Bertolini Missio ad Gentes
JEAN BERTOLINI m.s.c.
FONTES M.S.C. SERIES III
MISSIONARI DEL SACRO CUORE VIA ASMARA 11 00199 ROMA - ITALIA
translated from the French by Sheila Larkin FDNSC
A youthful dream
A significant picture
A motto which carries an obligation
A slow maturing
Until Providence indicated otherwise
Seed-bed of apostles
A missionary impetus
The "Formula Instituti"
A first step beyond Europe
Another missionary day
At the College of Propaganda
A year of silence and hope
The Society in December 1878
An offer from Cardinal Simeoni
First known reaction: Fr. Piperon
The Auckland Mission
Enthusiasm in the Apostolic School
The vote of Father Jouet
Father Jouet's projectes reply
Opinion of Father Piperon
Opinion of Father Morisseau
The Cardinal's reply
Father Jouet consults his friends in Rome
The uncompromising Father Guyot
Consultation of the communities
Watertown, Father Durin
Chezal-Benoit, Father Lanctin
Novitiate of Saint-Gerand, Father Ramot
The final word of Father Guyot
Father Chevalier optimistic
Dramatic turn of events
The curtain falls
Two years later
The curtain rises
Father Jouet consults Rome
Don Giovanni Cani
Free Colony of Port-Breton
The community in Barcelona
Rene Lannuzel in New France
Issoudun is impatient
Intentions of Propaganda
Father Founder's conviction
The letter from Father Jouet
Official letter from Cardinal Simeoni
Position of Father Chevalier in Issoudun
Father Piperon notified
What does Father Guyot think?
Father Guyot to Father Jouet
Father Founder replies to Father Guyot
Father Jouet informed of Father Guyot's opinion
The astounding offers of this baffling "New France"
What does Father Deidier think?
Father Chevalier replies to the Holy See
Proposal made to Father Durin
Aspirations of Verjus
Rome finally replies
Father Durin in Europe
Father Chevalier saves Watertown
Father Guyot back in action
Father Durin in Paris and Rome
Cani gives more information
Barcelona: hopes of the scholastic Verjus
The article in the Univers
The Jouet article
Gathering in Barcelona
The great absentee
But where are we going?
And the future?
In March, 1881, the Church offered the young Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart a vast Mission comprising the vicariates of Melanesia and Micronesia in Oceania.
"To undertake the evangelisation of New Guinea and the surrounding islands is a task quite beyond our strength...", acknowledged our Founder, Father Chevalier, in his reply to the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda. Yet, despite the admission of a manifest inadequacy and justifiable misgivings, he courageously acquiesced: "with the Virgin of Nazareth our lowly Congregation replies, 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord,' let it be done to me according to your word."'
A hundred years have passed; and since 1981 our Society has proclaimed the greatness of the Lord as it celebrates the centenary of different foundations of the Church, now flourishing in so many islands of Oceania. And soon, other religious Institutes of men and women, following that of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, will sing their Magnificat in the midst of the faithful.
The following pages do not review this first century of Catholic apostolate in the vast Mission confided in 1881; rather they offer a reply to the many questions asked today by our young confreres about the origins of our missio ad gentes, which our Founder uniquivocally declared to be 'one of the principal ends of our Society.'
To do this, we thought it better to listen to the Founder himself, to his four assistants of 1881, to his close associates, and other more immediate witnesses of the events of the time.
We cite official and personal letters preserved in our general archives, setting down verbatim all that relates to this sending on mission. Although incomplete, the documentation offers valuable information, not only about 'the great affair' of the year, but also about the people involved.
We must not forget that it is still possible to find other letters, apart from our present archives, which can supply further information or introduce some light and shade into certain stands taken in the letters quoted.
We have not been satisfied with a superficial treatment of the manuscripts; we offer the reader a chronological and analytical documentation, as complete as possible, leaving him to form his own opinion.
The letters or extracts cited are consistent with the original manuscripts preserved in our archives or elsewhere. However, to avoid confusion, we have occasionally corrected the spelling of proper names, and for easier reading, we have used more regular punctuation and grammatical accents.
At the bottom of the page, we have given explanatory notes to help situate the events and identify the persons mentioned; other notes simply indicate various sources.
Before presenting this documentation, we thought it useful to reproduce two small articles, already published in December, 1973, and January, 1974, in the General Bulletin, "In the dust of the Archives" Nos. 5, 6, entitled respectively, Missionary orientation of our Society before 1881, and The first mission proposed to the Society - 1879 (Dossier Auckland).
We point out that the Documentation 1881 ends on the day of departure from Barcelona of the first group of missionaries on 1st September, 1881.
We have added an appendix entitled: And the Future?, which is simply meant to situate on 2nd September, 1881, a missionary precursor, Father Rene Lannuzel; on that day he was writing from Sydney to Cardinal Simeoni, Prefect of Propaganda, who replied on 11th November, 1881. And by pure coincidence, on this same 11th November, our first missionaries were photographed at Manila (Philippines) with the Prior of the Augustinians, Father Font, before continuing their hazardous journey to the Missions.
P. Jean Bertolini
A youthful dream
In the major seminary, the apostolic spirit and initiative of Jules Chevalier were already becoming apparent. He dreamed of being a missionary; this desire, inspired by love of God and zeal for souls, and sharpened by the reading of the first Annals of the Propagation of the Faith, was matched by a temperament disposed to action and self-sacrifice.
He will later recall in his Notes intimes:
Reading the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith awakened in me the desire for the missions. I felt drawn to make any sacrifice to carry the light of the Gospel to pagans.
I spoke of it to Fr. Ruel, my director and superior,2 who brushed the idea aside and told me to speak to him later about it. I broached the subject several times, before he finally told me that the diocese needed priests and that he would oppose my departure until Providence indicated otherwise.
Soon there formed another ideal, less distant, more accessible; an ardent love of Christ found expression in a deeper, more interior manner - a love of the poor, especially the spiritually poor. This understanding of the love of Christ was drawn from his Heart. His confessor lent him the Life of the Blessed Margaret Mary by Monsignor Languet. The theological introduction interested him keenly and bore out the approach developed by his professor of dogma, in the treatise on the Incarnation, "The Devotion to the Sacred Heart."
This work of Monsignor Languet stirred up in me a keen desire to become the apostle of this devotion that Our Lord had himself given to the world as a powerful means of santification and which he wished to see spread everywhere..
To answer his call, I conceived a plan to be realised as a priest - I would bring together some holy and zealous confreres and work to propagate the Devotion to the Sacred Heart?
As we know, this plan took shape on December 8th, 1854, with the foundation at Issoudun of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
A significant picture
This picture had been above the high altar of the modest chapel of the first community, as early as 1855, and Father Chevalier considered it to be the most precious possession of the Congregation. And so, in his declining years, when expelled from his presbytery, he strongly recommended that it be salvaged. He had had it in his room and described it thus:
I have before me this picture which dates from the 18th century and perhaps earlier. The upper section depicts the Sacred Heart of Jesus shining in glory. Mary, clothed in splendour, is standing close by, showing the divine Heart to the angels, patriarchs and saints; under the symbol of a pencil of rays, coming from his sacred wound, this merciful heart concentrates in her all the graces destined for earth. In the lower section, five divisions of the world - Europe, Asia, America, Africa and Oceania - are represented by their native inhabitants in distinctive costume. In an attitude of prayer, they seem to be entreating Mary to obtain from her Son the blessings of which he is the source; then this loving Mother pours out on them, all the graces of which she is the dispenser?
A motto which carries an obligation
For about ten years this picture had occupied a place of honour during liturgical functions in the original chapel. It had suggested to the founder and his few companions more than one subject of meditation - it was even then an illustration of the title to be given to the Virgin Mary in 1857, and it appealed to Father Chevalier because of its universal missionary character.
It prompted an apostolic zeal of enormous dimensions, which from the beginning found expression in a motto, recognised by the founder himself as 'ambitious' - May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved! To this, both motto and invocation, Pius IX attached an indulgence in 1860 and, in a letter of January 8th, 1863, the Jesuit, Father H. Leblanc, proposed to Father Chevalier:
If you are to translate into Latin your invocation to the Sacred Heart, I suggest this metrical sequence: AMETUR UBIQUE TERRARUM COR JESU SACRATISSIMUM.
Father Founder agreed all the more willingly because he found in this a true expression of his ideas and noble ambition?
A slow maturing
As a flower must await the warmth and light to realise its potential in the colour, texture and perfume of its petals, so too must every human work undertaken for God await its due season to develop and attain its full measure of efficacy. Spring comes only after the winter, and the seed scattered by Father Chevalier was also dependent on seasonal rhythms.
Following this line of thought and drawing inspiration from the author of Je suis fille de l'Eglise, Father Vermin rightly observes:
Of one founder God demands immediate action, of another the patient awaiting of circumstances favourable to the blossoming of the Institute. To the one he will present a general idea which will take definitive form only much later; to another he will present a plan, complete and unchangeable - both ideal and concrete form being explicitly defined at least in essentials. God displays a great richness in the diversity of organisation, giving to each foundation its own distinctive character, to each founder his particular personality, and to each institute its special historical and sociological tempo... The founder who brings only a glimpse of the ideal as initial capital must restrict his action to communicating this ideal to his followers. For the rest - its exact form and realisation ~ this will have to be the fruit of a common search and the grace of God, and it will evolve in its own time.
