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2 October 1847 – Father Etienne Chaurain to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Sydney

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

Sheet of paper forming four written pages.

Translated by Mary Williamson, December 2011.

Sydney 2nd October 1847

The Reverend Father Superior General

My Very Reverend Father,
I feel sure that the bundle of letters that I sent to your address on 17th of last month by way of China, will have reached you.
I imagine that you have heard about the misfortunes that have befallen the mission in New Caledonia. Nevertheless, as it may well have happened that our first letters have experienced unexpected delays, I thought it wise to also send you, at the first possible opportunity via London, a duplicate of our first letters.
God, whose ways are incomprehensible and who knows how to show forth His glory through the events that afflict us most, has just sent us further trials. The mission in New Caledonia, which seemed to offer such great hopes, has just been toppled in an instant. The natives amongst whom our missionaries had established themselves, encouraged by the lack of response to several minor attacks, rose up en masse against their benefactors. Our dear Brother Blaise was massacred and the same fate was awaiting all the other members of the mission if the Good Lord had not sent to their aid a French warship that snatched them from certain death. As soon as Mr du Bouzet, captain of the corvette “Brillante”, had dropped anchor at Ballade and had been informed of the situation in which the missionaries found themselves, he immediately sent a large detachment of sailors to go and defend them and take them on board. This was promptly and prudently executed; nevertheless the natives, seeing their prey escaping from their grasp, rushed to attack the sailors several times and wounded some of them. So, I leave it to the worthy captain himself to make public everything he has done for our missionaries! After having saved their lives whilst exposing those of the sailors of his crew, he took them back to Sydney, the only refuge left to them after having lost everything.
They arrived here in a state of poverty, I could even say of frightening nudity, but very honourable in the eyes of the faith. I received them with as much attentiveness as possible, these dear colleagues so deserving of our care and solicitude. Fortunately the house and property, whose acquisition I told you about some time ago, had just reached a suitable state to receive them. We were able to accommodate them all and, I believe, in a suitable manner. They blessed the Lord for the asylum and brief repose that God offered them after such an upset. Their spirits needed a little uplifting and their health some specific care. After this we undertook a sort of retreat, following as closely as possible the disciplines of piety practised in the houses in Lyon and Belley. We all, I think, felt the need for prayer; we prayed and are still praying for God to enlighten us on the action to take in such critical circumstances.
Confidence is already beginning to replace the despondency in which we at first found ourselves. The Reverend Fathers Rougeyron and Roudaire are only awaiting a favourable occasion to go with Brothers Auguste and Bertrand to found a new mission. Fr Grange himself seems resolved to leave. Nevertheless, I feel obliged to tell you that I doubt very much if this Father is not more destructive than useful to the cause of the missions, with his ideas of independence that you no doubt know about. Frs Roudaire and Rougeyron also share this opinion of him. He is nevertheless very pious and whatever he says about his ecclesiastic and religious superiors, he truly believes it, with the best faith in the world.
As for Rev. Fr Verguet, it has been impossible for us to keep him with us any longer. He has definitively taken the decision to return to France. He leaves today for London. He will probably be the bearer of several letters for you, apart from those that I consider the most important and those I will send to you by post, which is always the safest.
Fr Verguet hopes to come and see you when he arrives in France, to have himself absolved from his vows. He will be able to give you a lively account of several aspects of the mission and the procurator’s office.
At the moment we are gathering all the information that we believe necessary to decide where the mission will next pitch its tent. We are all of the opinion that it is not prudent at the moment to return to Ballade. Up until now we have generally been of the opinion that we would go and set up an establishment on one of the small inhabited islands situated at the entrance of the beautiful port of Saint Vincent to the south west of New Caledonia. We are sure that the natives there are still unaware of what has happened at Ballade.
These gentlemen would like to take from Sydney a ready-made house. They would like it to be made of sheet metal, so that it cannot be burned. Apart from the question of money, which is after all the main consideration, we need to examine what would be most suitable and what would be the simplest both to transport and to install.
The opinion of these men is that they await the return of the Anonyme to Sydney so that they can be transported to the place that we have chosen. It is a saving of money, as Mr Marceau still owes nearly 20,000 francs to the mission in Caledonia. The only problem is that in this way they will have to remain a further three or four months at the procure in Sydney.
Whilst waiting, I have found them all things to do: Fr Rougeyron replaces me in the house when I have business to do in town, Fr Roudaire is the mechanic, Fr Grange is in charge in the garden; the Brothers plant and till the vines. Brother Jean is the factotum; he is very interested in the business of the procurator’s office. He is very helpful to me, especially since the departure of Fr Rocher (from whom I have heard nothing since 30th July, at which time he and Mr Marceau wrote to me from Samoa). So I have no idea at all when he will be back. At the moment I am very busy with a thousand and one things around the house.
Besides, as nothing is as yet settled as to what we will do, there is nothing very positive that I can tell you about the work of the mission in Caledonia. I will write to you as soon as we have made a final decision.
I reiterate my requests for masses and remittances that I have made to you in my preceding letters – a few more Brothers for the cultivation of the gardens and vineyards, a thought for us in your prayers, my respects and good wishes to Bishop Douarre (from whom I have not yet received any news), as well as to Rev. Fathers Dubreul, Poupinel, and Germain, to whom I will make it my duty to write as soon as I can.
I thank Fr Poupinel for the charming little letter he sent me, dated 4th December 1846.
I do not have the time to re-read my letter.

I am, my very Reverend Father,
Your respectful and dutiful child,
Etienne Chaurain,
Missionary priest.

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