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8 April 1848 — Father Pierre Rougeyron to the Council for the Propagation of the Faith, with a letter from Louis Tadinan, New Caledonia

Translated by Mary Williamson, August 2016

Based on the document sent, APM ONC 208 Rougeyron.

Two sheets of paper sewn with a brown thread to form eight pages, seven of which are written on, the eighth remaining blank.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam
Aboard the Arche d’Alliance

Proud of the successes of my New Caledonian pupil, I hasten to let you know of them, in sending you a letter that he has written and that he has himself translated into Latin.
But so that you will not be amazed by the beautiful expressions of gratitude expressed in it, I am going to tell you, gentlemen, in a few words, the story of this young savage called Louis.
For a long time we have asked Heaven, through the intercession of Mary, for a catechist, a good catechist; several months passed by without us being able to find one. Finally one day, a child, the son of a chief, about nine years old, came to our attention amongst a crowd of savages: his bearing, his presence, his gentle and friendly speech drew our attention to him. Well aware no doubt of the object of our interest, without any questions from us he set about reciting some prayers that none of us had taught him and then he innocently asked us if he could stay with us, so as to learn everything we knew. Everything we saw and heard at this time raised our favourable interest in this young child and we adopted him as one of our own. Our hopes for him were not mistaken; in a very short time he was able to teach his compatriots. It was not unusual to see this poor little child walk five or six leagues to go and catechise and teach prayers to his compatriots. I often found him seated in the middle of a crowd of savages, big and small, instructing them, questioning them on the principle truths of religion; at these times, a profound silence reigned around him, he was already respected like a high chief; and yet he was only ten years old. Such happy beginnings already filled us with hopes for the future, we were not afraid of lavishing our attentions on him and believed that we could not do too much to open up this young mind by means of religion and science.
Thus, without difficulty and naturally, the feelings of gratitude towards the missionaries have entered into the heart of this new Christian and have grown as his intellectual capacities have developed.
Yes, gentlemen, gratitude is one of the principal obligations of man; and the missionary, even though he is at the extreme ends of the earth, can neither dispense with it himself nor fail to teach it to others. So we have taught our savages that we are indebted to you for the bread that feeds us and the clothing that covers us. We have told them that it is thanks to your generous gifts that we have been able, across the vast stretches of ocean, to come and tell them about Jesus Christ. The work of the Propagation of the Faith, this group of so many people of faith, aims to help unfortunate brothers, unknown to them and living in distant lands and is a powerful motivation to touch their hearts of stone. Other factors, along with those mentioned above, have often moved the young Louis to tears. So from now on he has renounced his country, his parents and his friends to commit himself solely to the mission. His fidelity has withstood all tests; his devotion has been heroic; a thousand times he has risked his life to help us in those unfortunate days when the mission was attacked and if, at this time we are still among the living, we owe it, after God, to him and his little comrades.
For a long time this poor child has asked me to thank you in his name. I replied that it would be better if he wrote to you himself; but no one would understand me he replied. Well then, I said, learn Latin as quickly as you can and you will be understood by everyone. Now that he has begun to translate a few sentences, he considers himself very learned; so he came to me to ask permission to write you a letter. I allowed him, gentlemen, to tell you whatever his little heart suggested; I allowed it even more willingly as I am convinced in advance that you will receive this letter with pleasure, because it is perhaps the first savage who has been able, up till now, to write to you in Latin; and because, above all, you will see in this small piece of work from the mind of a child of the savages, the hopes that you will be able to place in this mission in New Caledonia, even though it has been so unfortunate up till now.
As for the Latin translation in this letter, it is still entirely the work of Louis, but checked through twice. The rules of grammar had been fairly well executed in the first copy, but the expressions had not been well chosen and the turns of phrase were more like those of the New Caledonian language than of Latin. So I took the liberty of drawing his attention to this mistake; then he made a few corrections, but not all of them, as you can see. I could have made him correct all these faults, in having him re-write the letter a third time, but I prefer to send it to you as it was written; you will be better able to judge the abilities of this pupil.
Gentlemen, in his letter Louis sends you some requests regarding his little companions. It is only natural that you should think that it is the missionaries who speak through his words; this is not so. For nearly two years this young catechist has been asking me to do as we have done with him and take into the mission house a large number of young people. I have always replied that we would very much like to fulfil his wishes, because it is the very best step to take, to have the mission succeed and probably the only one, but that our resources were much too restricted, being scarcely enough for our own needs. In fact, gentlemen, considerable funds would be necessary to carry out this project. In New Caledonia and in the whole of Bishop Douarre’s curacy we would be obliged, if we wish to train catechists, to feed and clothe them, because, as much because of the continual wars and the daily thefts, as because of the famine that strikes each year on the island, we cannot cultivate the soil and produce a harvest to feed ourselves, as can be done in the other missions. It would certainly be stolen. Last year large areas were cleared and nine thousand yams were planted. Vast fields were also planted with taro, sugar cane etc. in the hopes of feeding the young catechists of the mission with this harvest. The harvest would in fact have been more than sufficient, but it served to feed all the neighbouring villages during several days of war. That is how our fields were devastated and it will always be like that as long as these people have not submitted to the yoke of the gospel. But up till now, the only way we have thought it possible to do this, is to introduce into the numerous tribes of this island catechists who are natives. These catechists would teach their countrymen not to wage war, not to steal, not to kill and not to eat human flesh, etc. In this way, they will prepare the way for the missionaries, who will later be able to come without fear of danger and establish themselves amongst the people who at the moment are almost inflexible.
Of the nine children that we were raising at the house, four have been let go, because of a lack of resources to feed them. Five are still with us; I have not had the courage to let these ones go, because they seem to be destined to later be apostles in their own country. All five can read and write perfectly; as well, they know the Latin declensions and conjugations; they also know how to serve very competently at mass. Louis even consults the Ordo and knows how to find the mass. He rarely makes mistakes when doing the first four rules of arithmetic and can recite the Pythagoras table without hesitation. Louis has had three years of schooling. As my writing is very bad, I have trained him using models of writing.
Here, gentlemen, are the consolations that the New Caledonian children bring to us and the hopes that they provide for the future. If you are able to come to our aid so that we can continue to support these children and take on others, we will certainly raise these interesting young people in less than ten years. These schools will produce good husbands, good family men and above all good Christians and a little later missionaries. These are the few consolations that have encouraged us, amidst so many setbacks during four years of mission work. I will desist, gentlemen, from recounting our misfortunes in New Caledonia; I think that you know about them; there are few missions that have been more sorely tested and might still be even more so. Without recalling what happened in Bishop Duarre’s time, I will only tell you about what has happened since His Lordship’s departure.
But we hope that the best of times are going to arrive for this country. This island was lacking in that aspect of persecution that seals the work of God: the blood of a martyr has flowed; it will enrich this ungrateful soil; we have already learned that the hand of God has weighed heavily on our sacrilegious assassins: two of the most guilty parties died quite suddenly; the others, frightened by this, seem to have repented and are loudly proclaiming us. Here we are on the Arche d’Alliance returning into the midst of these cannibalistic people. Perhaps we are destined to serve as fodder for these monsters; perhaps they wish for more of our blood to quench their thirst. Only God knows what is in store for us; we leave our fate in his hands; life and death should be the same to a Christian soul. Please pray, gentlemen, that this will be so. However, so as not to tempt God, we take the measures of safety that prudence provides us with. A solid house, some food supplies and several people, these are the steps that, in all honesty, we have been able to take, to begin the mission again. Great sacrifices have been made to achieve this.
Please, we beg of you, do not forget this distant and unfortunate mission in New Caledonia, when distributing your generous charity. Rest assured, gentlemen, that if the Lord deigns to hear my prayers and those of my pious little Caledonians, you will be answered in your prayerful demands and in those of your faithful associates. It is with these sentiments that I have the honour to be, Rougeyron, procurator.
This 18th April 1848.