Until Providence indicated otherwise
The young founder (he was only 30 years of age) would remain quietly attentive and exercise much prudence in setting out his plans. Circumstances were imposing this on him. As early as 1855 the first draft of the Rule clearly expressed his intention of a religious Society similar to so many others founded in the 19th century. These many and varied foundations responded to an urgent need. Caritas urget nos! An active apostolate was envisaged, but the need was felt to balance this activity with a contemplative element. This was certainly one of the considerations of Father Chevalier as he drew up his original Rule for his companions; such companions were slow in coming and when they were to come, they would already be engaged in works beyond the limited framework of Berry, where some would have wished to confine the apostolate of the new institute. Certainly the Rule of 1855 spoke of Berry and the home missions, and it seemed necessary to begin with this, especially as Fr. Ferdinand de Champgrand, ((Professor of Sacred Scripture at the major seminary of Bordeaux, where he lived from 1837 to 1860) the main benefactor, had no intention of supporting the foundation of a new Congregation, but simply a group of diocesan missionaries for the region of lower Berry; and his feelings had to be spared.
If it were only a question of propagating a devotion, did it matter where this was done? Father Chevalier could achieve this in Issoudun, the town he had instinctively chosen from the beginning. If he was absolutely bent on the home missions he could expand activities in the future when numbers were greater. And, as was the ease with other founders, these home missions would be only a first step - the only way, initially, of expressing a fundamental idea, which was open to wider horizons. He was drawn to this work by his zeal to make known everywhere, ubique terrarum, the love of Christ symbolised by his Heart. As the founder stated, the devotion to the Heart of Jesus, being not only a means but the end of his Society, would be the source of its inspiration and growth. On this point, Father Chevalier would remain true to himself and to his mission.
In theory, then, the difficulties of the foundation lay in confining the new Institute's field of action to Issoudun and to Berry; in actual fact, however, such 'evangelisation of Berry' could amount to very little -there were then only two or three members.
As far back as 1863 and 1864, two new confreres had retained their parishes outside Berry - Father Guyot in Montlucon; Father Durin in Noeq-Chamberat, both in the diocese of Moulins. For his part, Father Piperon, the first companion, was travelling about France preaching devotion to the Sacred Heart and to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, and appealing for help to build the church intended to become the spiritual centre for these devotions; and centre, also, for a more comprehensive Institute of the Sacred Heart, with possible amalgamation or federation of various Associations of priests dedicated to the Heart of Jesus, such as already existed in several dioceses of France. If this did not, in fact, succeed, this last plan did make possible more stable foundations for a true religious Congregation which was recommended by the bishops for early pontifical approbation - which was obtained in 1869.
Seed-bed of apostles
In 1866, a valuable colleague arrived in the person of Father JeanMarie Vandel, founder of the Oeuvre des Campagnes (1857). If he joined Father Chevalier, it was in the clearly stated hope of finding a base for his work, les missionnaires des Campagnes. Entering at Issoudun, Vandel found only a small community of five priests, three others being away from Issoudun; and so he noted, "I will be the sixth." In consultation with Father Chevalier and with his approval, he set about refining the rules of the Affiliated Priests of the Sacred Heart, in the added hope of gaining more religious, that is, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
In April, 1866, Father Vandel initiated the Association of a "penny a year" to aid missionary vocations by maintaining an Apostolic School on the lines of the first such school recently rounded in Avignon by Father de Foresta S.J. There was one difference, however; this school would be more directly, if not exclusively, aimed at recruiting members for the Society of Father Chevalier.
The school, the Petite-Oeuvre du Sacre-Coeur, was opened in October, 1867, with some dozen pupils, and in the first year there were eighteen, chosen from about 110 applicants, not simply from Berry and for Berry. The first one came from the Swiss Jura, and others from every part of France - Paris, Charente, Vendee, Limousin, Alsace, FrancheComte, Lyonnais, Bourbonnais, Berry, Auvergne, Corse.
Their intentions are clear from the many letters written to Father Vandel; we will confine ourselves to those of the first pupils.
A missionary impetus
The first pupil from Issoudun, Louis Quiclerc, wrote: I heard a voice within me saying: You will be a missionary; you will go and preach the name of Jesus Christ. His fellow townsman, Lanctin: I left my parents... mainly to acquire the knowledge and the piety necessary for boys destined as we are to go into wild, uncivilised lands to spread the faith and all that Christianity entails. Paul Berthon: From earliest childhood, I have thought of being a missionary and I hope to become one. Lagelin: My constant desire is to follow in the steps of Father Venard. Ignace Grom: ...to become a holy missionary, to go into primitive lands to convert the pagans. This will demand the sacrifice of all that is dearest to me, but I shall do it for the glory of God and of his divine heart. One of them is more specific: ...during our walks we sometimes talk of the future...Some say they want to be missionaries in China, others in Japan, others in Australia, etc... and others in France itself... I feel that I am already a missionary of the Sacred Heart, and that I am preaching devotion to the Sacred Heart and to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart...I pray to her every day to grant me this grace. Another writes: Some are very anxious to learn drawing as it will be useful, especially when we are fortunate enough to be missionaries and are called on to build churches or draw up plans for them.
At the Apostolic School of the Sacred Heart, one of the favourite publications was the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith, and it is not difficult to trace the animating spirit behind this enthusiasm for the foreign missions. For Father Vandel, it was a real 'conversion', having himself come to adopt fully the plans of Father Chevalier. At every visit to these generous young people, the founder rejoiced at their spirit and missed no opportunity to fan the flame. One pupil's letter to Father Vandel during the summer of 1868 is indicative. A certain Monsignor Chaillot was at Issoudun when the pupils were there on pilgrimage. He spoke at length of the missions, asking if any of them wished to go there. The writer added:
Father Superior (Chevalier) told us that Mons. Chaillot,9 who has a high regard for the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, would ask the Sovereign Pontiff for a mission for them, in Oceania or some other land; everyone cheered.
Beneath this youthful testimony, a more serious concern of the founder could already be recognised; in this year of 1868 he was preparing the draft of the first official document of his little Society.
The "Formula Instituti"
This would be presented to Rome at the beginning of 1869. But even before the appearance of this official document, there was a hint of a possible acceptance of foreign missions.
This suggestion goes back as far as 1864. In the Plan de la Societe des Missionaries du Sacre Coeur de Jesus we read:
To attain its end the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will undertake any ministry - without exception - that the Church may offer.
The implication of the italics cannot fail to be grasped.10 The Formula Instituti is more explicit:
To attain more effectively this twofold end (of the Society), it will, with the permission of the Holy See, embrace the various ministries of the apostolic life, even among the pagans.
On the question of the members of the Society and the categories which were to distinguish them, the Formula specifies:
The Third category is that of the professed priests, who, to the aforesaid vows, will add that of lifelong "stability" in the Society, and of readiness to go anywhere in the world - quolibet terrarum - for the greater glory of God, the moment the Sovereign Pontiff or the Superior General sends them.
We have then, in the source document of the first official Constitutions, the intention to take up missionary work among the "infidels." This intention is endorsed in a pamphlet printed in Bourges and dated in Rome, July 2nd, 1872:
...the Religious of the Sacred Heart will apply themselves zealously: 1. to the missions in town and country.
Their limited numbers prevent them at present from embarking on the missions in pagan lands; but they will accept this work, so dear to the Heart of Jesus, as soon as they can; this is their wish and that of the Holy See.13
This .desire will be ratified by the Holy See, implicitly at first, through the Decree of approbation of the Institute, on June 20th, 1874; and then explicitly in that of January 12th, 1877.
In this aspiration our Congregation, like almost every new foundation of the 19th century, demonstrated its openness to the evangelisation of non-christian peoples. The formation given the young of the Apostolic School; the reading of the Annales de la Propagation de la Foi and various biographies, including the Vie et correspondance de Theophane Venard (1864); the visits of missionary bishops - all made the younger generation alive to missionary spirituality and apostolates. This is borne out in the monthly bulletins of Father Vandel published in the Annales de N.D. du S.C.; the records of the Apostolic School; the frequent letters exchanged between Chezal-Benoit and the pupils of like schools in Avignon and elsewhere, and in the Journal of one, Henri Verjus. These young enthusiasts were caught up in a surge of vehement longing for the foreign missions; they would have gladly pressed on, circumventing all normal obstacles.
A first step beyond Europe
The seemingly impossible was true! In 1870 the young Institute numbered about a dozen priests, all fully occupied, whether in Issoudun, Chezal-Benoit, Nocq-Chamberat, the novitiate at Montlucon or the school in Rimont. And then Ottawa and Quebec were each preparing for the imminent arrival of three missionaries from Issoudun. Monsignor Guigues O.M.I., of Ottawa, would have been happy to receive all six.
With the war, this dream faded but three years later, encouraged by Bishop de Charbonnel, formerly of Toronto, who had previously preached retreats in Issoudun and Chezal-Benoit, Father Chevalier allowed himself to be "taken in" by the astounding overtures of Louis Gibra, a former seminary friend, then in the diocese of Toronto. Archbishop Lynch, supposing that he was dealing with a well established Congregation, pressed the Founder for missionaries to take charge of a parish at first, and then of other works in his diocese.14
Why not take a chance? Father Chevalier was ever ready to take a risk, although by character "as man of tenacity rather than ingenuity"; and so on July 31st, 1873, Father J. B. Chappel and a brother, Henri Dechatre, left Le Havre for what the Acts of the General Council called the Mission of Canada. Father Chevalier's intention is gleaned from these words of Father Piperon:
As Father Superior expressed his intention of sending some of his sons to America, a country closer to the missions and so a first step towards pagan lands, one of our confreres, Father Chappel, former parish priest in the diocese of Clermont, offered to look for a bishop willing to accept a band of missionaries. The Father was, at the time, 56 years of age, and knew not a word of English. Notwithstanding the snow-white hair and the bronzed, wrinkled face of one who had engaged in a long and arduous ministry, Father Chappel had the heart of an apostle - still young, still ready to face the most difficult and even hazardous undertakings. If obedience were guiding him, there was nothing to fear. Robust, ascetical, frugal and quite abandoned to the Providence of God, in his simple faith he deemed nothing impossible. With a slight change to the words of the fable, we, the young ones of that time, would naturally have said:
But to set out at that age
He's surely in his dotage...15
Archbishop Lynch of Toronto, the bishop 'willing to accept' them, was already known to them; but he was undoubtedly the first to be disappointed.
