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doc. 712 - 15 June 1848

Letter from Pierre Rougeyron to Jean-Claude Colin

Full translation by Charles Girard SM

Bay of Saint Joseph, Aneityum, 15 June 1848.

My Very Reverend Father,
After some long and arduous trials, the Lord has fulfilled our desires. We are now in the mission. On 20 April, Holy Thursday, in the evening, we left Sydney, and on the first of May we caught sight of New Caledonia. At the sight of this island, the stage of so many ills, my heart was moved, I do not know by what emotion. Soon those high mountains were evident to me from closer up, and I recognized Balade, Baïao, Pouépo etc. Oh! then my emotion grew stronger. I was happy to see these places again. I would have wanted to see those unfortunate inhabitants again, but alas, I was not permitted that consolation. The ship turned and in a moment that land had disappeared from sight.
On the next day, the 2 May, we saw New Caledonia again, but these were no longer the tribes where I had made my debut. I only gave it passing attention. However, we were approaching Port Saint Vincent by following the island’s coastline. Our interest grew stronger, for that was were we hoped to settle. After several days of searching in vain, we finally found the true pass and the ship anchored at 4 o’clock in the afternoon in the vast port of Saint Vincent. At first sight, this port appears to be magnificent. The stretch of water is immense. There are an infinite number of bays all around the port where anchorages are almost everywhere. A large number of islets are scattered here and there, and in the distance the big land can be noticed with its high dry and arid mountains. What is called the false harbor is only the harbor of this port. This harbor is rather beautiful and could very well shelter some ships.
On the fifth of May, the feast of Saint Pius, the feast-day of our holy father the Pope, we celebrated on board a solemn mass attended by all the ship’s crew. After the mass was over, we hurried to get to land to visit the various islets where we might plant our tent. Two days went by as we searched without being able to decide. We really wanted to found our establishment on Caledonia, and in this island there was no other sure and suitable place at the time. Moreover, Father Roudaire and I had written everywhere that only there could anyone find us. We had gotten ahead of ourselves somewhat, as you can see. On the other hand, we found neither water nor wood on these islets. The big land did not offer us any greater advantage. What finally determined us not to remain was that we found this area almost deserted, since all the inhabitants were in the interior behind the mountains. We all agreed to go elsewhere, but where? We did not know where to turn.
In our embarrassment, Mr. Marceau, the captain of the Arche d’Alliance, suggested that we could make a novena, as he had also suggested that we make one before arriving at Port Saint Vincent. Since we had experienced the marvelous effects of this devotion, we had no trouble in undertaking a second novena. We were promptly enlightened as to the place where we should go. For a long time others had spoken to us about Aneityum as a very beautiful island where we would be safe because an English trading center is there. The head of this trading center seems to want us in preference to the Protestants, even though he is a Protestant himself. So we set sail for Aneityum which we sighted on the 11 May, but where we could not enter until the 14th, the feast day of the patronage of Saint Joseph.
As soon as we set foot on this island, we prostrated ourselves on the ground to pray and to ask whether it was God’s will that we should remain there. After a short but fervent prayer on this pagan land, we went directly to visit Mr. Paddon,[1] the head of the English trading center. He was sick, but nevertheless he gave us a fine welcome and appeared sincerely to want us there. He was accommodating enough to come and help us choose the site for our house and buy it. We were very happy because of this. A small trial seemed to be needed; it was not late in coming. When we had chosen a suitable site, we went to look for the chief to pay him for his land and to formalize the act of sale, but he refused to come, saying that he did not want any other whites on his island and that he wanted to keep his land. A moment before, he had consented to everything we had asked him.
The cause of this change was this: On the island there were two Protestant catechists from Samoa. These two young men, once they learned who we were, were most anxious to dissuade the chief from his plan to receive us. They would have succeeded if the good Mr. Paddon had not come to ask for an explanation of such behavior. The chief was confused and denied everything. So Father Roudaire, who spoke their language, told them: Well then, since you have not told the chief to refuse to receive us on his island, tell him in our presence to receive us. They could not refuse to do so because of Mr. Paddon, and so the chief did everything we wanted of him. From that moment on, the two catechists gave us a most benevolent welcome. They even taught Father Roudaire several important words in the language of Aneityum, and this is now very useful for me. They are not much to be feared because they have not had a single convert in the 6 or 7 years they have been on this island. They want to go back home as soon as the Protestants’ ship arrives.
