From Marist Studies
Jump to: navigation, search

1 August 1848 — Father Jean-Louis Rocher to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Sydney

Based on the document sent, APM OP 458 Rocher.

Sheet of paper forming four written pages; in the register ED2, bore the number 42.

Translated by Mary Williamson, March 2018

Sydney 1st August 1848

To the Very Reverend Father Colin
Superior General

My Very Reverend Father,
The day before yesterday I received a letter from Father Roudaire dated 13th July from the island of Anatom (New Hebrides). This good Father, believing that I had received a previous letter that he had written to me, gives me no details in this current letter of his voyage, nor any reason as to why they were forced to give up on New Caledonia for the moment. His letter begins thus: “Nothing new in our position, except that we took possession yesterday of our house even though it is not quite organised yet. We have found a little spring of fresh water and a small stone quarry near to us. Several of us, as well as some Caledonian children, have suffered a minor illness; I myself am writing to you in bed with writing pad on my knees. But all these little trials will not, I hope, have any aftermath. I will stop here; the ship which should carry this letter to you is about to leave.”
Our colleagues who were on board the Stella del Mare are also in the New Hebrides. Father Goujon who I knew in Belley added a word or two for me in Father Roudaire’s letter. I have heard nothing of Mr Marceau. This first letter that Father Roudaire said he had written to me was given to the captain of the Léocadie, a schooner belonging to the Society of Oceania. I expect it any day. As soon as he arrives in Sydney I will make haste to share with you any news that I have received. I believe that our colleagues on the island of Anatom have nothing to fear from the natives who have had contact with Europeans for a long time. An English company from Sydney have an establishment there preparing sandalwood and have also established a shop where they sell foodstuffs, ironware etc.
At the first opportunity I will send on to the Hebrides the letter that you had addressed to the missionaries on New Caledonia. I received it as well as letters addressed to Fathers Poupinel and Dubreul in which I found several letters of credit. The first was for ₤781.5.5. The second for ₤579.10.10. and the third for ₤1309.1.8. Following Father Poupinel’s instructions, I entered in the account of each mission the amount that was assigned to them.
I am very grateful for the ₤109 sterling that you have sent us. Even though the sum is small, it gave us great pleasure.
On the first of July I had the pleasure of sending you two letters. I am hoping that, in spite of the problems that are troubling our poor France, they have reached you.
I was saying to you that, amongst other things, I thought that you would have learned from the letters of Fathers Rougeyron and Roudaire, that Brother Jean, as well as Brother Auguste had returned to New Caledonia. The behaviour of these two gentlemen in this affair, I was telling you, did not seem to us very loyal; seeing that we could not obtain any instructions, we let them go ahead. We would have been able, it is true, with an official letter to Mr Marceau, to prevent Jean from embarking, as he had agreed to remain at the procurator’s office until the return of Bishop Douarre, but as his character could in no way be compatible with that of Brother Charles Aubert, we believed we should give in, as much for the spiritual and temporal good of both of them. It is certain that their departure has done us a great deal of harm, as since then we have been obliged to take on a worker to whom we pay 10 francs a week plus his food. In all this adds up 13 francs.
Despite the fact that you have had the goodness to send us 13769 francs 15 centimes (deduction made from the exchange expenses on the last letter of credit in our favour) 30th November 1847, the procurator today does not find himself much in advance. He can only find 6500 francs in his account. (That is an error, instead of 6500, it is only 5000 francs.) Everything missing from this amount, which would balance the remittance above, has been used to cover the expenses for furniture and food which had to be spent with the arrival and stay of the large number of people from Caledonia; I would also add, to pay the costs of their travel and recovery. It is true that the Fathers from Caledonia, without us having to ask them, gave us 1700 francs, but this sum was far from covering the expenses of 14 people for 7 months. Bishop Epalle, for 4 months spent at the procurator’s with the missionaries, gave us 4000 francs. What we are telling you here, my very Reverend Father, is not a complaint about our colleagues. Certainly in the position in which they found themselves, they could not do any better, but it is just to give you an account of the use of the funds that we have received this year.
Other than the expenses above, the procurator has paid another 350 francs for the passage of Brother Aubert who had also to be clothed later. With the folk from Caledonia, we still have Brother Charles from Bishop Collomb’s mission, [1] plus Father Villien, so that during the months of March and April we were, in total twenty-one at table.
In my account of our way of coping, in Sydney, with the ecclesiastical administration, I was mistaken in that I attributed to Bishop Polding what was said by Dr Gregory and vice versa. So please read it thus: Don’t trust these French priests, Doctor Gregory said to a Benedictine Father, we know all that they have written to Rome criticising us.
One of us asked Bishop Polding for news of Bishop Pompallier and if he would return soon etc. His Lordship replied that he never meddled in the affairs of others.
The schooner Leocardie has just arrived. It seems, according to the letters of Fathers Rougeyron and Roudaire that if they have not settled in port Saint Vincent it is simply that this port did not offer resources of any sort. They then made up their minds to go to Anatom after a novena. They have already bought from some chiefs a very pleasant little valley in an excellent place. The mission’s house is situated by the port and has a vast yard in front. A small stream flows behind. We are, they say, within range of all the islands which make up the apostolic curacy of Bishop Douarre and without having to travel about we have all the news of the whole area from the little ships that harvest sandalwood.
Father Roudaire, on board the Arche d’Alliance, had gone to see if it would not be possible to establish a mission on Ouvea (Loyalty Islands) but this undertaking was absolutely impossible because of the ferocity of the natives, who showed their intention of capturing the Arche d’Alliance. Yet it was no more than six months ago that Mr Marceau had brought back to them, from Rotuma, thirty or so of their people who had been taken, by cunning, by an English ship that wanted to take them to Sydney and put them into domestic work. The pleasure and thanks that they showered upon Mr Marceau on seeing their brothers back home again were a sure guarantee to this good captain that the missionaries would be well received there. And here it is that in coming back to them, he found himself not only with all his hopes dashed, but in danger of his life, thus forcing him to leave those inhospitable islands and return to Rotuma to leave Father Roudaire there. All the good Fathers at Anatom are, at the moment, awaiting Bishop Douarre with great impatience. We think that, considering the current situation in France, His Lordship will have decided to leave by way of London.
The ship, the Stella del Mare, after having left the missionaries of Bishops Douarre and Collomb on Upolu, left directly for China. One of the Sisters has died on this island after three days of illness.
It was the schooner, the Léocardie, that carried Bishop Douarre’s missionaries to the Hebrides. It is Bishop Bataillon’s schooner the Clara, that should pick up those of Bishop Collomb to bring them here to Sydney; we expect them very soon.
I repeat, in finishing, what I said to you in my letter of 1st July, that we await, right now, with the greatest of impatience, your news and that of the Society, as well as some instructions from you to lead us wisely and prudently if, by some misfortune, our communications might be cut off.
Please accept, my Very Reverend Father, my deepest respects.
Your very humble and
very obedient child in Jesus and Mary,
Rocher Missionary priest.


  1. Brother Charles Vincent ( cf. doc. 479, § 13, n.6)

Previous Letter List of 1848 Letters Next Letter