Father Chappel looked elsewhere, passing on to Montreal where the bishop was quick to recommend him to his new confrere in Ogdensburg. Thus during the Christmas of 1875, the Father accepted the responsibility for the French speaking Canadians in Watertown, New York. He did even better - he made ready the first MSC house in North America.
While Father Chappel was marking time, Canada was present in Issoudun in a special way. On February 24th, 1874, in the presence of the Archbishop of Bourges, Archbishop Lynch consecrated his Vicar General, Bishop Jamot, named Vicar Apostolic of North Canada. He was assisted by his predecessor, Bishop de Charbonnel, and Bishop Ladoue of Nevers. It was the first consecration of a bishop in the church of the Sacred Heart, and what hopes it aroused in the Founder and in the hearts of the young aspirants. Father Vandel writes:
There they were, receiving many blessings throughout the day; with an altogether special affection, the foreign Missions were blessing these "young missionaries", destined also to carry the good news to the unbelievers in France and, if God willed it, to those in foreign lands.
Another missionary day
Hardly had he settled in Watertown, USA, than Father Chappel wrote to Father Chevalier concerning the possibility of an MSC foundation; a superior, Father Joseph Durin, and two scholastics were sent immediately. The day of departure coincided with the feast of Father Founder, transferred because of Easter to Thursday, April 20th, 1876. Everything was organised and conducted as for a "farewell to missionaries"; different moments of the double feast were recalled by Father Vandel:
Pius IX has given the Superior of the Missionaries of Issoudun a motto which contains within itself an obligation, because of its apostolic significance -Ametur ubique terrarum Cor Jesu Sacratissimum! In keeping with the wish of the great Pontiff, the end of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart is that of spreading everywhere this regenerating devotion. But for widespread dissemination, there was needed an increase in numbers and the clear indication of the will of God. Providence has now prepared the way, and circumstances have pointed to the admirable guidance of the Sacred Heart...
The farewell ceremony was solemn and moving; for the Apostolic School of the Sacred Heart, it was the dawn of the apostolate in a foreign mission.
Rev. Father Chevalier mounted the pulpit. Emotion was high in all hearts, but especially in the heart of our very worthy Father. He spoke of the desire of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to be everywhere known and loved, for the happiness and salvation of mankind. He spoke of the aims of the Sovereign Pontiff for our little Society. He did not hide the magnitude of the sacrifice demanded in this separation. Rev. Father Superior stifled his tears; on several occasions the words died away on his lips. There was a struggle between filial and fatherly affection and the weight of the sacrifice, but the triumph of grace and the love of God was soon evident. After this memorable address, he blessed the three crucifixes, which henceforth would be the riches, the strength and consolation of these labourers of the Lord in a distant land.
Then there was the reading of a special apostolic blessing of Pius IX for those departing, followed by the farewell hymn and the Magnificat. Two community gatherings followed the ceremony, the first around Father Vandel, who gave his parting advice. A brother gives some account of it:
He seemed like the apostle, John, exhorting his disciples to love one another: We must be one in spirit. My children, the Apostolic School is God's beehive from which have gone forth three swarms - one to Issoudun, the Mother House; one to Saint-Gerand, the novitiate house; the third to Rome for studies in theology at the college of Propaganda; and a fourth is now going to settle in America, but through the Sacred Heart, they will all remain united to the parent hive.
Let us always be united like the beads of our rosary, the grains in the ear, or the grapes on the bunch, which make up the symbols on your banner; united like the fingers of the hand - always united in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The second gathering was more particularly devoted to presenting feast day wishes to Father Chevalier, surrounded as he was by Fathers, Brothers and pupils.
He made us very happy when he announced that the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart were being sought everywhere - in Austria, England, Spain and as far away as Oceania.
At the College of Propaganda
Father Vandel had referred to the "swarm" in Rome. This had been formed in December, 1875, when five young professed, under the provisional direction of Father Jouet, had been sent to Rome to prepare for the priesthood; they were lodged at the Procure of the Trappist Fathers. There was some initial debate over the courses to be taken, but the college of Propaganda was chosen in preference to the French Seminary as it was considered to be more in keeping with our work; here the young students would develop their taste for the missions, and our pupils of the Apostolic School, coming to us as they did from different countries, would find its spirit more in harmony with their own aspirations.
Father Chevalier fully shared this view of Father Jouet; moreover, to better ensure a formation according to the spirit of the Society, he preferred that our students did not live away from the community. Then again, the choice of Propaganda would provide for the Society valuable friendships, not only among the teaching staff, but even within the Congregation of Propaganda.
The Prefect, Cardinal Franchi, had encouraged them: Since you are missionaries, you will find all you need at Propaganda.
In an audience on November 24th, the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda had already expressed this view to Father Jouet:
Cardinal Franchi was very kind and talked to me at length about the shortage of candidates for the missions. He would give us a region tomorrow if we had subjects available...
He told me to notify him when our young people arrived, as he would present us to the Sovereign Pontiff.
This promise was kept and on the Feast of St. John, December 27th, 1875, the first Roman community was received by Pius IX. They made the offering of the Gold Rose and renewed their religious vows before the august old man; then Cardinal Franchi announced in clear tones:
Most Holy Father, these young people are Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Issoudun, here in Rome to follow the courses at Propaganda.
"Bravi, bravi, bravi!" exclaimed Pius IX, demonstrating his approval.
Three months later, in March 1876, Father Jouet, after two weeks as Procurator General, wrote to Father Chevalier:
The Rector of Propaganda said that if our Congregation was dependent on Propaganda, we would have certain advantages. He thinks it best for us to secure this complete affiliation with Propaganda. What do you think?
The reply is dated March 16th:
Find out what advantage there would be in our little Society being dependent on Propaganda and what steps we would have to take.
Following the questions raised in March, 1876, about a possible affiliation of the little Society with Propaganda, Father Jouet went into action.
Father Piperon wrote of him:
His was a soul of fire, a resolute will, and a spirit ever active; he knew when to act and also when to stop and pause, if necessary, before resuming what had been interrupted.
He would always be the first to accelerate an action to serve the purposes of the Founder and set the Society in the direction of the foreign missions. In this lay one of his great virtues, excessive though his eagerness might sometimes prove.
After careful consideration, the projected affiliation with Propaganda was not pursued. In fact, when the community was established in 1879 at the former church of St. James, to become the sanctuary of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, our scholastics left the College of Propaganda for practical reasons and also to 'please' the Cardinal Vicar, Monaco La Valletta, our first Cardinal Protector, and continued their studies at the Apollinaris.
Nevertheless, Father Jouet skilfully maintained good relations with his friends at Propaganda, both College and Congregation. Monsignor Agnozzi, a professor at the College, then attached to the Sacred Congregation, had made him an attractive proposition in January, 1878. He told Father Chevalier of it on the 15th:
Mons. Agnozzi, Secretary of Propaganda, asked me this morning if our Congregation would not be glad to accept a foreign mission. I replied that this was one of the ends of our Institute and was desired by the Rev. Father Superior and his Council, but that we had not yet sufficient personnel for a new foundation. He questioned me at length, took a keen interest in everything and urged us not to lose sight of this goal. He thought we would do well to make ourselves available to Propaganda for a mission to be reserved for us; and we could then set about preparing for it. I said I would write to you.
This is all to our advantage and must not be taken lightly. We need to develop friendly links with Propaganda, which is showing great kindness towards us. I believe it would be remiss of us to send our scholastics elsewhere in Rome?
Father Chevalier was quick to reply on January 26th:
Ask Mons. Agnozzi to set aside a good overseas mission for us; we will then prepare the ground and accept as soon as possible. If only he could let you know about it beforehand!
A year of silence and hope
Undoubtedly, in the conversations between Fathers Chevalier and Jouet and other members of the Council, the question of the foreign missions came up more than once. In 1878 the great concern was our "Roman question"; great pains were taken to resolve favourably the matter of the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and to find a house in Rome for the MSC community, then in temporary residence in the procure of the Trappist Fathers. Yet the hope of a future mission remained alive in the heart of the Founder and grew ever more consuming among the students of the Apostolic School.
We have some indication of it on Father Chevalier's Feast, falling in 1878 on Thursday, April 26th. The whole Apostolic School went to Issoudun. Becoming ever more international, it offered congratulations in French, Latin, Greek, English, Italian, German, Dutch; in the language of Limburg and even in the Albigensian and Auvergnat dialects.
Father Chevalier smiled his encouragement:
He spoke to us as usual of the hopes of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. He told us of his trip to Rome, and especially of his conversation at Propaganda with the Cardinal in charge of foreign missions. He went on to say: Oceania is waiting for us, but I have had to decline for the present. Palestine is reaching out to us. Let us hope that before long we will be able to satisfy these desires of the Cardinal, which are also those of the Sacred Heart; my dear children, we must hope that when you are priests, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart will be scattered far and wide throughout the world. The peoples of Oceania, America and Africa will be evangelised by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, just as France is today. As future apostles we were stirred by these words, and we were already picturing ourselves sailing off and arriving among a savage tribe. Countless dangers would face us but these would be surmounted by our love of souls. What happiness it would be to give my life for the noble cause of God - to die a martyr! This day will remain imprinted in our hearts; later when evangelising the pagans, I will think back with pleasure on this happy feast day?
