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22 July 1854, Father Jean-Louis Rocher to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Sydney

Translated by Sr Marie Challacombe SM, August 2015

To Very Reverend Father Colin Superior General of the Society of Mary

Sydney 22 July 1854

Very Reverend Father,
On the 14th of this month, by the steamer The Queen of the South, after I acknowledged receipt of the letter you wrote me on November 19, 1853, and which reached me at the beginning of June, I informed you that Bishop Bataillon’s health had somewhat improved, and that the walls of the church in Apia were finished and they were working on the roof. The letter from the bishop was dated April 23rd; it was brought to me by the workman who was building the church and who told me that the bishop would come to Wallis as soon as an opportunity arose.
On the 17th of this month I received your very welcome letter of March 18th which told me that you had received my letters of the last months of 1853. I must have expressed myself poorly in my letters to have given you the impression that I seemed to share the views and reasoning of Fr Montrouzier with regard to the sum which remained in the Melanesian chest. We very often discussed this subject when we were together and my views always differed from his. But there is no point in dwelling on that; I thank you for mentioning this which has taught me to pay greater attention to my correspondence.
The reports of the procure and the missions which I sent you towards the end of January would have shown you that I followed the instructions that you gave me in your letter of June 4, 1853 with regard to the money for Melanesia.
It would certainly have pleased Fr Frémont when he was in Sydney to learn that you wished him to remain at the procure, because he felt little inclination to return to the mission; but as he was feeling better when he received your letter which called him to Caledonia, he did not hesitate and on February 10th he left Sydney for Balade. At present he is in Ile des Pins as Fr Chapuy was called to Caledonia to print some books for the local people.
Last Sunday I received a letter from Fr Frémont dated June 11th. His health is improving and he seems happy in his new appointment. However he still seems to be waiting for a change because he finishes his letter like this: “I finally arrived in Ile des Pins on May 24 and here I am awaiting a new posting.” His letter gave me no news about the mission.
Since Fr Frémont was gone, I said nothing to Fr Trapenard about you wanting to send him to New Caledonia. I thought I had better wait for further instructions from you. According to Fr Frémont’s last letter I don’t doubt that this change has pleased him. As for Fr Trapenard, I think it would be the same for him because he often complains about his current position.
The procure would not be a good place for Fr Trapenard because, apart from his lack of aptitude for business, he also lacks prudence and tact in his dealings with the missionaries. I have already had complaints about this from New Caledonia. On the other hand, we must be fair to him: he receives observations very well. As a companion confrere, everything is alright; peace reigns between us; so far no disputes have arisen to trouble it.
Still no letters or money for the Italian mission.[1] I find such silence very surprising. I can assure you that the day I hear that these gentlemen have a procure will be a day of rejoicing for me. How many times I have said to myself that if in the month of September no money reaches you, will you leave the missions at Woodlark and Rook without a visit? So far, I am in the affirmative. A draft would get me out of this embarrassment, but not being authorised to do that, I don’t wish to see myself having to pay 25% in costs.
I was delighted to learn that you were preparing a circular to let the missionaries in Oceania know about the present state of the Society.[2] This letter and even more the arrival of new confreres[3] dispersed all the unfounded fears held by many that they were abandoned.
The steamer Prony stationed in New Caledonia has just arrived in Sydney. It brought me a letter from Father Rougeron dated 29 June. All our confreres are well at present. The missions at Balade and Pueblo continue to console us; the mission established at Tuo, where Fathers Forestier and Vigouroux are, is making speedy progress. They have recently admitted to the catechumenate more than a hundred people and more than a hundred more have just come to hear the catechism. The neighbouring tribe is impatiently awaiting missionaries. What happy news it will be for Father Rougeyron when he hears that new confreres are arriving.
The main town is definitely going to be fixed on the opposite side from the mission, that is to say, to the south, at Noumea. The harbour is magnificent, spacious and safe. While examining the shore they found coal seams and apparently even gold. What pleases our confreres is that the main establishment on the colony will be at considerable distance from their missions. They hope that this will allow them to enjoy the benefits of the colony without reaping the inconveniences.
I have just learnt that Commander Dubouzet, who delivered our confreres to Caledonia in 1847, has been named governor of Caledonia. He will also control Tahiti and all the islands of the centre.
Fr Rougeyron wrote me that he has received letters from Frs Mathieu and Favier, saying that their mission is totally sterile and that their lives are in danger.
At present the boat I have engaged for visiting the centre should be in Fiji. I am expecting it in Sydney at the end of next month.
Please receive my most humble respects, very Reverend Father. I have the honour of being
your most humble and obedient servant,
Marist Father


  1. Cf. Doc. 1345, § 13 and no.6
  2. In an unpublished letter to Julien Favre, the new superior general, dated 24 September 1854, Rocher said: “On the 13th inst. I received your circular and the one from very Reverend Father Colin.” The circular from Colin, dated 12 January 1854, speaks of his resignation and convocation of the general chapter in which his successor will be elected. (cf, Circular letters of the Society of Mary, t.1, letter 1, 10) June 23, 1854, Colin addressed another letter “to all the Fathers and Brothers members of the Society of Mary, who belong to the missions of Oceania, in which he affirms the esteem and affection he has for them; he says: “I have shared your pains more than you can imagine perhaps, and the greatest one for me has been that I have not been able to establish a suitable organisation in the missions which would further your apostolic activities. You are not unaware of the steps I have taken to achieve this goal; so far they have not been successful; but I do not believe that the state you find yourselves in will continue much longer. Be patient, we are actively working on your behalf.” (Letters to missionaries, 1847 – 1864, letter from Poupinel 30 April 1855, in which is transcribed the Letter from Reverend father Colin to all the Fathers and Brothers members of the Society of Mary, who belong to the missions of Oceania. ( 23 June 1854) the circular from Favre of June 24, 1854 speaks of his election and asks for Masses and prayers. (cf. Circular letters Society of Mary, t.1, letter 11, 1)
  3. 23 April 1855 four new missionaries - Jean Villard, Pierre Lambert, Eugene Barriol and Brother Gabriel (Pierre Lagardelle), sent by the new superior general, Julien Favre, left Bordeaux for New Caledonia.