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14 September 1847 – Catechist Louis Tadinan to Bishop Guillaume Douarre with a note of introduction from Father Pierre Rougeyron, Sydney

Based on the script, APM OP 458.2 Mission. trans. (1845 – 1860).

Translated by Mary Williamson, October 2011.

Sheet of paper forming four pages, three of which are written on, the fourth having only Poupinel’s annotation.

[p.4] [in Poupinel’s handwriting]
New Caledonia • Sydney 14th September 1844 • Letter from Louis Tadinan, catechist.
Sydney 14th September 1847.

For a long time Louis has been pressing me to allow him to write to you; I finally consented to his request and here is the letter that he is sending to you, My Lord. It is not a masterpiece; but even though it is full of mistakes, it still has its small measure of merit. I am very happy that you will be the first to receive this first composition to come from a young Caledonian brain. Above all, Bishop, be indulgent where the writing is concerned, for the disciple cannot surpass the master and you are well acquainted with my talent for that. So here is an example.
Fearing that you might have lost some of your knowledge of the Caledonian language I am going to take the liberty of translating for you, My Lord, Louis’ letter, as literally as is possible, whilst conserving the spirit of the sentences as well as their naïve simplicity. Do not think that it is me or someone else who has dictated to Louis the content of the letter. He alone is the author. I wished to find out, in this way, what he is capable of and the sentiments that drive him. I have only altered numerous unimportant or rather vague things. His first letter would have had more than eight pages if I had not made him shorten it. I also showed him the form a letter should follow, but all the rest, I assure you, is certainly his own work, both the sentiments that are expressed and also the writing.
Here is the letter.
Sydney, 11th September.
Today we have left New Caledonia. I will not relate to you the reasons for leaving, for my stomach would suffer too much in telling you. As well, I am ashamed to speak to you about what they have done (his compatriots). They have committed many crimes; to tell you about them, that too would cause pain to my stomach (interior). I prefer to let you know about the behaviour of Michel. He protected the missionaries a lot, he was not afraid to go promptly to warn them of danger they were in, when he saw some of his own people turn against them. He did even more, he waged war against his own family to do this.
When we were about to leave for Sydney, Michel came on board the ship; he was overcome with distress, he wept a lot; his stomach suffered on seeing the missionaries leaving. He said that he himself wished to remain in New Caledonia to spread the word of Jehovah; he added that when he could see that there were many people listening to God’s word, he would later build a church; I do not know when, but we will go back and find many Christians.
Oh Bishop, Michel is very good, when he sees that Fr Rougeyron is no longer there, he will go and call all the Christians to come to his house, so as to recite prayers together and prevent them from forgetting the word of Jehovah. Then he envied us our lot; you are fortunate he said to us, yes you are fortunate to remain close to the missionaries, you will be able to make your confession and take communion, but us, we will be left the same as before, without confession and when we die where will we go? To Hell; that will be the end. Paradise will be lost for us. If, as you say, it is true that you might return, come back quickly to visit us.
When the people of Pouma saw that we were leaving they wept, their stomachs hurt, they said to each other: if in the past we had not stolen, if we had not harmed them, today they would not leave us. At this time they sent Michel to say to Fr Rougeyron to come back so as to make a peace treaty and they added ; if they do not want to, because they are angry with us, tell him to come and burn down all our houses to calm his anger, after that we will give him back all the things we stole.
Oh Bishop, I am in pain to see my countrymen abandoned. Forgive them for what they have done, pray again to Jehovah to forgive them and come back amongst them again. Bishop, when these men of Caledonia know what it is to be a missionary, how much they love all men, how much, above all, they love their souls and wish them to go to Heaven, when they know that the missionaries are fathers to the souls of all men, when, I say, these men of Caledonia know all these things very well, they will become good.
Bishop, wish Rev. Fr Colin a good day and all those blessed leaders who live in the same house as you. Oh Father (Colin) forgive us for what we have done to your children, we will never do such things again. Send some other missionaries to us again; we will not commit such crimes again. Bishop, I thank you very much for having made me a Christian, if you had not baptised me, I would probably be as bad as my countrymen: your way of doing things is very good. It is the same as that of Fr Rougeyron. We are very grateful for what he has done for us.
When we were living at Pouébo, the people of that tribe, following the example of their neighbours, also tried to attack the missionaries; Bonou said to his subjects to kill is and eat us, as for the missionaries, they were afraid of dying if they ate them. This Bonou had his two brothers with us: Fr Rougeyron took them to make catechists of them. One of them said, when danger was imminent: if I see that all the missionaries are going to perish, I will hasten to get massacred myself, so as not to survive them. Finally being reunited, we all said the same thing, that it was necessary to die, like the missionaries, if they were killed; if we did not die we would once again become savages, as we were before. This would certainly happen, with confession and communion no longer available: impossible to go and find a priest; besides, no other one would know us and especially not understand us. We would then be exposed to making ourselves guilty of mortal sin.
At this moment a French ship finally arrived and Fr Rougeyron took us with him to take us away. We were very happy; but then our friends, our mothers, our fathers, our brothers came to keep us back. We left them behind, abandoning them all. We preferred to accompany the fathers of our souls, who we love very much. Now we are in Sydney. If you wish us to travel to some other island with you, we would like to; if you want us to return to our own country, we will happily go back; in other words, we will once again do whatever you wish.
Bishop, say hello to Bishop Louis-Charles [1] Ask him to pray to God for me and for the people of my country: as for me, I will pray to God for him and for the people of Clermont.
Bishop, today and every day, when I say my prayers, I remember you; please think of me too, so that we will both be very good and so that, after death, we will meet again in Paradise. Come quickly, we are very much waiting for you. If you have to stay there for long, send me your benediction. Goodbye.
Bishop, goodbye, goodbye. Your child today and for life,
Louis Tadinan, catechist.


  1. Louis-Charles Féron, bishop of Clermont-Ferrand, 1834-1879 (cf. Ritzler and Sefrin, vol.7, p.153).

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