We encounter the same spirit in the 'Journal' of Henri Verjus, then a young professed, teaching at Chezal-Benoit. The senior student, Octave de Brinon, having enrolled at the Apostolic School with the sworn intention of going to distant lands, was growing impatient; if the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart could not have a mission, he would prefer to apply to the Paris Foreign Missions rather than enter the novitiate in 1879. From his childhood he had dreamed only of China. His director reassured him: Be patient! Our Society will not have long to wait.
But, at that time, could this little Society really have accepted a Mission? Did it have sufficient trained personnel? We pause to examine the situation at the end of 1878.
The Society in December, 1878
Issoudun: House of the Sacred Heart (1855).
Chezal-Benoit: Apostolic School (1867).
Issoudun: Presbytery (1872).
St-Gerand-le-Puy: Novitiate and preparatory school (1873).
Rome: Scholasticate (1875).
Aries in Provence (1876).
Watertown, U.S.A. (1876).
Members. 68 MSC professed
Priests: 30 (2 deceased and 4 left in 1879).
Scholastics: 33 (1 deceased and 4 left in 1879).
Brothers: 5 (3 left in 1879).
Novices: 4 clerical, including 2 ordained priests.
4 Postulant brothers, who will leave in 1879.
The Apostolic School at Chezal-Benoit had 42 pupils and the School of St. Joseph at St-Gerand 16 pupils.
Father Chevalier's Assistants were:
Fr Jouet, Procurator in Rome, director general of the Petite-Oeuvre and editor of the Annals.
Father Guyot, preacher and superior of St-Gerand.
Father Morisseau, superior of the house of the Sacred Heart.
The most dynamic was Father Jouet - the only one also to share the Founder's hope of soon being able to assume responsibility for a foreign mission.
About thirty years ago a confrere wrote:
The first Mission offered by Rome to our Congregation was not New Guinea...and I am surprised not to pick up any scent of it.
Let us then "nose around" a little in the dust of the archives.
An offer from Cardinal Simeoni
On 1st January, 1879, Father Chevalier wrote to Father Jouet:
I have absolute confidence in you. I know that what you do will be well done, because you never sacrifice the general for the particular good.
They were to meet in Aries in mid-January, and they must have touched on many problems affecting the Society. The procurator returned to Rome earlier than planned, and on 13th February he wrote to his Superior:
Yesterday his Eminence, Cardinal Simeoni, Prefect of Propaganda, sent for me. I went the same evening and here is the gist of our conversation:
"I sent for you to make an important proposition to your Society, namely that of entrusting to it alone the Mission of AUCKLAND in Oceania, in New Zealand; it would be established as an apostolic Vicariate etc.etc."
"Your Eminence, we are very grateful...But we are not in a position to accept such a great responsibility. We need subjects for that and our numbers are inadequate even for the works we have...We would be very happy to respond positively to the trust shown in us by the Holy See, but at the moment that seems out of the question."
"But yours is a missionary Society."
"Yes, your Eminence, and we have our heart set on this work, as have the greater number of our pupils; our Father Superior asks nothing less than to see some members of the Institute engage in this apostolate; we have even asked the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda to register us now for a future commission, and we confirm now our humble request. We would need a few years to prepare for it, etc..." (and I added all the things you can imagine - all in the most humble terms of course). His Eminence was very sympathetic and plied me with questions, dismissing all my objections:
"Write on my behalf to the Father Superior, but don't go frightening him, and presenting him with the impossible - it can be easily arranged."
I promised not to frighten you, but to tell you very simply all that was said. His Eminence then went on to say:
"This mission is undergoing great hardships and has been without a bishop for three years; there is a diocesan clergy but we want this Apostolic Vicariate to belong to a single religious Congregation. This need not be straight away; to begin with, one of its members could be appointed Vicar Apostolic with full powers and authority, and in time he would replace the diocesan clergy with his own religious. But for the present there is no need to send many men; two would be enough, etc."
"But your Eminence, we will still have to find these two men and that will be difficult. How long would you give us to be ready? If we can have three or four years, we will possibly be able to manage it."
"The most urgent requirement is the agreement of your Society; you could then have time to put it into effect, but not as long as that. Your superior must give me a reply by the end of March at the latest. If, as I hope, the reply is favourable, it will take a few months to prepare the appointment and the Bulls of the new Vicar Apostolic, and to assign the boundaries of his Vicariate, etc. But that would take no more than a year and then two men would have to take possession; the others would follow later."
"And what about the resources?"
"This Mission depends on the Propagation of the Faith, but when a new Vicariate is established, Propaganda applies for a special allocation of funds; this is never refused."
"And your Eminence, where could I get precise details about the present situation of the Mission, so that I could pass them on to my superior?"
"Write at once about the proposal itself and tell your superior that I will soon have the information delivered to you; after that we will answer all the questions that the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart will put to us... But we are most anxious that it accept. Look at the Missionaries of la Salette; they have just accepted a Mission. Why would you not do as much? etc. etc."
The conversation was very long and pressing; I am giving you just a simple resume of it. I shall come back to it soon. It is a serious business. If we must refuse, we will need to do it tactfully.
I suggest that, to know the will of God, a novena be made by the whole Society, and that we begin by replying to this effect. But then, I shall convey whatever you say to the Cardinal.
P.S. I really think that the Council and the whole Society would vote to accept this mission if we had the personnel, provided this did not jeopardise our future freedom to act.
This letter shows us Father Jouet, such as we will often find him in his initiatives. He is quite aware that this one will provoke both enthusiasm and opposition.
Above all he expects the latter, not so much from Father Chevalier but from members of the Council. I have reproduced his letter in its entirety, as I will the ensuing correspondence, that we may better interpret both the Founder and his associates, judge how things stood with the Society at this particular time - to gauge its strength and its general thinking.
On receipt of this letter, Father Chevalier called his Council together. Fathers Piperon and Morisseau were the only ones present; Father Guyot did not attend. The Acta gave but a brief summary of the letter, without any comment apart from the simple statement:
It has been decided that a novena be made in all the houses of the Society before considering this matter.
That same day, February 16th, Father Chevalier replied to Father Jouet:
I'd be willing to accept the Mission of the Auckland Islands under the conditions set down by his Eminence Cardinal Simeoni. Find out as much as you can and ask him for relevant documents which could shed light on the question. Geographically, it's quite promising - good, healthy climate, fertile land, intelligent and amenable people. There would be 82.000 indigenous people - is that so? How many diocesan priests are there? Where do they come from? What is the language of the country? English is probably the official language. Where must one embark? How far away it is? Is the passage free? What are the connections? It's poles apart from France or Belgium. If the council consents, I would have two plans; tell me what you think of them and let me know what you would do.
As Vicar apostolic, I would recommend Father Durin who already knows English, and Brother Giraux as his companion. Father Ariens would be superior at Watertown and he would need another priest.
Or better still, perhaps, I would recommend Father Maillard as Vicar apostolic; he's in excellent health; he's pious, judicious and dedicated; and what's more, he is calm and level-headed. As assistants, I'd give him Father Casas and Brother Giraux. To replace him at the Apostolic School, we would send the priest from the diocese of Nancy - I've sent you his letters - or else Brother Barral. We could perhaps send Father Maillard one or two scholastics as catechists, and in a few years they would be ordained. We're going to ask for a novena to be made in all our houses for this important matter.
In another letter, Father Chevalier asked:
Do you think Father Lavialle would be suitable as Apostolic Prefect? Whom would you nominate?
First known reaction
This came from Father Piperon writing to Father Jouet, February 18th:
The recommendation of Cardinal Simeoni has made a deep impression here. We're all praying very much about it. What a pity we can't take it up! If I were young, I'd ask for the privilege of being one of the first to go. Anyhow, we're going to pray and give very serious thought to this question about which I feel far from optimistic.
In the community in Rome, Father Jouet spoke of it only after receiving the first reply from Father Chevalier. At evening prayers on February 19th, he simply announced that the novena and the "Veni Sancte Spiritus" were requested by Father Superior for a very important decision to be made concerning the Church and the Society. It was only the next evening that he mentioned the offer of the Auckland Mission, which at the time had 16 priests, 40.000 Europeans, 20.000 indigenous people, with a total of 3.000 Catholics.
Father Joseph Durin, born 1836, diocesan priest in 1859, professed MSC 1865/1871, first superior of the house at Watertown NY since 1876.
Deacon Charles Giraux, professed MSC 1876, then teacher at St.-Gerand, ordained priest November, 1879 and sent to Rome.
Father Theodore Ariens, born 1823, priest of the diocese of Roermond in 1845, professed MSC 1875, first MSC religious priest from the Netherlands, but would leave from Watertown in this same year 1879.
Father Francois-Xavier Maillard, Swiss born 1851, professed MSC 1875, priest 1878, then bursar at Chezal~Benoit.
Father Vincente Casas de Celis, Spanish born 1851, professed MSC 1877, priest December 1878, then at Rome.
Deacon Pierre Barral, born 1855, professed MSC 1874, then at Rome where he would be ordained priest August, 1879.
Father Armand Lavialle, born 1840, priest of the diocese of St-Flour 1864, professed MSC 1875, then director of the day school of the Sacred Heart at Issoudun.
