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6 December 1850 — Father Antoine Dubreul to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Upolu, Samoa

Translated by Peter McConnell, March 2011

[p. 6]
France ¤ Au très révérend père ¤ Le révérend père Colin, supérieur général ¤ de la Société de Marie. ¤ montée S(ain)t Barthélemy nº 4 ¤Lyon

[p. 1]
A(d) M(ajorem) D(ei) G(loriam) et D(ei) G(enitricis) H(onorem)
Mulinuu à Upolu
6 décembre 1850

Au très révérend père Colin
supérieur gén(éra)l de la Société de Marie

Very Reverend Father,
I wrote a letter to you from Wallis on 26 November 1849. In it gave you: an account of the favourable attitude I thought I found in Bishop Bataillon on my arrival in Wallis: of what we were trying to establish at Futuna; of bringing together the working brothers; and having them live in a way more in line with religious life and more useful for the mission station. I gave you some news concerning priests and brothers at Wallis. I included some words on the state of war which lost us, at one go, twelve of the twenty-two school children because they preferred to be with their parents during the time of war. I informed you of my impending departure to make a inspection tour of the mission stations something I considered very necessary to do or rather as an inspector (despite all the difficulties and all the trouble which I encountered) because of the love I have for our Society, because of the responsibility it has given me and in the interest itself of Bishop Bataillon.
Very Reverend Father, I wrote to you another letter from Upolu in Samoa on 24 May 1850 and sent by the Alcmène, a French warship, which visited the mission stations this year. Its itinerary had it visiting Uvéa (Wallis), New Caledonia, Sydney, New Zealand and returning then to Tahiti sailing for about five months. That was of course the only chance that I had since arriving in Upolu. I took advantage of it to send you votes for the nomination of the visiting inspector. These votes I collected during my four month tour of inspection in our mission stations of Central Oceania. That little packet containing the votes was accompanied by a letter in which I gave the following news: my departure for visiting the mission stations of Central Oceania in December 1849; my arrival in Samoa in April 1850, where the bishop thinks it worthwhile for me to stop and arrange matters quietly and leisurely. I see since I have been here that it will take me some time and going quietly as at Rome to calm matters down in a languishing mission station. For several months matters have taken a turn for the better. I need patience and courage. Very Reverend Father, beg them for me in your prayers! I told you too of the hurricane which wrecked everything in Upolu: our churches, our houses, the huts, the temples, etc Fortunately only the roof of the house where we were gathered has been damaged. Rain drenched us for two days. Most of our belongings are ruined. Being alone as we are, how are we to repair so much damage in a country where we have to cross a bay three quarters of a league wide to go and fetch water to drink and wood to burn and often in bad weather and a rough sea. In this mission station there is still war, famine and greed. Some natives have brought the most vulgar and most common provisions for sale at exorbitant prices. Providence will provide everything, I hope, with a little work and a little patience on our part.
The arrival of some new fellow priests whom you sent us in Central Oceania and who arrived on the Alcmène on its way to Uvéa (Wallis) comforted and strengthened us in the midst of the tribulations which Jesus and Mary have had us experience. So I was alone at Mulinuu; Reverend Father Padel was at Savai where he stayed a month. I kept Brother Sorlin with me; he served me wonderfully at that time. In our present sad state at that moment I could not do otherwise and in the capacity of a visiting inspector and prefect general of Samoa, I think I did the right thing. I also kept some money because we had spoken to Bishop Bataillon in Wallis about buying the American Consul’s house in Samoa. We were going to buy it; they came to Mulinuu to talk to us; and before my arrival some natives repeated more than once to the Reverend Father Padel that the land on which his house and church had been built did not belong to him and that we were on somebody else’s property. The opportunity, if we had been able to buy it, seemed favourable to settle the matter. I warned the bishop all about this and the best way that I could proceed with the matter.
