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23 May 1845, Father Jean-Louis Rocher to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Sydney

Translated by Sr Marie Challacombe SM, October 2014.

Sydney 23 May 1854
Very Reverend Father,
On March 31 I was honoured to receive your letter of December 30 which told me you had received letters from the mission of New Caledonia. Not having had the opportunity to go to Balade, I have not been able to fulfil the commission you gave me with regard to our confreres.[1] As soon as one comes up, I shall make sure to let them know that you are thinking of their mission.
I have told Fathers Forest and Dubreuil what you asked me to communicate to them. [2]
As for Fathers Frémont and Thomassin, my letter of March 21 told you that on the eighth of the same month they left Sydney to go to Caledonia[3] where obedience has called them. I haven’t had any news yet of their arrival.
I still don’t know if Bishop Bataillon’s health is improving. I wrote to his Lordship as well as to all our confreres at the centre at the beginning of this month on the Brig the Phantom that I have hired for 5,000 per month, for taking provisions to the various establishments of this mission.
I haven’t yet sent the episcopal vestments from Melanesia to Caledonia, because when I received your letter, Bishop Douarre was no more. As these vestments were deteriorating I gave them to Bishop Bataillon who hadn’t any except for the two chasubles embroidered in gold, offered to Bishop Epalle by His Eminence the cardinal of Lyon. [4] I have sent these two chasubles to Caledonia. And also, to please Frs. Frémont and Thomassin and the fathers in Caledonia, I let them take for the mission they are going to, everything that they wanted from the things that came from Melanesia. What was left I sent to the mission of the centre except for the soutanes which were too small, a mozetta and an embroidered rochet that I am keeping in the procure in case we need them for a visiting bishop. Of the four bishops’ rings that I had, I have given two to Bishop Bataillon, the other two were too small so I am keeping them in the procure as well as Bishop Epalle’s chapel.
Having learnt, after the departure of the two fathers for Caledonia, that Father Thomassin had done his best to turn Brother Grenade against the procure but failed to take him with him, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he asks you for him, and in his next letters from Caledonia repeats his requests. So I am asking you to be so kind as to leave him here because if he leaves the procure I shall be obliged to get a gardener. Brother Joseph, although still full of courage and good will, cannot be employed in digging because of the frequent pains he has in his back. According to a number of conversations I have had with Grenade, I believe he is happy in his present position. Besides, he must have told you how he feels in his letter at the beginning of this year.
Today a gardener’s wage is from 35 to 40 pounds sterling per year, without counting food.
I know nothing yet about Fr Garin’s visit to Auckland. In February Father Moreau[5] wrote to me from Nelson saying he had heard from him, that he was well, and was only waiting till the end of April.
In February Father Forest left Nelson to go to Wellington. His health is still precarious. He intended to ask Bishop Viard if he could spend the winter with us and perhaps return to France.
Fr. Comte who, it is said, was relieved of his vows several years ago by Viard, has sold a horse and some of the things he owned to return to France. In February he was still in Wellington.
Towards the middle of last month, on the French boat Éclair, captained by Mr. Monge and going directly to Le Havre, I sent you a box care of Fr Yardin. This box contains insects, shells and some curious objects. In a lead box you will find a picture of Sydney and two different views of our procure house. In the note which accompanies them I have pointed out to you that out of all these houses only two are worthy of the name, the one on the terrace which has two big rooms and the one that we built three years ago. The others are only little cottages which look better on paper than they really are. One of them is covered with grass.

Tarban Creek Hunters Hill 01.jpg (See Sydney Procure for more about these paintings.)