Once our site was chosen and the formalities of purchase were concluded, we lost no time in building our house. After a few days, the Arche d’Alliance was able to leave for Ouvea (Halgan) in the Loyalty Islands, near New Caledonia. I have already spoken to you, Reverend Father, about what the zealous Mr. Marceau did for this island and the hope that we can conceive for this people. Well, to bring this brilliant hope into reality and not leave the good work of Mr. Marceau without fruit, Father Roudaire, who understands the language of that island’s people, agreed to go alone to found that mission. However, after a few months, he should benefit from a ship of the Société de l’Océanie which is supposed to pass there to come back and get me. So our separation should not be for my longer than two months. Moreover, Father Roudaire did everything himself; I had only a passive role.
Although the time would be brief, I was very distressed at being forced, by these urgent circumstances, to remain alone, isolated and against your will. The Lord came to console me, in a most abundant way. The day after the departure of the Arche d’Alliance, that is on 28 May, a ship appeared at 10 o’clock in the morning. We lost no time in recognizing the French flag and the flag of the Société de l’Océanie. It was the Léocadia, a schooner belonging to Mr. Touchard from Tahiti; replacing the Stella Maris, it was transporting the missionaries for New Caledonia. Mary had led them directly to Aneityum, as they will tell you themselves at greater length. I cannot describe by feelings at the time; never had I had so much joy and consolation. I embraced my colleagues; these were colleagues who were finally arriving to share my troubles and my work. My happiness was overflowing. These dear fathers and brothers could not tire in blessing Providence which had so successfully led them. All together we offered thanks to the Lord by singing the Te Deum in our little temporary cottage.
The moments were had to spend together did not last long. Nine days later, the Reverend Fathers Chatelut and Goujon with our dear Brother Joseph embarked again on the little schooner Léocadia to go and join up with Reverend Father Roudaire. I still do not know, Reverend Father, whether they were able to get established on Ouvea. The ship which brought them there, as well as the Arche d’Alliance, ought to pass by Aneityum once again. I will note at the end of my letter what happened.(1) {[in the margin and sideways] (1) Present circumstances have prevented our fathers from establishing themselves on Ouvea. Again our presence is requested in Caledonia; the same fathers will go there.}
While waiting, I must tell you about this Aneityum where we are living. Aneityum is the last island in the south of the New Hebrides. It is at approximately the same latitude as Balade, that is at the 20th degree. If we may believe what was said to us, it has two thousand inhabitants. The island is well wooded and well watered, the land is rather productive. So here we found advantages which we would have had trouble finding elsewhere. Our intention with Father Roudaire, when we founded this establishment was to make it a kind of a mother house or a procure where all our things would be deposited. Nowhere else would they be as safe as on this island. If I can, I will try to establish there a school for the children. I have been on this island for too short a time to give you more ample details. The language is completely different from that of New Caledonia. I will have to study a new language as if I were a new missionary, but that is not my greatest worry.
Father Grange is now acting as though he were to return to Tonga. I do not know if he is sincere in this. I have told you in other letters why this father was no longer staying with us in the vicariate of the bishop of Amata.
All is going well at the moment. Pray that it may always be thus. – Very Reverend Father, I received your fatherly letter. It did me the greatest good. – If the bishop does not arrive soon, we will go and found a third establishment on the Isle of Pines. In this way, we will completely encircle New Caledonia. On Caledonia, in Hienghene, they are waiting for us. I think that the bishop will go there when he arrives. There are a great number of important points where we could be very well received. Reverend Father, try to send more men as often as you can. Blessed be Providence which watches over us in such an admirable way. On the one hand, God destroyed our mission, on the other, he built it back up again else¬where and more solidly than ever. What a salutary lesson. – Your son in Jesus, Mary, Joseph,

Post-scriptum, please. We lost part of the liquid which we brought with us because the barrels were pierced by worms and insects. We would need more suitable barrels, particularly those painted with several coats of paint. Very Reverend Father, please be so kind as to give notice to the father procurator. – Despite these losses, there is a great savings in buying wine and spirits in France, because these liquids are overpriced in Sydney.
Reverend Father Chatelut spoke to us, Very Reverend Father, about the conduct of the captain of the Maris Stella in regard to our fathers and the damages which occurred. Mr. Marceau will also speak to you and should come to an agreement with you about the compensation to be paid. We lost twelve hundred francs’ worth of damaged merchandise. Besides that, we had to pay 750 francs to transport Father Chatelut to Ouvea. However, Ouvea is not as far as Balade where it had been agreed that the Maris Stella was to land our fathers. That is where the matter lies; do what you wish.
In case the bishop of Amata is still in France, I ask you, Very Reverend Father, to hand my letter on to His Excellency.


  1. James Paddon (cf. doc. 724 {480923}, § 2, n. 1).

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