Fr Montrouzier away, it is possible that this event would not have come to pass. If Your Grace had stayed amongst us, would we have remained at peace? I do not know, only God knows. Nevertheless we are all led to believe that an incident of this kind would have happened sooner or later. So do not harbour any regrets, Bishop, or too much grief. It was God’s wish, let this be our consolation. God will derive his glory from it, we will understand it later.
- Despite all my entreaties Fr Roudaire feels it is appropriate to go to Valparaiso. It is possible that Fr Grange will return to France; thus I am going to find myself alone and in an impossible position to go and start a mission. Faithful to my duty, I am going to await you in Sydney with my small children, or at least await your instructions. Write as soon as possible. Pray for me and for New Caledonia, which I still love,
- Your devoted
- Your devoted
- P.S.S.P. We have just landed in Sydney. Fr Chaurain hastened to come and meet us on board. This kindly Father certainly understood our suffering. He lives happily in the country where he has bought a superb property. There we are all very well housed and very much at ease. Our excellent Brother is very considerate of us; he goes to a great deal of trouble to fulfil our needs.
- A brief word of thanks from you to Mr Dubouzet . who saved our lives, would give him the greatest of pleasure,
- [In Colin’s handwriting] “Certified accurate”
- Lyon, 24th January 1848.
- Lyon, 24th January 1848.
- Cf. doc. 651
- Cf. Mt 13.31-32; Mc 4.31-32; Lc 13.19
- Cf. Mt 3.9; Lc 3.8.
- Eugène du Bouzet, ship’s captain, (Cf.doc. 133, ∫ 2, n.2; 661, ∫ 31; 662, ∫ 2;
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