The Auckland Mission
It is difficult for me to verify these numbers, but the matter under discussion was, in fact, that of the diocese of Auckland, established in 1848. It had been under the jurisdiction of a priest from Lyons, J. B. Pompallier, who had withdrawn in 1868. In June, 1870, he was succeeded by Thomas William Croke, an Irishman who resigned in 1874 and became Archbishop of Cashel, Ireland.
From that time until 1879 the See of Auckland had remained vacant. In December, 1875, the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda had tried, unsuccessfully, to appoint a new Bishop. Following the Congresso of January, 1879, it was thought that the problem could be resolved by entrusting the diocese to a religious Congregation under the direction of a Vicar Apostolic, or provisionally, of a Prefect Apostolic; and it was at that point that a reply was pending from the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
Enthusiasm in the Apostolic School
The pupils of Chezal-Benoit were beside themselves with joy when their young director, Father Lanctin, returning from Issoudun on February 21st, told them the "great news":
Rome has offered us a vast mission in Oceania - rather should I say, it urged, begged, almost commanded us to accept it; for this important charge it wanted only the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. All the objections raised by Father Jouet about the realisation of this project were ruled out one by one by Cardinal Simeoni. The most compelling argument was the limited personnel available. Father Chevalier asks for earnest prayers throughout the Society, and in the Basilica a novena will be made in preparation for the Feast of St. Joseph, to seek enlightenment and the graces necessary to judge wisely in this matter, which can contribute so much to the glory of the Heart of Jesus and the salvation of these people.
Octave de Brinon who had just written again to Father Marie about his intention to enter the Seminary for Foreign Missions in Paris, was quick to tell him:
I was relying on the loving Providence of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. You can understand, Reverend Father, my joy on hearing this encouraging news. All these events confirm me more and more in my vocation for these distant lands.
Father Chevalier replied to him:
I am happy to see you so fired with enthusiasm for the missions in Australia, and I hope that one day you will be a worthy missionary of the Sacred Heart in these far off regions.
But who wills the end wills the means. An essential prelude to the missions is study, serious study, for the missionary often comes face to face with erroneous teaching which he must refute with sound arguments. You must then study hard at the Apostolic School to prepare for the apostolate. I hope that the prospect of the missions will spur you on to whole-hearted and fruitful application. Work! The Sacred Heart will bless your efforts and you will become an effective apostle. Good-bye, dear child; I bless you in C.J.
The vote of Father Jouet
In Rome Father Jouet was assembling the necessary information. But he sent an immediate reply to Father Chevalier's initial plans. He wrote on February 21st:
His Eminence Cardinal Simeoni advises me that, in order to gain time and expedite matters, while not yet binding the Society to a formal promise, I should write to him myself, saying that in substance the proposal suits you, but that you ask for time to study it, etc. etc. And so I drafted the enclosed letter.
Please look at it; add, prune, change and return to me so that I can rewrite it and send it to the Cardinal who wants it in early March for the meeting of Cardinals at Propaganda.
He would very much like to see us take this mission which would offer us the very great advantage of being master in our own house. He asks at least one person, to be in charge until we can send others; and if the proposal is approved, he wants us to accept as soon as possible, so that the lengthy formalities may be begun. If the proposal does not seem acceptable to us, we must decline without delay; in this case, the Cardinal would turn elsewhere and defer the question of a Mission for us.
I personally think that this matter is extremely important for us, and that we should examine it carefully before accepting and even more so before refusing; for it clearly points the way to great blessings for our Society.
Today when political upheaval is at our very doors, religious orders will emigrate to foreign lands, and many are already preparing for it. With our young scholastics soon, perhaps, to be called up for military service, we can save them only by sending them out of the country. If this mission were ours and the Vicar apostolic one of us, our name would carry weight in Rome and among Catholics when we wanted to find works for our young men and for former missionaries. So I vote that we do everything possible, even to inconveniencing ourselves, to give a favourable reply. We can still ask for the longest possible time to prepare.
There still remains the appointment to be made. You propose Fathers Durin, Maillard or Lavialle. The last two would not be accepted by the Sacred Congregation which naturally wants as Vicar apostolic an older missionary with more experience, etc. Having worked with great dedication for four or five years in America, with the added responsibility of being superior of the house in Watertown, Father Durin will, I believe, be very well received by the Cardinals of Propaganda. They will naturally make enquiries from the Bishop of Ogdensburg. I gladly give him my vote, convinced as I am that he has acquired more experience and ability from the difficulties and trials associated with the foundation in Watertown, than he could have from any other study or ministry.
I must say, however, that if either Father Guyot or Father Piperon were nominated Vicar Apostolic of the Mission, and were able to assume this responsibility, I would prefer it, as this is a very important office. If not, I vote for Father Durin.
As for the others, I have no objection to those you suggested. Fathers Giraux, Maillard or Lavialle. There would be no question of their leaving before next spring. If, as I hope, and as indeed we beg the Sacred Heart, this project prospers, our Society will be blessed and our numbers will increase.
The Oblates began to attract vocations only after accepting the very difficult missions of North America. At that time they quite often sent only one subject into unexplored regions. One of my school friends was sent there alone and remained a long time on his own, but with the grace of God, he has accomplished a great deal. In the beginning they did as best they could. The Congregation of Propaganda Fide does not insist that we take over this Mission in a year's time, but that we make it ours by recognising it now as belonging to the Society.
Father Jouet's projected reply
And so Father Jouet wrote to Cardinal Simeoni. We give his letter here, showing in italics, the deletions made by Father Piperon.
The proposal that your Eminence has been pleased to make to us, on behalf of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, concerning the Auckland Mission in Oceania, has greatly pleased Rev. Father Chevalier, Superior General of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, as also the whole Society.
Our very Reverend Superior advises me to express his very deep gratitude to your Eminence, while begging you kindly to tell us what time limit is allowed us to study such an important question before having to reach a final decision. In a matter like this, which affects in such great measure the good of souls and the future of the Society, we need time for prayer and counsel.
This Mission fully corresponds with one of the principal ends of our Institute, as also with the deepest desire of the majority of our Fathers, and especially of our young students. We would have liked three or four years to prepare for it, but your Eminence has indicated that the Mission has already suffered for several years and that, because of the fifteen priests still working in this region, a Vicar apostolic, drawn from our Society and accompanied by one or two of our missionaries, would satisfy for the moment. Therefore, Rev. Father Superior and his Council will make the necessary arrangements to make available the required two or three subjects, and to recommend them then to the Sacred Congregation. But even that will require time, as Rev. Father Superior wishes to be fully cognizant with the case before examining the matter with his Council.
I humbly beg your Eminence, then, to allow me to consult any documents in your archives which could instruct us on the nature of the country - its customs, problems, resources, the state of religion, its clergy, churches and their works. And I take the liberty of urging your Eminence to grant us the time needed for this study, so that we can give a responsible and considered reply.
With deepest respect...
Opinion of Father Piperon
February 28th, 1879:
I'm enclosing your letter to Cardinal Simeoni with some alterations. I have deleted a page; have a look so as to replace it.
Here are our reasons for making such changes. It was thought that the last part of your letter changed the first part too much and amounted to an acceptance. Would that we had someone ready for this Mission! If I were only thirty years of age, I would ask to go; even today, if we accepted the offer, I would be tempted to make myself available as companion to the confrere chosen. But you're very kind to say that I would be suitable. Look, we'll strike a bargain. You find a way for me to learn in six months everything I need to know, including a foreign language - that will call for a miracle! But if you succeed, I say 'yes' to everything. If not, well, 'no'. I think we would become the laughing-stock of all who know us if we acted on your suggestion in my regard. Let's pass over my poor self.
I pity you, dear Father, with all the difficulties, strain and worry caused by the Association in Rome. I must say, Our Lady is sending us many crosses. If she wants us to make the Sacred Heart loved in Auckland, she will have to resolve this problem and find us a subject for the Mission. We continue to pray for all these important intentions.
Father Chevalier added to this letter of Father Piperon:
Dear friend, Father Piperon and I would be in favour of the proposed Mission. I see great advantages in it. And so does Father Deidier. Write to Father Guyot and try to persuade him. Everything will work out. Suggest a few possible arrangements. Father Morisseau is opposed to it. I'm afraid that our refusal will not be well received by the Pope and Cardinals. If Cardinal Simeoni could mediate with the Pope to have the question of the Association settled at once in our favour, I think that all would accept the Mission, especially if they gave us two years' respite.
Good-bye; all yours,
Opinion of Father Morisseau
I'd like to see, as you do, the advantages in accepting the Mission of Auckland, but I confess that this is impossible. You say that in the case of radical political change we will find security there, but security so far away seems scarcely practical to me. And what will we do there, cut off from our own country and its resources? You see in this Mission a promise of blessings. I would gladly see it too, but I'd see a greater one in the observance of our Constitutions, which certainly do indicate the foreign missions as one of the ends of our Institute, but which enjoin, above all, the religious life and the formation of subjects. Now I ask you - have we really any religious life in the flurry of activities and preoccupations which beset us? Have we people qualified to form our young men? And when we have such great need of our already fragmented forces, we talk of scattering them even more. I know very well that the active life is to play a large part in our life, but it ought not to absorb it completely; we need some time for prayer and recollection. I feel that, if we're not receiving vocations as steadily as before, this is the reason - we're not really leading a religious life. I even said this to Father Superior this morning. Anyhow, I ask you - have we anyone available who is capable of shouldering the burden of such a Mission? Father Guyot will not accept. To take Father Piperon, we would have to give up the parish. Father Lavialle would not be endorsed by all. Father Durin would be better prepared as far as the language is concerned, but what a caustic disposition! You know him. And then how could we replace him? In a word, I can't help being apprehensive.