Letter from Louis Tadinan

O Domini,
Dum notum habeo vos, vere vos gratificari mihi panem, quem dant mihi missionaii, vestimentum, quo versior; dui expotavi dicere gratias vobis, at vero id mihi fuit impossibile; nam non me intellexissetis: hodie licet cognoscam parum linguam latinam, cupidus sum scribendi vobis; timeo ne moriar in mare, nam revertimur Caledoniam. Ista cogitatio jacet me in maerore: optima est agendi ratio missionariorum, pessima agendi ratio civium meorum. Dereliquerunt regiones suas, matres suas, patres suos, bona sua, missionarii ut veniant apud nos a longinqua regione; venerunt apud quos? Apud homines barbaros, homines malos, qui expulerunt, qui interffecerunt ipsos: non sunt optimi, missionarii soli, vos, sicut alii missionarii, optimi estis. Multum amatis nos, gratificamini missionariis nostris. Scitis nos esse pauperes, gratificamini illis vestimenta et cibum; insuper benefacitis nobis, vere gratificamini nobis eas res quas gratificantur nobis missionarii. Secures illæ cum quibus habitationes nostras extruimus, quis dedit nobis? Zonæ et alia vestimenta, quibus tegimur quis præbuit nobis? et illud quod manducant missionarii et catechistæ quis dat nobis? Vos; dixit id mihi pater Rougeyron; insuper hodie non essem Kristianus, hodie nihil scirem. Ah! multum gratificamini mihi. Maneo apud missionarios, amant me sicut filium, sicut ego amo eos, vos pariter diligo sicut patres meos.
Cum in mente habeo agendi rationem vestram, dolore afficior. Estis optimi; sumus pessimi. Expulimus missionarios, inter- fecimus. Nolo adhuc dicere hoc. Multum ægre fero, cum id evenit in mente. Parcitote nobis, parcitote mihi, nolo esse ingratus. Moriar si moriantur, vivam si vivant missionarii: multum cupio fieri missionarius et rapiam e manu diaboli animas hominum in regione mea, ut ducam eas in cælum. Desiderio flagro benefacere eis barbaris civibus meis, sicut benefecerunt mihi missionarii. Orate ut velit Deus sic. Gratias ago vobis, o domini, multum gratias ago vobis, habeo vos in mente, in oratione mea.
Sunt quatuor juvenes apud missionarios sicut ego. Gaudent de vobis sicut ego, discunt linguam latinam; volunt fieri missionarii sicut ego; sunt multi juvenes in regione mea qui cupiunt fieri boni, fierent celeriter boni, si manerent apud sacerdotes. Nolunt patres Rougeron et Roudaire recipere eos, quia deest alimentum, ægre ferentes eos esurire apud se. Id est mihi, maximo dolori; cum estis optimi, gratificamini iis, gaudebimus de vobis. Deinceps non erimus ingrati, multum adjurabimus missionarios. Valete, o domini, gratias ago vobis, multum gratias agunt vobis quatuor juvenes cives mei, et simul salutavimus vos.
Louis Tadinan.
Augustino Teuane.
Amabili Nangaro.
Manuele Koine.
Rafaele Diamane.

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