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1 July 1848 — Father Jean-Louis Rocher to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Sydney (1)

Translated by Mary Williamson, July 2017

Based on the document sent, APM OP Rocher.

Folded sheet of paper, forming four written pages.

Sydney 1st July 1846[1]

To the Very Reverend Father Colin
Superior General
My Very Reverend Father,
While I was at the central mission, Bishop Bataillon and several other missionaries often said to me that the Bishop did not see the usefulness of a procurator’s office in Sydney, especially now that the Society of Oceania was organised and had expanded.
The Bishop says that Mr Marziou’s society, that sends at least one ship each year to Oceania, could perhaps collect our funds in Europe, take responsibility for our purchases and bring more or less all our requirements for the missions from France. If, because of certain difficulties, the ship coming from Europe was not able to bring the supplies required to the missions, would it not be able, the bishop asks, now that the Society of Oceania has some establishments in the South seas, to leave the goods at one of these establishments where smaller ships, already serving these areas, could collect them and deliver them to their destination. These smaller ships, when returning, could take our new orders, pass them on to the person in charge of one of these establishments, who would then be charged with sending them on to France. If this scheme was followed, says the Bishop, what use would the Procurator’s office in Sydney be.
His Lordship has already put into action the scheme I have just told you about. The last time the Arche d’Alliance passed via Wallis, he gave Mr Marceau a list of requirements needed by the mission, as well as permission for him to receive our allocations.
As for the missions in New Caledonia and Melanesia, the same thing could perhaps be done, as Mr Marceau intends to have a trading post in Sydney. It would be as well to hope, for the good of these two missions, that the Society of Oceania wishes to continue to visit them, because in Sydney, since the massacres that have happened in these various islands, it is very difficult to find ships that will go to these shores, or, if one finds one, it is only at an exorbitant price.
There, my Reverend Father, is what I have been told, I leave it to you now to decide the matter. What I can say, is that it is impossible for the Procurator’s office to survive by itself in Sydney, unless it is permitted to have a boarding school, something that the ecclesiastical administration would never allow; the greatest pleasure that we could give him would be to pack up our tent and go away somewhere else. I say this on good authority.
Bishop Polding said to a clergyman, “Watch out for these French priests, we know the things they have written to Rome ….”
What is certain in all that, is that we have never written a single word to Rome.
One of our colleagues from New Caledonia asked Dr Gregory if Bishop Polding had brought any news of the Society and he replied that he in no way involved himself in the affairs of others.
Some time after Bishop Polding’s arrival in Sydney, Father Chaurain, with the Fathers from New Caledonia, went to visit His Lordship and invited him to come and see our new establishment. The prelate promised, but he has never come.
On my return from the islands, I issued the same invitation to him; His Lordship promised me, but I am still waiting for him.
Such, my Reverend Father, are the attitudes of the ecclesiastical authorities towards us, since the return of Bishop Polding.
According to all that is happening in France, it is very doubtful that what I have just told you, regarding Bishop Bataillon’s thoughts on the Society of Oceania can come to pass, for I believe that from now on his allocations as well as ours will be minimal if not nonexistent. What will then become of our missions? I greatly fear that next year some might come to the procurator’s office seeking help, as has already happened. What if the procurator has nothing to give? Who can he turn to? Impossible in Sydney to seek help, as at the moment our Catholics are weary of giving; all the requests have multiplied. And besides, are the Reverend Benedictine Fathers not there to veto these requests.
If therefore, the Propagation of the Faith comes to see its charitable sources running dry, I believe we will be obliged to sell the property and then go to wherever you will have decided for us.
Before I finish this letter, I need to tell you a bit about the story concerning Brother Charles Aubert who is now at the Procurator’s office.
When I left the island of Savai’I, Brother Charles was supposed to go and live with Father Mugnéry, for health reasons he said. The good Father Violette was quite annoyed about it, even though he was not very useful to him, for this Brother was not able, or rather did not wish to bother himself with things other than his pharmacy. He said that you had only sent him to the islands for that. As well, his replies were not exactly honest. So there he is deciding to leave Father Violette; he hires a craft to take him to Father Mugnéry’s, loads all his goods on board and now he has left. But once he is on his way, instead of heading to Father Mugnéry’s, he goes to the island of Upolu where Fathers Padel and Vachon are stationed. At first, he does not go to Father Padel’s, but goes and offers his services to the head of Mr Marceau’s establishment, who refuses them. Not knowing where to go, he goes to Father Padel’s place, where he stays for some time. When a schooner, commanded by a captain who knows us perfectly well arrives, he decides to request a passage, as this small craft, leaving from Apia, is heading directly to Sydney. The captain, certain that he is a Brother of our Society and counting on being paid in Sydney, takes him on board at a cost of 14 pounds sterling = 350 francs, that the Brother promises to pay in Sydney. When he arrived, Father Chaurain was very embarrassed. He asked the Brother if he had a letter from the Bishop or from his Superior. As he had no such thing, Father Chaurain was on the point of refusing, but as he feared that that would cause a stir in Sydney, he decided to pay his passage. I was on Wallis at the time; it was the Bishop who gave me all the details which he had just received from Samoa. You can make what like of all that, he said to me, but rest assured that I have not the slightest intention of paying the expenses that he will accrue.
When the Arche d’Alliance leaves Sydney, he will be wishing to leave for France. Leave if you wish, I told him, but bear in mind that I do not wish to pay your passage. Write to the Very Reverend Father Superior and I will do whatever he tells me to do. As he said that he had a kidney stone, I advised him to ask the doctor on the Arche d’Alliance for a confirmation of his illness, to send to you, but the doctors refused him. From that time on, he stopped complaining of that type of illness.
Since the departure of the mission for New Caledonia, we are content, God willing this will continue! He controls our fate.
Please accept my
Your very humble and
very obedient servant in Jesus and Mary,
Missionary priest.


  1. Date corrected by a later hand: 1848. The year 1848 is no doubt the correct one, as in the current document the author speaks of the travels of Brother Charles Aubert. So, in his letter of 1st June 1848, Rocher says that this Brother left Father Violette and the mission on Savai’i about the middle of September 1847 and he adds that Brother Charles “is at present at the procurator’s office” (that is to say on 1st June 1848 (cf. doc. 709, § 8 and n. 6) Also, in his letter of 1st August to Colin (cf. 737, § 5), Rocher says that he addressed two letters to Colin on 1st July; these are the present document and the following one.

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