J. F. Morisseau
The same day, Father Chevalier confided to Father Jouet:
For the Mission in Auckland, Father Morisseau is very fearful about the financial outlay; he's convinced that we'll have to spend considerable amounts on food, travel and the works. Make enquiries and try to reassure him on this point. I rather think Father Deidier could be persuaded to accept the office of Vicar Apostolic. What do you think? If you agreed, then the obstacles would be removed.
(Father Xavier Deidier, of the diocese of Marseilles, born 1836, priest 1859, professed MSC 1878, at that time superior of the house of Arles.
The Cardinal's reply
On March 6th, Father Jouet wrote to Father Chevalier:
I sent the letter, with the changes indicated, to Cardinal Simeoni who read it carefully, seemed satisfied and set it aside to present it at the next assembly of Cardinals to take place, I think, next Monday. For the present his Eminence reduces the whole matter to this simple question: Can we take over with a Vicar apostolic? If so, we must present three subjects and, after making enquiries, the Sacred Congregation itself will choose the one whom they consider best suited. They want him to be between 45 and 60 years of age, or thereabouts. I answered, still in the spirit of the letter, telling of our desire to work in this Mission and asking time to prepare for it. His Eminence understands our position very well; he wanted to know the number of our houses, religious, students, works, etc.
And he assures us that there will still be available some apostolic vicariate, but that for this one, we must hurry. In short, the Cardinal will keep to the terms of your letter, and in a few days I will have a reply for you. So much for the official part. I didn't go beyond the limits indicated, but my personal opinion, which I cannot and indeed will not impose, is that we would do well to accept this Mission, if those chosen by the Council and the Sacred Congregation are willing to devote themselves to it. There is no room for false optimism; we are not being offered a bed of roses but a field to be cultivated, although it is less difficult than many others.
His Eminence told me that if this Mission is not accepted, we will soon be offered another in China or Cochin China. Have we the numbers for these? I don't think so. Before refusing Auckland, let us examine the situation thoroughly. I've asked for details and have been told that there are very few as this mission has been sadly neglected; it will be our task to rebuild it.
Given the large number of Europeans, the Mission could be financially self-supporting, if the Vicar Apostolic took charge of it - so the Cardinal says - but it lacks direction. Moreover, if our Vicar Apostolic did not know English, or was quite new to missionary work, yet had the qualities and dedication necessary, he would have no difficulty at the beginning in choosing a vicar general from one of the more senior priests of the Mission, and thus bring about a gradual transition to the new administration. All this is to be taken into account. Looking only at the apostolic aspect of this work, I see nobody better fitted than Father Guyot, if he could and would accept it. It would certainly be a considerable loss to the retreat work in France, but it would consolidate our work in the missions. When it comes to directing priests and diocesan priests at that, it needs someone with maturity, experience and other qualities, which I think are found in Father Guyot or Father Piperon.
You mention Father Deidier. I find him unfit for this work; he has neither the physical nor mental capacity and his early appointment as superior, just after his first vows, has caused too much comment at Marseilles for him to be appointed to this office. I don't give him my vote. The same applies to Father Lavialle and, needless to say, even more so to Father Maillard.
Father Guyot, Father Piperon or Father Durin - these are the only three whom I could recommend.
Father Jouet consults his friends in Rome
Encouragement was not lacking, nor was caution. Mons. Francesco Mercurelli, Secretary to the Royal Briefs, and a staunch ally in the delicate matter of the Association, spoke frankly; on March 8th, Father Jouet passed on his observations to Father Chevalier:
I have seen Mons. Mercurelli and consulted him in private about the Auckland Mission. His firm and well substantiated view is that, if it were an altogether new mission to be established, we should refuse; but if there are fifteen priests, and we can send at least one or two subjects, we should accept.
One of the senior and most experienced men on the Mission will carry on his work as previously, and during this time, our men will become acclimatised, and learn the language; and new subjects can be sent to help. Mons. Mercurelli offers his advice with great assurance, and he suggests only what he believes to be the best. I pass it on to you then just as it is.
Father Chevalier was laconic in his reply to this new argument:
If only Mons. Mercurelli could convince Father Guyot about the Mission! Everything would be all right, but...
The uncompromising Father Guyot
He was still piqued at having been constrained to vote in favour of the purchase of the church of St. James in Rome. He complained incessantly that matters were settled without his knowledge - even though he refused to attend the Council meetings! He was prudent and obstinate. If Father Jouet was the accelerator, Father Guyot was often the brake. It was difficult for Father Chevalier to pursue his plans, especially as Fathers Piperon and Morisseau were too easily daunted. What were the actual reasons for the inveterate opposition of Father Guyot? We will leave Father Chevalier to tell something of it, in his letter to Father Jouet on March 16th:
I believe that our confreres want this Mission - Aries and Chezal-Benoit very much so - but we will have very strong opposition from Father Guyot and good Father Morisseau, neither of whom want it on any terms.
I've already told you of the threats of our dear confrere at St-Gerand. Father Piperon wrote asking him to come to Issoudun next week to deal with this important matter in Council.
In his reply Father Guyot disclosed the root of his opposition; he has no confidence in you as an administrator, and even less in me. He flatly declares that whenever I make a proposal in Council, he wonders whether, to arrive at the truth, he should not take the opposite view. So there he is!
He alone is infallible; he alone has the right to enforce his ideas, because he sees better than others; because he's always right. Here are his own words; you can judge for yourself.
"I am completely bewildered at Father Superior's lack of candour in matters of administration. My affection for him is sorely tested by lack of confidence. Matters too numerous to mention forbid me from hoping that a momentary break can remedy the ill. I withstood all that I heard for six or seven years; I've not been able to do so with all that has been happening for several years under my very eyes.
I feel that I shall never be able to contribute as I should to any discussion as long as I have to wonder if I should not believe something is black when I'm told it's white..."
What are these matters? I should like to know. No doubt the church of St. James ranks high on the list. So you see, my dear friend, how I'm judged and appreciated after twenty-five years of dedication, sacrifice and bitter sorrows of every kind. The foundation of our little Society; the approbation of our Constitutions; the building of our church; of our house; the formation of the Association of Our Lady; the great wave of confidence which has flowed towards Issoudun; the establishment of our novitiate; of the Apostolic school; of our scholasticate in Rome, etc. - all free from debt and with 100.000 francs in State investments: that counts for nothing. Anyone would think that I've left everything in ruins. Nothing could exceed this for arrogance and contempt. I'm no longer surprised at the continual opposition of this well-loved confrere. I endure it all in silence; I'm not justifying myself. I place all my bitterness at the foot of the Cross, on which I deserve to be crucified a thousand times for my sins. I offer them to God for the success of our works and I'm happy to say:
Bonum mihi, Domine, quia humiliasti me.
Good-bye, dear good Father; all yours in C.J.
Another comment seems appropriate here. From the time of his association with Issoudun, Father Guyot had been judged, imprudently perhaps, to be the possible heir to the works of Father Chevalier. In 1869, he was elected third assistant; while parish priest of St. Paul at Montlucon, he reluctantly accepted the responsibility of the novitiate. In 1873, having already alienated the Third Order of the Sacred Heart at Montlucon, he had to submit to the transfer of the parish to a diocesan priest, and move the novitiate to St.-Gerand. In 1875, against the wishes of Father Chevalier, he resigned his position in the novitiate, entrusting it to a young professed, Father Ramot, while he remained superior of the house, where he rarely lived. In February, 1876, anticipating a grave turn of events within France, the General Council designated Father Jouet as the first person to succeed the General, if the latter were prevented from exercising his office. The dissatisfaction of Father Guyot would only worsen and become one of the principal forces leading to the crisis which was to shake the Society some twenty years later. Let us say, too, that early as 1869 the general administration was shared by members already priests on entering the Institute - quite distinct personalities, already marked by personal talents and disappointments, and without any uniform religious training. Hence the lack of a close collaboration with a resolute Founder whose legitimate plans were little understood by one or another.
Knowing the capabilities and the limitations of his men, the Founder had to accept them as they were, brushing aside obstacles, pursuing his ends despite everything, preferring to rely on the one who espoused his ideas, namely the youngest, Father Jouet. A person like Father Guyot, unyielding and quick to take offence, could not possess in himself, or inspire in others the desired moderation.
The Third Order of the Sacred Heart, joined to our Society from 1864 to 1874; president Miss Louise-Therese de Montaignac at Montlucon. Fr. Guyot, parish priest, had been appointed director by Fr. Chevalier.
Consultation of the communities
In the face of the dilemma brought about by the proposal of the Auckland Mission, Father Chevalier, seeing the interests of his Society at stake, judged it opportune to ask the communities for more than prayers. He sent to each superior the following request:
Since our novena ends on the Feast of St. Joseph, will you kindly let me know the decision of your Council regarding the following:
(1) Can the Society accept this Mission? If so, give reasons why, and the advantages in so doing.
(2) Indicate those able to be nominated as Vicar Apostolic, so that the Holy See may choose.
(3) Say how we may replace the person chosen.
The request was sent also to Fathers Guyot and Jouet. The replies were to be sent back, clearly indicating the private nature of their contents. The one from Arles is missing, but we already know that Father Deidier was in favour.
