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9 November 1850 — Bishop Guillaume Douarre to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Sydney

Translated by Peter McConnell, February 2011

[p. 1, at the foot of the page]
To the very revered Father Colin, Superior General of the Marists
[p. 1]
Sydney 9 November 1850

Very Reverend Father,
I had the honour of writing to you a fortnight ago. I was not expecting to have so soon an opportunity of writing to you again. Father Chaurain had to return to Sydney because the ship he was travelling on to Europe sprung a leak. His new trip will start tomorrow and this allows me once more to be overjoyed. Very Reverend Father, I have not ceased asking you to have me replaced and I repeat that request not because I am bored nor disheartened by the mission field but because I do not consider myself suited to being in control of others. I have neither the necessary qualities nor the necessary talents for that. I have suggested men whom I believe are capable of doing better than me in a role for which I was no way suited. They can tolerate the burden which overwhelmed me. Reverend Father Baty was one of those I suggested.
I am sorry to inform you that since yesterday he gives us considerable anxiety. For four years he has been suffering from a chest complaint and coughs a great deal; despite his suffering he did not stop being very strict with himself and always recited his breviary kneeling down. That added to his tiring even more. At about nine pm on 8 November, he could not breathe any longer and was vomiting blood heavily. Father Rocher sent for the doctor who found the condition of the patient very serious; cups and a respirator were applied; our dear patient gained a little relief. How long will he be a little more comfortable? If you were not a man experienced in hardships, very Reverend Father, I would not have dared telling you all I thought of the condition of that worthy priest whom each one of us loves very sincerely. I had the misfortune to lose my father as a result of haemorrhaging in the same way; it is true that he lived another seven months after the first attack. One of my former parishioners died in my arms as a result of haemorrhaging. The leading chief on the Isle of Pines who was particularly fond of us and whom we will never be able to replace died in the same way. That is why I don’t hold out much hope for Father Baty. True, he will be another intercessor for the Society [of Mary] because he is very pious and very resigned. Scarcely was he afflicted than he asked for his confessor and he envisaged his passing with an equanimity which I admired. I have concealed nothing from you, very Reverend father, concerning the health of the patient. That does not mean that we will lose him but I think a very great miracle is necessary to save him. Sufferings of the missionaries, especially those in New Zealand, are not a passport to longevity.
I know nothing as yet on the situation in New Caledonia. An English warship arrived from New Caledonia; another is coming soon. What did they do there? What will the French corvette the Alcmène do? I have so many questions and I would dearly like the answers.
Our men suffering from malaria have not yet fully recovered. With time and patience all will be fine again. We are not short of care. We will need so much more energy; that is what we will need. If you keep me as a vicar of Melanesia and Micronesia I will need to buy a ship being obliged to visit not only Woodlark but also Ascension Island where, according to what I have heard from all sources, it would be good to establish a mission station there without delay. Some islands in the New Hebrides should be chosen too because they are inhabited by Polynesians, far less savage than most of the inhabitants of New Caledonia and their islands, which are not so spread out, have the advantage, according to what I have been told, of being very healthy. At the present time, during the gold rush to California, it is difficult finding suitable ships and furthermore paying for them is very expensive. We would need a good captain who was devoted to the missionaries and who knew how to do a little trading in order to pay the crew with the profits. The captain should be easy to find; there is no lack of good Irishmen. The most difficult feature is the maintenance of the vessel.
If the archbishop of Sydney could be involved a little, the Catholics of that colony would certainly be as generous as the Protestants who want to offer the Anglican bishop of New Zealand a brig costing 50,000 francs for the service of the missions. But how could the archbishop make a similar offer for our mission stations when he as well as his grand vicar, Father Gregory, have not visited me although I have visited him twice and the grand vicar once three weeks ago. The latter has had enough courage to apologize to Father Rocher claiming that he did not have enough time to pay his respects. He also asked for me to go on Monday to their country house and to go from there to benediction in the chapel where I will celebrate High Mass. The coadjutor Bishop Polding will give the sermon and His Grace will give benediction. That will have a marvellous effect. Do you know what all that led to? They wanted the stipend of the poor missionary for that chapel.
I am counting on little from those priests; they should at least have some self respect and not add rudeness to their lack of tact; they should as well understand the harm they are doing to Catholicism because all Sydney knows that and we are asked whether we have been visited by the archbishop. God in his goodness will pay each one according to his deeds. They, the priests of the archbishopric, can belong to the true religion and not be guilty in the sight of god but souls and good deeds gain nothing from such behaviour.
I am giving you, as I have done in the past, everything that I have on my mind. You will pardon me, Reverend father, but I would be failing in everything I owed you were I to act differently and I prefer to give you distress rather than to keep from you something which is troubling me.
Pray for us, very Reverend Father, and for me in particular. I am folding my arms without knowing how to gain advantage from my imposed rest.
Your children and their unworthy bishop offer you and also our priests, their most respectful regards
Guillaume, bishop of Amata,
Vicar Apostolic of New Caledonia.