Tarban Creek Hunters Hill 02.jpg

As for the two portraits done by Fr. Chapuy, I proposed one of them for my father and the other for Mr. Musset. As, in doing this, I may well have contravened the rules of the Society, I leave them for you to decide. In my letters to my family and to Musset I have never mentioned these two portraits.
Once again, very reverend father, I beg you to do your best to relieve me as soon as possible of the responsibility for the needs of the Italian mission.[6] It is ten months since I have had any letter from Milan. Twice I have written to Fr Marinoni who is the superior, [7] pointing out to him that the sum he had sent me through Rev. Fr. Poupinel would be totally absorbed by the cost of the schooner that I was going to send to Woodlark with provisions; and I have received neither letters nor money. At present I have only £331.15.7, sterling, in the coffers for this mission. How can I hire a schooner with that when the cost would be 200 to 250 pounds a month, and buy provisions for a year? Especially as today good flour costs 42, 50c the hundredweight and the rest as much. I certainly will not be able to do it if nothing arrives within three months. September, October and November are the last months of the good season; if these gentlemen do not have a visit this year, what will become of them, they who were already sick with the fever when our confreres left. So please could you profit from this opportunity so that henceforth I will no longer have to worry about this mission.
This is a problem that I have not yet been able to resolve. If in three months I have not received any money, must Woodlark and Rook be left without a visit? Or could I borrow from the sum which I have left from this mission when the Society was in charge?
I don’t know if it is true, but I have heard that there was a question of leaving an Italian procurator in our house in Sydney. If that is the case, I would be far from being relieved of this responsibility which weighs on me so much at present. They wouldn’t hesitate to blame me for every disagreeable thing that could happen , etc. etc.
My letter of March 21 told you of the sudden and unexpected departure of Bishop Polding and Bishop Gregory, his vicar. His Grace was going to Rome, preceded by his resignation as archbishop of Sydney, and that because, 1st he said, he saw that he had lost the confidence of his people, 2nd because he was accused of having palaces, 3rd he only wanted Benedictines, refusing ministry to secular Irish priests. [8]
Today I am letting you know of the death of Bishop Davis who was named coadjutor of Bishop Polding, although he was titular bishop of Maitland, a new diocese erected in Australia by His Holiness Gregory XVI. He died the 18th of this month after a sickness of some days. The diocese is now under the care of Fr M’Enroe, archdeacon.
Please accept, reverend father, my most profound respect,
I have the honour to be your most humble servant,
Marist priest


  1. After having mentioned the death of Douarre, Colin asked Rocher to write to the missionaries to “console them encourage them, and let them know that I will see to them very soon”. (cf. Colin to Rocher, letter of December 30 1853, APM,VM 458.21)
  2. Colin asked Rocher to write to Forest on his behalf that “in keeping with the decisions of the Sacred Congregation on 18 Oct. 1851, addressed to Bishop Viard, he was to submit to these decisions and consequently cease to exercise any authority over his confreres. This would only increase the unrest in the mission. Moreover Rome is organising things so as to restore peace, I hope, and more or less satisfy everybody.” (Cf. Colin to Rocher, letter dated 30 December 1853, APM, VM 458.21)
  3. It was in his letter to Poupinel (and not in the one to Colin) that Rocher says that Frémont and Thomassin have left on March 10 (not 8) for New Caledonia (cf. doc. 1332, § 3).
  4. Louis-Jacques-Maurice de Bonald, archbishop of Lyon since 5 December 1839. (Cf. OM 4 pp 200-201)
  5. Antoine Garin and Delphine-Victor Moreau, both Marist missionaries in New Zealand.
  6. The mission in Melanesia of the Italian priests of the Institute for the foreign missions of Milan. (cf. doc. 1147, § 3, n° 1)
  7. Bishop Giuseppe Marinoni (1810-1891), director of the Seminario Lombardo for the Foreign Missions, from whence came the Italian missionaries who had just established themselves at Woodlark. (cf. doc. 1147, §3, n° 1)
  8. In a meeting which took place in Sydney 26 March 1854, after Polding’s departure, the judge Roger Thierry praised the archbishop and refuted the criticism against him; and finally the Pope was asked not to accept his resignation. In fact Pius IX expressed confidence in Polding, who remained in his post. (cf. O’Donoghue, pp 103-109)