Watertown, Father Durin
Even before receiving the last request, Father Durin had given his first impression, on March 6th. The novena would be made. Speaking of his hopes for the work in America, whose importance he also upheld in the light of possible difficulties in France, he added:
To me the proposal of Propaganda seems providential; the missions are the salvation of religious societies, and the more dedication they demand the more blessing they will bring. It will win for us the sympathy of the American bishops, who will take a little more notice of us when they see us placed under the protection of Propaganda. Without any hesitation I ask to be counted among those to share the burden of this mission, provided you were not so unkind as to put me in charge. If you only knew the horror I now have of responsibility.
Writing to Father Jouet on March l0th, Father Durin is more specific:
If I have any say in the matter of the Auckland Mission, I think that, the principle of the foreign missions being admitted (and they are for us a condition sine qua non), we need not even debate the question. You call us - here we are! We're nothing, but it's your business if you wish to use this nothing.
Chezal-Benoit, Father Lanctin
The youngest superior, 24 years of age, replied on March 20th:
We have made the novena and, according to your wish, Father Maillard, Father Berthon and I have held a Council meeting. Here is what we think: Is it necessary to accept the mission?
Reply: It is necessary, if we can, firstly because it would gain the respect of Rome; secondly, because it would make our Society better known and so attract more subjects. The advantages are boundless, but can we accept? We don't think so; subjects are lacking; our various houses are calling out for help and we cannot satisfy them. To take our Fathers for this new foundation would mean the disintegration of the Society. The numbers do not allow it, and above all, for such an important undertaking we could send only those who are, so to say, the mainstay of the Congregation. With this support removed, what would become of the building? We have concluded that the mission is impossible for us. However, supposing we accepted the mission, whom could we send? Father Piperon and Father Guyot seem to us the only ones to have the necessary experience, dedication and health. We have named - with some degree of doubt - Fathers Ariens and Marie. We realise our lack of experience in such important matters. We feel honoured in being asked an opinion, as we don't deserve it. We have obeyed. Yours...
Novitiate of Saint-Gerand, Father Ramot
The Master of Novices, 31 years of age, also replied on March 20th, the superior Guyot being absent:
It seems to me that we must make all possible sacrifices to accept the Auckland Mission, firstly because we will be obeying Rome which is so pressing in its request, and obedience always has its reward; secondly, to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of those who will come to us. Our name as Missionaries of the Sacred Heart must attract many vocations for the overseas missions. If the postulants cannot reasonably hope to follow this calling, there will be real unrest; it is always painful to leave a novitiate and apply elsewhere. If they are professed, there will remain a certain regret which can to some extent disturb their religious life. The example of Brother G must be a warning to us. Then again I feel that actually having missions will be a source of blessings for us.
Second Question: how are we to solve the problem of selecting personnel? I fully appreciate the difficulty here, but I think it can be resolved. Father Jouet and Father Piperon seem the only ones capable of being Vicar Apostolic and of them I would choose Father Piperon, because he seems less difficult to replace. Father Guyot would be parish priest of Issoudun, except that, because of his aged parents, he would have to come and spend two or three days here every three weeks, as he does now. Nothing would be changed.
We would try to give Father Piperon three other priests - one to move about with him, and the others to stay at the station. Father Navarre20 seems suitable? He's mature, holy and zealous. He could be Vicar General. Brother Giraux, when ordained, would be the second. I have faith in his vocation. As the third, I would suggest a certain Father whose great attraction for the foreign missions has been known to me for many years; he would have long since gone to the Seminary for Foreign Missions if he had not feared the isolation of the missions, and if God, as if to hold him back, had not allowed him to suffer unspeakable distress of mind and heart; his dispositions remain the same but he has bound himself to neither seek nor refuse anything. He is simply indicating his willingness now, so that Rev. Father Superior may know and use him as he wishes. If he were sent, this Father would do all he could to be useful on the mission. We must lay down in principle that a house is available where young missionaries could complete their studies and religious formation. This Father would be of service doing there what he now does at Saint-Gerand. Sunt qui praedicant?
Failing this, we could perhaps find another person to make up the trio. To fill all these spaces, Father Chatelat would replace Father Navarre; he is devout and unassuming and can be fairly good as a preacher. Father Deidier ought to be called on to take charge of the Novitiate. With his many virtues and talents he would be a worthy representative of the Society, and being of mature age, he would inspire confidence. The house of Aries could, I think, be managed by the three good Fathers - Hamel, Albert and Chatelat - at least for the time being; as now, one or two brothers would complete the community. So much for the priests.
I would say now that three brothers should be sent to give more stability to the group. Brother Verius seems to be a man of great sacrifice and real virtue; Brother Ceyssat could become a catechist, that is if he cannot be a priest; perhaps Brother Schultz could follow as a lay-brother. Brother Hartzer (Fd.) is a possibility - although outwardly immature, he's serious at heart. I forgot to say that Father Maillard or Father Casas could become the Socius in the novitiate. That, Reverend Father, is what I see to be the best and least difficult. May the Heart of Jesus, Our Lady and Saint Joseph enlighten those who have to make the decision, so that all may be for the glory of the Sacred Heart and the good of the Society.
The final word of Father Guyot
The superior of St.-Gerand also wrote on March 20th from St. Pourcain, firstly to Father Chevalier, then to Father Jouet:
Very Reverend Father,
As Father Piperon did not insist on my going to Issoudun, I am setting down, as promised, my opinion on the Auckland affair, now that the prescribed novena is finished. I am opposed to the plan of his Eminence Cardinal Simeoni, firstly, because we have not the required personnel; I see only three suitable for the episcopate - yourself, Father Piperon and Father Jouet - and the three of you are indispensable where you are; we could not dream of anyone else, without failing in the respect we owe the Church, and inviting the ridicule of those who know our Congregation; secondly, if we take one step, we must continue, but if the one put in charge of this mission happened to die or admit defeat, we would find ourselves in some quandary, and it could well be said of our poor Institute: Coepit aedificare et non potuit consumare. To me these two reasons seem decisive; I spare you any more. Let us just have the courage to submit them clearly and humbly to the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda. It is certainly not his intention to ask the impossible and he could not hold it against us if we displayed some prudence. In the face of our explanations, he will give the reply that Cardinal Monaco gave to Father Piperon and me concerning St. James: My friends, the Holy See has no intention of asking what you cannot do.
I am not greatly concerned at the prospect of a persecution which would oblige us to leave France; should it happen and divine Providence wish our Society to survive, a way will surely be opened to us. There are many dioceses in America and elsewhere where the bishops would be happy to receive us, either to live our religious life in community, or to be engaged in the works of the diocese.
That, very Reverend Father, is what I think before God, on the question to be resolved. With humble and filial respect in Corde Jesu.
To Father Jouet, who had tried to appease him, Father Guyot spoke firstly of his attitude to the members of the Council:
My last letter was dictated by my affectionate confidence in you and by a sincere wish to be of use to our Society. With the grace of God, I continue in these dispositions and hope to do so always. Receiving nothing very definite in your reply, allow me to try once more to be specific about what is for us a painful subject. I agree first of all with you:
1. that nobody has the right to impose his personal opinion on the Council, and I am ready to accept impartial decisions;
2. that all must be totally dedicated to the good of the Institute in general and of each member in particular;
3. that we owe the deepest respect and most filial attachment to the person and authority of our very reverend Father Superior.
I also find it necessary to accept:
1. that honesty and truth must be paramount in all the information given to the members of the Council;
2. that, for ten years, the Council has often been seriously misled;
3. that this manner of acting can only be disastrous to our Society;
4. that this is the sole cause of our lack of harmony;
5. that if, despite all warnings, the situation does not improve, there will be an obligation in conscience to bring it to the notice of the Holy See...
Now dear Father, I can assure you that nothing in the world makes me suffer more than the situation regarding our very reverend Father Superior. I still love him with all my heart, and my life will remain marred until I can again trust him implicitly, as I did until a number of events led me to be more circumspect. I ask one thing only - sincerity.
You can be quite sure that I am anxious to see the matter of the Association settled in a way that will bring honour to the Sacred Heart and blessings to our Society. On the other hand, I am pained at not sharing your views on the Auckland Mission. Today I wrote to the Council expressing my dissent. Those fit for the episcopate are indispensable; personally, I see only very Reverend Father Superior, Father Piperon and you, yourself.
Father Guyot then re-iterated the reasons already given to Father Chevalier in this regard and concluded:
You are quite free to use this letter as you judge proper, in the interests of our dear Society. With longstanding and brotherly affection in C.J.
Father Chevalier optimistic
The first replies to the consultation allowed the Founder to form his own opinion on the thinking of his little Society. On March 23rd he wrote to Father Jouet:
The solution to the Auckland Mission is very good for the moment. We will send an official reply in a few days telling you very probably that in principle we accept this mission as our own. The reply from Watertown is the only one still to come. Aries and St.-Gerand (except for Father Guyot) are very much in favour of an immediate acceptance. Father Ramot offers some excellent arrangements. I have referred the matter to the Archbishop of Bourges. Here is his reply:
It seems very difficult to decline the offer of the Holy See. It is a mark of confidence and will be of benefit in the future. But a little time is needed.
The three names suggested (they are those you have proposed) seem suitable. I hope that the matter is settled satisfactorily, although at the moment there are serious difficulties.
There was a note of optimism but still uncertainty. The reply to Propaganda was still to be prepared. But they had prayed and Providence would show the way.
