From Marist Studies
2 November 1848 - Father Jean-Louis Rocher to Father Jean-Claude Colin (2), Sydney
Translated by Mary Williamson, January 2019
Based on the document sent, APM OP 458 Rocher.
Sheet of paper forming four written pages; Poupinel’s annotation is at the top of the first page.
- [p.1] [in Poupinel’s handwriting]
- Father Rocher.
- Sydney 2nd November 1848
- To the Very Reverend Father Colin, Superior General.
- My Very Reverend Father.
- After the bloody struggle that has taken place in Paris during the month of June, I am very impatient to receive news of you and of the Society, for I greatly fear that, in Lyon, where there is such a large number of communists, there might have also been blood spilled. I am also longing to know if the letters that I had the pleasure of sending you, since my return to Sydney, have reached you. The first, from the beginning of April, informed you of my return to the procurator’s office; the second, from the month of June, was a report on my tour around Oceania. The others, dated from July, August and September, acknowledged reception of the letters of credit that you had sent to us and spoke of the missions and of our position in Sydney regarding the Archbishop, a situation that is in no way improving.
- In one of our last letters, I told you that the Bishop and Mr Gregory were very angry because we had sent a letter to Rome with complaints about them. As Mr Gregory had spoken about this to several priests of the diocese, exposing us to ridicule and making us seem like spies, I believed that I should have a meeting with him about this matter. Here is the account of it.
- In all of this letter which, according to Mr Gregory, is very grandiose, he was not able to or only wished to discuss two matters. In the first, we had complained about going to say mass in town. In the second, we were demanding, in spite of Bishop Polding, to free ourselves from his jurisdiction.
- After having ridiculed the first complaint, he said to me: What do you have to do as procurator? Nothing most of the time. And when you have something to occupy you, you do things that are not suitable for a priest (and he is speaking here of the purchases that we make for our missions). A priest is supposed to work on the saving of souls and you do not carry this out. It is certain that one day you will have to account for this. For you who are already of a certain age and are not particularly well, I concede that you will be left here, but Father Chaurain, who is young and robust, why is he not in the islands, occupied with the ministry?
- Such complaints, I replied to him, should not be made to a simple religious worker who only has to obey, but certainly to a superior. Besides, I believe that by providing temporal help to our colleagues in the islands, we are also working on the saving of souls. Well, since you think that we are leaving souls aside, let us instruct some children. Oh! he replied, as for that, never, you are only here to work as the procurator. Well, do not say then, I replied to him, that we do nothing for people’s souls, because when we wish to do so, you yourself put constraints on us.
- As for the second matter, which was to free ourselves, in spite of the Bishop, from his jurisdiction, Mr Gregory told me that His Lordship would sooner cut off his two hands than permit such a thing. I am very surprised at what you are telling me, I replied to him, as we, the procurators in Sydney, have never requested such a thing, nor ever written to Rome. We have, it is true, written to our Superior General; I myself have brought him up to date with all that has been said and all that has happened; and in that, I believe I have done my duty. To write to your Superior, he replied, is just the same as if you were writing to Rome. All that I have just said to you, continued Mr Gregory, is fact. For the Bishop had in his hands the very letter. But it was to no effect; your Superior thumbed his nose at it (here the gesture had accompanied the words) it is up to him to withdraw it, having obtained nothing from all his demands. After that he harked back to all the past problems.
- I forgot to tell you that Mr Gregory assured me that he would never burden us with anything, as we had dared to complain of being sent into town to say mass. In that matter he did not keep his word, as for a month now one of us goes to Sydney every Saturday evening to say mass the next day. We have not made a problem out of providing him with this service.
- In one of my earlier letters, I said that the Bishop and Mr Gregory had never come to see us in our modest dwelling. Here is the reason: It is, says Mr Gregory, because of that letter, that he and the Bishop do not wish to have anything to do with us. Nevertheless, he added, you can come to our monastery whenever you wish, the door is open to you as usual.
- In the course of all these explanations, Mr Gregory complained that when there were numerous people at the procurator’s, we had allowed ourselves to criticise the way things were done and that even the Bishop had not been spared. That might be true, I replied to him and as far as that goes, I admit that we were wrong if indeed those things were said. I must say to you here, my Reverend Father, that from the arrival of Bishop Polding in Sydney, His Lordship travelled around the streets of Sydney in a magnificent carriage drawn by four horses. Everyone in town could talk about nothing else and said that to travel thus was not a style that was apostolic. Perhaps we forgot ourselves on this occasion, but I must admit that it is very difficult to not say too much, when everyone who we meet speaks of this archiepiscopal splendour.
- One does not look kindly at the archdiocese on a priest who comes to see us. And if by mischance this priest later finds reasons to ask to withdraw, we fear being accused of having discouraging him. Here is the proof.
- Not long ago, an impassioned priest, recently arrived with the Bishop from Europe, refused to go and fill a position that had been given to him, because he intended to leave the diocese of Bishop Polding to go to the one in Adelaide where there were three others of his colleagues. As soon as he voiced this plan, Mr Gregory said to him: We are not surprised because since we knew that you were seeing these French priests ….. he did not finish.
- Here, my Very Reverend Father, I can certainly assure you that we have never said anything that might in the least cause any sort of discouragement.
- From all that, I believe that one must conclude that we weigh heavily on the shoulders of the Bishop and Mr Gregory. Indeed, our presence troubles them extraordinarily. The greatest pleasure we could afford them would be to pack our tent and go away.
- In Sydney, they only want Benedictines; no other order will be able to establish itself there, until the Benedictines have put down deep roots. It is Bishop Polding who has made this pronouncement.
- Elsewhere, that is to say in the other dioceses of New Hollande, we will not be viewed any better. A Passionist wanted to establish his order in Adelaide, and Bishop Murphy gave him permission but under conditions which could not be accepted. He would have to depend on his Lordship for the admission of novices, ordination and letters of resignation.
- Such is, more or less, my Reverend Father, the subject matter during this interview, which lasted no less than an hour and a half. Our conversation was sometimes quite heated; nevertheless, I believe that I did not lack in respect as regards Mr Gregory.
- There is always a question of the departure for Europe of Mr Gregory, but he first awaits the arrival of Bishop Polding’s coadjutor.
- The so-called monument that is going to be raised to the memory of Bishop Epalle has still to eventuate. Promises are always made and nothing is done. They have the money and that is all that matters.
- I conclude, my Very Reverend Father, by sending you the sincere regards of one who has the honour of being
- Your very humble and very obedient servant,
- Rocher, Priest of the Society of Mary.
- Your very humble and very obedient servant,
- Brother Charles Aubert is no longer with the Society. He left us about three weeks ago. At the moment he is on board the brig Anonyme. The captain took him on board as chief steward.
- He formally announced that he certainly did not wish to return to the islands, nor remain at the procurator’s, where he did the work of a domestic. Writing to a gentleman in Sydney asking him to find him a place, he told him that having been sent to the islands, he had been the dupe, like so many others, of false promises that had been made to him. Finally he departed and I am not upset by it for several reasons.
- So here we are now without a Brother; I intend at the first opportunity I find, to write to Father Rougeyeron to ask for Auguste, but I doubt that he will wish to come.