From Marist Studies
30 November 1847 − Father Pierre Rougeyron to Father Victor Poupinel, Sydney
Based on the document sent, APM OP 458.2 Mission. trans.
Translated by Mary Williamson, April 2014
Sheet of paper, comprising four written pages, Poupinel’s annotation at the top of the first page.
- [in Poupinel’s handwriting]
- The Reverend Father Rougeyron
- To Reverend Father Poupinel
- Sydney, 30th November 1847.
- My Reverend Father,
- I will not discuss our misfortunes in Caledonia with you. The passing on of news, which is always so speedy in these circumstances, will mean you have been fully informed long ago. Besides, I have reported the details of all these regrettable events to Bishop Douarre who, no doubt, will have communicated them to you.
- All the members of the New Caledonian mission are, at the moment, at the Procurator’s headquarters, as well as one person from the mission in Samoa. Brother Charles Aubert has just arrived here, without a letter from his superiors. He tells us that his health, impaired for a long time now, has obliged him to take this step. The Procurator has been put in a very awkward position: to receive him and pay for his passage on a chartered ship would possibly open the door for other discontented people who, knowing of his reception, could emulate his desertion; however to refuse to open the door to one of our Marist Brothers would no doubt cause a scandal in Sydney! Father Chaurain, after having consulted us, finally accepted him amongst us, where he awaits a new posting. Only a ruling from the Reverend Father the Superior General can effect a decision in such a case, but this decision from our Reverend Father has not yet been conveyed to anyone. Please discuss it with him.
- Another thing, my Reverend Father, that I cannot conceal from you, is that everyone suffers from and complains about the long silence that you maintain in France. One would say that we are abandoned. Not a parent, a friend or one of our Brothers sends us even a short letter; and yet certainly some of you would write to us if you knew that it was so easy for letters to reach us. Send all our letters to London and put on the address: via the first ship leaving for Sydney, and in less than four months we would have news of you. A missionary should no doubt be detached from worldly things, but he is lawfully allowed to love his parents, his friends and the Society, which is our Mother. And, my Reverend Father, how can one expect the missionaries to be conscientious in sending all the interesting details of their missions if, from your position in France, you do not care to reciprocate in the same way. We have had no news for more than two years. Bishop Douarre, who himself complained bitterly about this matter, maintains a permanent silence, at a time nevertheless, when we badly need to hear from him. Please do not be annoyed with me for speaking to you in this manner. It is only our need to receive your treasured news and that of the Society that makes me speak thus.
- It is certainly a suitable time now to thank you, my Reverend Father, for the fine consignment that you have sent on the Arche d’Alliance; but it is really better late than never. In the name of all the members of our mission, I can let you know that everyone was satisfied, (something that is quite rare). Be so kind as to continue in this way; but would you be able to choose stronger trunks; those that we received are no longer any use.
- What I am going to say now, my Reverend Father, only indirectly concerns you, I know, but you will allow me to mention it here, instead of me writing this time to the Very Reverend Father, the Superior General. There are many missionaries, both Fathers and Brothers, who are subordinate to the missions and feel very coldly towards the Society. Where does this dissatisfaction spring from? From the fact that they have not been sufficiently vetted by the Society. Without doubt we certainly need plenty of men in our missions, but not members such as sometimes arrive. It is a thousand times better to remain alone, as a quarrelsome and discontented character can instantly entirely disrupt a mission. Also, what is the source of this discontent among the missionaries? It is from the fact that, in the Islands, they have not found what was promised. The letters of several missionaries, published in the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith, have mistakenly misled and continue to mislead. Presented with a false optimism, is it not surprising that there will later be a few people disillusioned? You should therefore be very strict in sorting out the genuine letters to be made public, from those that are written with blind enthusiasm, or with other, no less praiseworthy motives. So I can tell you, in passing, that I was pained to see printed a letter from Father Viard, now a bishop, about New Caledonia. . It is full of inaccuracies, of which I certainly have the evidence. He did not know and was not able to know enough of the language or the customs of the Caledonians to speak about them as he has done. What I have had to say about this letter I have also heard expressed by others, who are also interested in our general wellbeing. Kindly inform our Very Reverend Father of this. I must inform you, my Reverend Father, that during the past four years that we have been on our mission, we have only once received the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith. Nevertheless, this publication is not unknown to some of our missionaries!
- I am teaching five small children. Four can now read and write and are beginning to learn Latin declensions; the fifth is a little more advanced and is beginning to do short translations quite well. These children have a promising future. I do not know if the end result will correspond with the beginnings, but in any case, I am going to continue to push them as far as I can; but I am short of books. Please be so kind as to send us some, as you have done for the college on Wallis. We need French-Latin and Latin-French dictionaries, some translations from which they can write prose, some slates and especially paper, ink and pens.
- My Reverend Father, I must confess that if I only wished to look to my material wellbeing, I would stay at the Procurator’s premises. It is so pleasant here. Our Fathers, at the time of our disaster, had just bought a beautiful property. There, one enjoys the pleasures of both town and country life. Every day we are eternally grateful to Providence for this pleasure. Without this resource what would have become of us! Oh, our Reverend Father Superior has certainly proved that he was thinking of his missionary flock when he founded these quarters. May he continue to maintain it, as it is an indispensable necessity for us. How many unforeseen events, similar to ours, could lead other missionaries here! Besides, when one is old and infirm, when one becomes a dependent in one of our Bishop’s missions, it will certainly be consoling for an old missionary to know he has a place where he can rest his head and peacefully end his days.
- Oh! yes, our Procurator’s premises are very tempting and unfortunately there are some who succumb, like cowardly deserters. They abandon their posts and then, to hide their shameful behaviour, they have the audacity to try to blame the conduct of their more faithful and worthy colleagues.
- I think you understand me, my Reverend Father, so I have said enough about it. As for us, with the Reverend Father Roudaire and Brothers Auguste and Bertrand, we once again take up the challenge that Providence has assigned to us. We are not unaware that we face many dangers, but does he who refuses to expose himself to this really deserve the name of missionary? We use every means with which Providence provides us, to make an impression on this childlike and violent people, but our only hope is in God and God alone.
- As for the rest, everything that we undertake, we do not undertake lightly. It is only with the co-operation of the Father at the Procurator’s and other reliable people that we have here in Sydney, that we are taking with us a house of sheet metal to avoid the risk of fire and we also have other things to thwart the audacity of the savages. Our plan is to establish ourselves on a small island where we hope to establish a college. I have reason to believe that in this way we will succeed.
- The rumour is circulating that the Reverend Father Grange has asked the Very Reverend Father, the Superior General for the position of Procurator in Sydney. He does not understand himself very well if he has made this request. Anyway, we will not worry ourselves about this, because the Reverend Father Superior knows only too well this good Father’s way of seeing and doing things, so he will never become the Bishop’s chargé d’affaires.
- The Reverend Father Roudaire is a blessing to me in this time of trial. His enthusiasm enlivens me and his advice enlightens me. He thanks you very much for the fine shipment you sent him. He asks me to [in the margin at an angle] send you his most sincere regards and good wishes. Please too, my Reverend Father, accept mine,
- Annals of the Propagation of the Faith, t. 18 (1846): 413-419; cf. doc. 424, the original of the letter.
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