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4 April 1848 —- Letter from Father Jean-Louis Rocher to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Sydney

Translated by Mary Williamson, July 2016

Based on the document sent, APM OP 458 Rocher.

Sheet of paper forming four pages, three of which are written on, the fourth having only the address.

Mister / Mr Colin, superior general / Saint Barthélemy Rise no. 4 / Lyon.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam & Dei genitricis Mariae virginis.

Sydney 4th April 1848

My Very Reverend Father,
It was on 5th of last month that I returned to Sydney. I was intending to send you, with the letters from Father Villien, the report that I promised you last year when I left for the islands. I was well under way with it, but was obliged to leave it for some time because of the numerous duties associated with the departure of our colleagues for New Caledonia and with the departure also of Father Villien who leaves tomorrow to join Bishop Collomb. At the latest, I hope to send this report on one of the ships that will leave for Europe during the next month.
No doubt you have heard of the death of Brother Attale in Tonga and Brother Gérard in Samoa.[1] These two good Brothers died an edifying death and showed a fine level of acceptance.
All our Fathers and Brothers, spread throughout the islands of Oceania are enjoying reasonably good health. I do not want to discuss here the mission to the Fijian islands as] we have not managed to get there because of the serious damage caused to the Arche d’Alliance on the reefs of Wallis, nor of the mission of Bishop Collomb which we have not been able to reach because of the violence of the winds which, being against us for four days of waiting and battling, forced us to turn back, much to our great displeasure.
Bishop Bataillon is well, he was on Wallis when we arrived there, busy directing the work on his establishment at Lanau (Immaculate Conception). His Lordship already has twelve pupils who seem very promising; they are under the tutelage of Father Mériais. Three weeks after our arrival on Wallis the Bishop left, on board the schooner, for Futuna, where he has founded another establishment, destined to train some Brothers. (The name of this place is The Hermitage). It was decided at first that His Lordship would come aboard the Arche d’Alliance to make this short crossing, but as our rudder was broken and the ship seriously damaged in the bow, he wished to make use of his schooner to get him to Futuna.
The French corvette the Ariane has just arrived in Sydney. She was at San Cristobal in February at the time when, about forty leagues away, we were fighting against the storm, and trying to get to Woodlark. The bad weather kept her in port Saint Mary for around twenty days. This delay was very unfortunate for the crew, as more than 60 men were stricken with the fever. The captain, before leaving San Cristobal, felt he had to avenge the deaths of our colleagues. Eighty armed men went, in the early morning to the village where they had been massacred and burned it to the ground. When the natives threatened them with their spears, they fired on them and killed several men. A trainee sailor was gravely wounded and died two days later.
We deeply regret that we have no news of Bishop Collomb to give you. We are very anxious about this, as it seems that the fever is just as prevalent in Woodlark.
Where the Reverend Fathers in Fiji are concerned, a whaling ship, passing by Rotuma during the course of last year, told Father Verne that the Fathers who are at Lakeba are reasonably well and do not seem to be in danger.
The visit I paid to Bishop Polding when I arrived in Sydney was rather coldly received. His Lordship was extraordinarily reserved and gave me no news at all of Lyon. It was the same thing when our Fathers from New Caledonia went there. So we will always be, it is obvious, in the same position as before where the ecclesiastic administration in Sydney is concerned, tolerated, but never held dear or favoured.
If you think it suitable, we would very much like to know, our Very Reverend Father, something of your meeting with Bishop Polding. It seems that His Lordship might have made some promises or expressed some desires, as, in the last letter from Father Dubreul (21st December), it says that he was amazed that we had gone to live two leagues away from the town whereas, if we had remained there, we would have been able to provide more services. As well, he adds in the same letter that the Society will be obliged to increase the workforce of Fathers at the procurator’s office, in order to help us in our holy ministry.
Such news has greatly surprised us. As the post for the ship that leaves tomorrow is about to close, I am obliged, my Very Reverend Father, to stop here, whilst promising to write at greater length next time.
Please accept the assurance of my deepest respect.
Your very humble
and very obedient servant,
Rocher, (Marist priest)


  1. Brother Attale (Jean-Baptiste Grimaud), died on 7th August 1847 (cf. doc. 709, § 17), and Brother Gérard (Antoine Fougerouse), died on 31st March 1847 (cf. doc. 621, § 15)

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