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18 September 1847 – Father Etienne Chaurain to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Sydney

Based on the document sent, APM OP 458.2 Mission. trans. (1845-1860).

Translated by Mary Williamson, August 2011.

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


[Address]: The Superior General • the Society of Mary • Lyon.

[In Poupinel’s handwriting]
Sydney 18th September 1847• Fr Chaurain.

The Reverend Father Superior
Sydney 1847 – 18th September.
Villa Maria, the procurator’s house.

My Very Reverend Father,
Praise God for all things! He is sending you new trials! The Society of Mary has a new martyr. In Caledonia, where the mission seemed to offer such great hopes, the natives, encouraged by the fact that they had got away with several small thefts, suddenly rose up en masse against their benefactors. The missionaries suddenly found themselves surrounded by a horde of savages, rushing fully armed to massacre them and pillage their settlement. Baïoup, [1] the place where, at the time, Bishop Collomb, Fr Grange and Brothers Blaise and Bertrand were stationed, was the first to be attacked. Br Blaise received a mortal wound during the first foray. That fine Brother! He demonstrated a resignation and a piety very worthy of admiration!
I will leave Fr Rougeyron [2] and the other missionaries who witnessed these sad events to inform you of the causes, the details and all the circumstances. The corvette “Brillante” arrived in Caledonia at the very time when the missionaries were saying their final goodbyes to each other and, fortified by the Sacrament of Penitence, were ready to deliver themselves into the hands of their executioners. I will leave Captain Dubouzet [3] himself to let the world know about the rescue of our missionaries. All I know and am able to say, along with all the missionaries in Caledonia, is that they were (along with Bishop Collomb) snatched by him from a certain death. This worthy Captain welcomed them with great kindness, a fact that these gentlemen do not cease to praise and took them to Sydney, the only refuge left to them, after having lost everything.
It was 12th September (1847), feast day in the holy name of Mary, that I received the disastrous news from the very mouths of Fr Rougeyron, Fathers Roudaire, Grange and Verguet and Brothers Auguste and Bertrand as well as the five little catechists, natives of Caledonia. The story of their misfortunes and the state of misery and poverty in which I found them, broke my heart; they were almost naked, having been able to save only the clothes that they were wearing at the time when the savages surprised them. All their linen and clothing, their chapel and their sacred ornaments became prey either to the savages or the flames. I received them as best I could, in our country house. We have begun a novena of prayers so that the will of God might present itself to us in such circumstances. Some of these gentlemen endure this trail with an admirable resignation and patience; others seem a little shaken in their good intentions and even in their vocation. Fathers Grange and Verguet do not seem to be resolved to return to mission work. Fr Rougeyron and I have reminded them of all the expressions of faith that might make the greatest impression on them, without, nevertheless, putting pressure on them, which may not be prudent. We hope to make some progress with Fr Grange, but none at all with Fr Verguet.
He speaks of leaving the Society as one would talk of shedding a shirt; his lack of attachment to the Society appals me. I behave towards him with the greatest of courtesy, so that he at least preserves a good impression of the Society, if you should judge it suitable to release him from his vows, as he will ask you in his letter enclosed here. – He has asked me for money to pay his passage from here to France, something I felt I neither wished to or was able to do. Nevertheless, seeing him more and more determined to leave, I explained to him the way to find the money. I think he is going to leave for London in a few days.
The procurator, as I have said, is more or less out of money; I have payed for the property and I owe nothing at present; but I think that I will soon be in debt, in having to feed and clothe these gentlemen, who, counting the Fathers, the Brothers and the little catechists, add up to thirteen in number, all without money.
Would you be so kind as to obtain some money and send it to us as soon as possible. If the procurator cannot have a small advance his services and his operations will be very difficult and almost impossible.
We hasten to get these letters to you by way of the Indies, which is sometimes quicker. We will not delay in writing to you again by way of London, so that our letters reach you as promptly as possible.
I am,
My Very Reverend Father,
Your very obedient Son,
Etienne Chaurain.
Post Script. I still do not know when Fr Rocher will return, nor the Arche d’Alliance. But I do not think it will be less than five or six months. – How will she be received in Caledonia!!
[in the margin at an angle]
I have just received a letter from Rev. Fr Dubreul; it is a dissertation, nothing more nor less. I have not yet discovered the reason that led him to write such a letter. There is no news that I have not known for ten months. -


  1. Read Baïao (cf. doc. 657, § 2, n.1).
  2. for Rougeyron’s account of the attacks on the mission at Baïao, which took place on 18th and d19th July 1847, cf. doc. 663, 6-28; for Montrouzier’s account, cf. doc. 674, § 13-29
  3. Eugéne du Bouzet, captain in the French navy (cf. doc.133, §2, n2; 674, § 23-24, 27).

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