At the same time there was an enquiry into the schooner which was wrecked by the hurricane on the reef. It had lost its masts and ropes; it had only rotten ones left and its sails were torn; it could not be sold for any more than two or three hundred francs at an auction. The captain of the French warship and an engineer of Tahiti etc made another inspection of the wrecked vessel; they claimed it would cost more to repair than the vessel was worth and that the best thing to do would be to sell it at least in the interests of its owners. I told the captain who represented the Society of Oceania and Bishop Bataillon that I would prefer to see it rot on the reef than to have it sold. But as the captain had said on several occasions whether to me, or to others in my presence, that we had nothing to do with the schooner, that it did not belong to the bishop, etc, and that in the fact {----} and that the bishop had not instructed me on the situation in his detailed instructions on the very minor points; not knowing what to do in this matter, I did not want to intrude into the affairs of the Society of Oceania, particularly as the captain with whom we had not been able to communicate for three days had taken upon himself to placed the crew and the ship under the protection of the American Consul, believing he was authorized to do so.
Brother Sorlin whom I kept at Mulinuu is well with all these reports and without being very strong physically, he has not been sick for a single day. It is true that I am determined to see that we go to bed at nine o’clock every day and that we have regular meals. All we had was only bread and salted meat to eat. And I still struggle with brother Sorlin to make sure he has an hour’s siesta at midday; that is the most tiring part of the day. I hope that in that way he will be ill only when God in his goodness wants him to be. If he follows my advice, he will be in a better condition to serve us.
In the same letter of 24 May 1850, I warned you, very Reverend Father, that the bishop had sent you unknown to me a circular which His Lordship spoke to me about and informed me of only after he had sent it to you. Then he begged me to take it to all the fellow priests. At the top of the circular he wrote my name as his apostolic provicar. At first I commented very respectfully to His Lordship on the writing of that circular-letter, begging him to remove in particular five or six words. But, when I found out and saw that the bishop was unwilling to change anything in the letter, saying that he had thought over the whole matter, I told him that I would not take the responsibility of taking it on my rounds and would return it to him to remove my name as apostolic provicar at the top of the letter, especially as he had not made me aware of the article, and without telling me of its contents before sending it to you. Moreover, my conscience makes me think that that article could upset the honour of the Marist Society and the fellow priests without sufficient reason and in the present circumstances I don’t think I am obliged to be obedient in face of these “tours de force”. Moreover, in my rounds I kept in regards my fellow priests prudence and the greatest reserve regarding this article. I’m now waiting for the penance you will give me if I have done wrong, but until you tell me that I was in the wrong, I will continue most patiently and prudently as I can but resolutely when I think the honour and the interests of our dear Marist Society are wrongly injured and when my name has been put falsely at the top of important articles, without being warned continuously of what I should do and what I should say about those articles.
I repeat my point of view here and now on the way to follow as far as funding are concerned. We ought to act as they do in foreign mission stations, that is we should have various sections for our allocated funds. Firstly each missionary should have the same salary in proportion to the annual funds. Secondly an extra reserve should be given to the bishop according to the most pressing needs of the mission stations as regards property, churches, presbyteries, mission schools. Thirdly a small reserve should be kept in case of emergencies. Fourthly a reserve should be kept for the mission’s ship, the rounds of the bishop, his extra expenses, the rounds of the visiting inspector, etc. This plan can only bring peace and contentment for everybody.
Everybody agrees that we should get together and that we should not live isolated any more. We do little in a state of seclusion and that serves as nothing in the future for the Marist Society.
That is a summary for today ( because I haven’t time to write you a longer letter and I would not like to entrust this letter to the captain who is devoted to the Protestant cause and who is carrying the packet of Mr Prichard.) I will send more confidential remarks soon waiting confidently day by day for a favourable opportunity.
We all think that for the glory of God, the honour of Mary and our Society in the mission fields, the Society should adhere more than ever to establishing who has authority so that the rule of the Society can be followed in Oceania as in France. For that, very Reverend Father, hold more than ever to the articles included in the letters sent to the apostolic vicar. Prudence is needed but what is also needed is firm authority to the one who will represent you as much in regards the bishop as in regards the fellow priests. We will finally solve the problem with patience, if we persevere and are in particular charitable and if we have your prayers.
My respectful amity to all my fellow priests who pray with so much devotion for us and whom we love in the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Your child more devoted than ever,
Antoine Dubreul
Society of Mary Inspector and Apostolic Prefect of Samoa.