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Half way through 1838, nearly a year and a half after the first Marist missionaries had left their mother country, Jean-Claude Colin, the superior general of the Society of Mary, knew only that they had reached Tahiti, in the Pacific Ocean and had sailed from there. Further on, he had no idea where they were, nor indeed whether they were still alive. By the end of March Father Bataillon and Brother Joseph Luzy on Wallis Island had found out that Father Chanel and Brother Marie-Nizier Delorme had been for half a year already on the neighbouring (at 220 km!) island of Futuna. Chanel had visited his confrere on Wallis: the first contact between the missionaries on the Polynesian islands. They did not know where their bishop was, nor indeed if he had not perished after disappearing over their horizon. At the same time the bishop and his two companions had no idea how the four missionaries whom they had left behind on the small Polynesian islands had fared, nor indeed if they had not been killed or had not died in some other way.

All the way, the missionaries had done their best to keep the superior general informed. They had sent letters from the Canary Islands, Chile, Tahiti, Australia and New Zealand, but half-way through 1838 the superior had received only those from the Canary Islands, Chile and Tahiti.

Father Colin had sent money in May 1837 and a parcel of mail in November 1837, but half-way through 1838 nothing had reached the missionaries.

There had been good reasons to worry about the way things were going on the other side of the world. Propaganda in Rome had panicked when it learned that Pompallier was redirecting his activity away from Polynesia and Fr. Caret had got the Pope to redraw the missionary map of the Pacific. Rome felt that Colin underestimated the seriousness of the situation and looked in vain for a sense of urgency in Lyon. Colin was unruffled and took his time getting a follow-up team together, but when the team was ready, he did not know where and how to send it on its way.

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