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22 June 1848 - Speech by Father Pierre Rougeyron: Farewell to the crew of the Arche d’Alliance, Anatom Vanuatu

Translated by Mary Williamson, May 2017

Based on the document sent, APM ONC 208 Rougeyron.

Sheet of paper forming four pages, three of which are written on, the fourth having only the annotation of Poupinel; a printed copy of an indeterminate provenance exists.

[p.4] [in the handwriting of Poupinel, crossed out by a later hand]
Tahiti 4th September 1848 / The Reverend Father Grange / voyage of the Arche d’Alliance.
[p.4 of the printed copy]
Anatom, 22nd June 1848 / Father Rougeyron . Farewell to the Arche d’Alliance.
Reverend Father Rougeyron’s farewell to the Arche d’Alliance.

Anatom 22nd June 1848.

Captain, gentlemen, and you, our very dear friends,
This is not a formal speech that I am going to present to you; but a few words of farewell and some simple words of thanks that we ask you to accept, as they are very sincere; they come from hearts that love you tenderly in Jesus Christ.
The missions will retain, for a long time, the memory of the ship that heaven, in her goodness, sent to rescue them. Sailing to and fro in many directions, these seas have seen her searching for any traces of our missionaries, even on the most distant and primitive islets. Everywhere, she has sown her seeds of generosity; everywhere she has spread goodwill; everywhere she brought peace, consolation and happiness. So why would we forgo the pleasure of revealing to other missions the many services rendered? As for us, may we be permitted to express to you on this beautiful day our feelings of deep gratitude.
A mission, which had been in existence for four years, had suddenly been destroyed during the absence of its leader; its frail flock, as well as the pastors, were dispersed without hope of ever regathering. What deep pain for a zealous and sensitive heart and especially for a heart such as that of Bishop Douarre. It was not only that this land, that had already been bathed in His Lordship’s sweat, had now been soaked with the blood of one of his dearest children, but that as well they were banished, perhaps forever, from an island which was the scene of so much suffering. No longer a refuge where one could rest one’s head in all the mission; no longer a shelter to receive His Lordship!
This is the deplorable state to which we found ourselves reduced, when providence sent you to our aid. You have thus been chosen by God to give support to this unfortunate mission. Thus, thanks to your energy and devotion, this mission, which did not exist before, exists today and it seems to be destined for prosperous times; for the Lord is with us. It is He, as you know, who led us here by the hand. These very savages (and they do deserve the name), Well! These savages, I am saying, who you think you have met by chance, were waiting for you, directed by providence. For what purpose? I do not know; I am not able to look into the future: but wait a little, and you will see that the Lord has allowed all this to happen for reasons of goodness and mercy. Allow a little more time and we will see the mysterious links of this admirable chain imperceptibly unfurl, as it pleases the all-powerful to act.
Oh, My God! Be forever blessed for the supposed misfortunes which have befallen us. It was for our own good that you have stricken us. Whilst with one hand you were destroying, with the other you were raising up a more solid and more durable structure. It is thus, gentlemen and dear friends, that the Creator sometimes likes to show he is all powerful, to better bring forth the emptiness of his subject and force him to give himself to God. Oh! Our God is so good! And a person is indeed ungrateful who does not love him and does not wish to love him. You have been witnesses, gentlemen and dear friends in Jesus Christ, to too many marvels for you to be deaf to the voice of God, who is urging you to give yourself to him. Well then! You will give yourselves to such a good master; and, without further delay, you will sample how excellent it is to be in his service. He repays a hundred times over, everything that one does for him, even prior to this life.
Gentlemen, you are soon going to see your homeland again and return to the bosom of your devoted families; may each one of you take back to him the goodwill of Jesus Christ. Think sometimes of these missionaries who have caused you so many problems and difficulties, but who you will forgive, because their hearts were in unknown territory.
Even though you will be at the centre of the world and of wonderful cities, you can be sure that you will have moments of boredom, of troubles and tribulations; well then! think of these poor priests that you have met and left on distant and untamed shores. Think that they too have their times of tribulations that are no less demanding than yours. If you find the weight of them too heavy and find that you are unable to support them, call upon Mary, the divine Mary, then travel in your minds to be near the missionaries, living amongst cannibalistic people; and then ask them the secret of their contentment and their inner joy. they will reply that their strength comes from prayer. Then pray frequently during these terrible trials; pray for yourselves; pray also for us and our missions. As for us, we will not forget you and we will send to heaven continual prayers for your happiness.
Yes, our beloved ship, we will pray for you, we will pray that the light of Mary will lead you swiftly and safely to the desired port. Arch d’ Alliance, it is essential that I speak your name before parting from you; besides, your name is so beautiful! Arca foederis! You truly are that mysterious arc which spread wonders everywhere during its passage through the camp of the Israelites. Farewell! Perhaps for the last time. Accept our farewells too, you gentlemen who have deigned to welcome us amongst you as brothers; you, my dear friends, have shown yourselves so devoted to our cause, to the cause of religion. Before leaving us, I have something to ask of you and you cannot refuse me, after all that you have just done; that is to think about your souls: in the name of Jesus Christ, who has given his blood for your salvation, think about your souls and practice your religion. It is a missionary who begs you and a missionary who will probably not see you again in this world; it is a missionary who wishes for the salvation of the whole world, to the detriment of his own life, but above all that of his compatriots and his friends. If we do not meet again in this word, try at least to meet us again in Heaven, where there should be a common meeting-ground.
And you Captain, who I do not know how to address, for you have merited every title that I could give you, please accept our last farewells and our last expressions of thanks. All the missions endlessly salute you as their benefactor and have their eyes focused on you. Please see that they are not mistaken in their hopes, and continue to uphold them with your powerful support and your fervent prayers, in all weathers and in all places. Continue to love these unfortunate savages, no matter how ungrateful and perverse they may be, following the example of the divine master who loved until death the most ungrateful of men amongst all humans. If you have the right to be insensitive to their cries of distress, at least do not be insensitive to the supplications of the missionaries who cry out to you. Come back and share their difficulties and suffering; this is what creates the glory of the apostle and forms the most beautiful floret in his crown. Come back to share their suffering; you will thus share in our joys and our consolations.
The Society of Oceania, an admirable body, conceived centuries ago, but destined to be established in our time, so as to hasten the propagation of the gospel and especially you, who the Lord has chosen to watch over its safety and integrity, turn your eyes towards the most neglected of missionaries, the missionaries of Oceania. May these distant and wild seas be visited frequently by your ships. Heavenly messengers, may they fly to the aid of these poor priests lost in a tiny corner of the earth, in the middle of a vast ocean. Without the help of your goodwill, they would be left to live there forever forgotten. You are the advanced guard that God seems to wish to place at the gates of our islands, to protect his ministers. If this is your destiny, step forward and let no obstacle stand in your way. It is within God’s works to be tested and even persecuted. Bouyed up with faith and confidence, persevere in accomplishing the work that Heaven has assigned you for the salvation of our missions: Mary, from high up in Heaven, watches over her faithful children.

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