Dramatic turn of events
When Rome is in a hurry, anything can be expected. Even before receiving the letter of March 23rd from Issoudun, Father Jouet had written another dated March 17th, and therefore before the Feast of St. Joseph. The letters crossed:
The general assembly of the Cardinals of Propaganda, after careful consideration of our letter - the first - which showed at the one time, good will and our present powerlessness, has suggested appointing to this mission a bishop of advanced years. It has recommended Archbishop Steins of Bostra in partibus infidelium, former Vicar Apostolic of West Bengal, and presently, it is said, confessor to the Ladies of the Sacred Heart in Paris; he was born on July 1st, 1810. He will be contacted but will he accept? If he does, then the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda proposes one of two things. On the one hand, we would like to prepare for the Auckland Mission, and in this case, we could send one, two or more missionaries as soon as we wish to begin their apostolic ministry; and through the Cardinal Prefect, the Sacred Congregation would give us an official written assurance of the succession of the Apostolic Vicariate with episcopal status...But this will be only if we wish it. If, on the other hand, Auckland does not suit us and we prefer to wait, or have some other region, our wishes can be met. For missionaries are few in number and the needs are growing. For the most part the Apostolic Vicariates are too extensive and it is desirable to divide many of them and create new ones. Among other things he said that if we preferred China, this could be easily arranged. This is a very accurate summary of what Cardinal Simeoni told me when he sent for me to explain the situation. Nothing of what I have just said to you must be divulged. The appointment of Archbishop Steins is confidential; out of kindness the Cardinal has told me and promised to keep me informed of the Archbishop's reply.
This tactful and frank approach on the part of Propaganda is very helpful. His Eminence asked me to convey to you his best wishes and assurance of his keen interest in our Congregation, of which the Cardinal Vicar, Monaco La Valletta, has spoken so well.
20 Father Andre Navarre, born 1836, ordained priest at Bourges 1872, professed MSC 1878; at that time at the house of Aries.
Arch. Walter Steins S.J. born Amsterdam NL 1810, Arch. Bombay and Poona 1861; Vicar apostolic of West Bengal, Calcutta, 1867; Bishop of Auckland, April 25th , 1879; died Sydney, September 7th, 1880.
The curtain falls
We have no record of the Acts of the Council. The correspondence remaining to us treats only of the successful outcome of the business of the Association; of the decree, signed April 26th, 1879, conferring on the Society the direction of the world-wide Archconfraternity of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart; of the next trip to Rome by Father Chevalier for the opening in May of the first part of the Church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Piazza Navona.
On the occasion of his Feast, transferred to April 17th, Father Jules Chevalier, replying to the good wishes of the Apostolic School present at Issoudun, passed on this good news from Rome. "He spoke to us also of the Mission of Oceania", wrote the most senior pupil at that time. Yes, the curtain was failing. It was only the end of the first Act.
Two years later
We move on some two years; there was the General Chapter of September, 1879, and, above all, there was the anti-religious outburst of 1880; the closing of our houses in France, and exile for the majority of our men. Refuge was found in Holland, Spain, Watertown, Rome.
Guardian of the birthplace in Issoudun, separated from his assistants and pained by what was happening, Father Founder nevertheless remained confident. He had already said in 1862:
I have always believed that the good God had loving designs on our little House. The full fury of Hell has broken loose on this little mustard seed. Humanly speaking, it ought to have been uprooted a hundred times under such dire attacks. But, no. Made fruitful and sustained by the Heart of Jesus, it has weathered every storm.
This dispersal of his sons throughout different countries turned his thoughts to yet more distant lands, as possible fields for the realisation of one of the ends of his little Society: To carry the knowledge and love of the Sacred Heart and of Our Lady to peoples not yet evangelised.
With these changed circumstances, he was more than ever convinced that the time was close at hand.
The curtain rises
January, 1881, was cold and bleak. In the presbytery of St. Cyr at Issoudun the newcomers were settled; work was organised in the office of the Association of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, until recently close by the Basilica, which had been under seal since November, 1880. Many cares beset Father Founder; he had counted on the new Archbishop of Bourges to maintain Chezal-Benoit as a private school, leaving there what remained of the Apostolic School, etc. Of Archbishop Marchal, Father Chevalier wrote to Father Jouet:
He has completely dropped us. He treats us like the Jesuits, Franciscans and Redemptorists in his diocese. He makes light of his promises regarding both our Chapel - although he is the lessee - and Chezal-Benoit. He's made no protest on behalf of the communities expelled. At Bourges there's great dissatisfaction; he is seen as a government supporter, liberal and unsympathetic to the Congregations. His plan was to disband us and absorb us into his clergy. Fortunately the Sacred Heart has thwarted him in this. (January 4th, 1881)
Moreover, the anti-clerical Municipality of Issoudun was preparing a petition to have 'Father Chevalier replaced by a priest of the secular clergy'.
On January 23rd, the Founder was in Bourges to attend the funeral of the first benefactor of our Congregation, Father Ferdinand de Champgrand: "Pray and have prayers said! It is to him, after God, that we owe our Institute dedicated to the Sacred Heart."
On January 24th, plagued by these many cares and sorrows, he received his assistant, Father Guyot, who had come to make a retreat in the vicinity of the Basilica. At this time, too, he felt the immediate need to draw up his Testament.
Owing to the political situation, the rabat of the secular clergy was worn at St. Cyr; but in spite of everything, good humour was still dominant during community recreations. A newspaper item had suddenly revived the memory of the Auckland Mission and on February 9th, Pierre Barral wrote to his brother, a scholastic in Rome:
...Nothing new at Issoudun; a short while ago at midday recreation we held a solemn council with solemn decisions. Father Superior read us an article from the Univers announcing the death of Bishop Steins of the Auckland Islands; he named Father Heriault as his successor, and asked him to choose his companions. Here is his selection; they are as reliable and well-founded as those formerly made by Father Miniot and Co. at Tivoli during our evening recreations (Father Carriere remembers them). And so, Father Heriault2 has named your brother Vicar general with right of succession (I haven't yet given my consent); Father Navarre, superior of the major seminary; Father Letonnelier, grand master of ceremonies; Father Giraux, bursar, chief treasurer and paymaster; Father Chatelat, chief missionary and protonotary; Father Chappel, chief architect of all building projects; and finally, as occasion demands, Father Bizeuil has the special charge of delivering striking arguments whether before the indigenous or the protestants. The other appointments haven't yet been made - they depend on my consent or refusal. It's very important, and so I must stop now and think seriously whether I should accept the future direction of the diocese of Auckland. In the meantime, I'm off to work on my sermon on the divinity of Our Lord.
2 CLAUDE HIRIAULT, first assistant, whom Father Chevalier very often teased.
In a more serious vein, Father Chevalier wrote two days later to Father Jouet:
According to the Univers, Bishop Steins of the Auckland Islands has died. Do you think this mission would be offered to us again? Is there really any advantage in it?
Father Navarre assures me that Father Deidier would gladly go - and I believe it; also Father Navarre himself, Father Giraux and two scholastics. What do you think?
I have lost the information you had sent me about these islands...What is the population, including both foreigners and indigenous? Are there still any who practice idolatry? This would delight etc.etc.
Since the expulsions, Father Deidier had left Arles to become superior of the new house in Barcelona; he had arrived there with two scholastics, Brothers Verjus and W. Neenan, who were continuing their studies at the seminary; as it happened, on the very day that Father Chevalier wrote his letter - February 11th - Verjus noted in his Journal:
The Aucklands are at hand! My desire is beginning to bear fruit! My studies are going well. Father Superior (Deidier) assures me that before long there will be someone going to these distant Islands; on this condition only will the Society flourish; and to crown everything, they're talking of my promotion to Holy Orders.
Then on February 15th:
I just heard some wonderful news this evening. The good Bishop of Auckland has died and at Issoudun they're thinking of someone for the "mission portfolio." It will be Father Superior (Deidier) or Father Marie! Both want to take me! O my God, that would be too great a happiness.
Father Jouet consults Rome
Without delay he asked for an audience with Cardinal Simeoni. At the presbytery in Issoudun, the only regular community remaining in France, they anxiously awaited news from Father Jouet; at recreation Father Chevalier passed on each piece as it arrived. It was thought that the Auckland Mission, or yet some other, would be offered to the Society, and Father Chevalier believed that this would be "a source of blessing for the Society." Circumstances seemed to be favouring us in this direction; for those eligible, this could also be a timely means of avoiding French military service (evening of February 22nd).
At recreation on the 26th, Father Chevalier had fresh news from Rome:
Since twelve Benedictines went to the Auckland Islands with Bishop Steins, it is upon these priests that the Mission devolves. Cardinal Simeoni is offering us New Guinea, a country twice the size of France and until now very little explored; for a long time it has been without a Vicar Apostolic, having had only two priests with very limited powers; these left some time ago.
Such particulars were still rather vague for the impatient group gathered around the Founder. Eventually they would learn that this New Guinea, proposed as the first apostolic objective of our young and struggling Society, was part of the vast vicariate of Melanesia, set up in 1844, but deprived of recognised Catholic missionaries since the withdrawal, in 1855, of the Italians of the Institute for the Foreign Missions of Milan (M.E.M.); these had taken over from the Marists on the Island of Woodlark in 1852.
From 1879 to 1881, several incontestable circumstances paved the way for the first dispatch of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart to New Guinea. There was the initiative of the Italian priest, Giovanni Cani, a missionary in Queensland, in presenting to Propaganda the advisability, even the urgency, of founding a Catholic mission in New Guinea, and commencing on the Papuan coast. Then there was the extraordinary adventure in New France of the Marquis de Rays, who claimed to be creating a colonial empire in Oceania - the Free Colony of Port-Breton - offering attractive conditions to any prospective ship's chaplain and missionary in his Colony.
His administration had found in Barcelona a port suitable for departing emigrants; in Barcelona, too, a small MSC community had been established in November, 1880, and at once two French Fathers had launched into pastoral work among their compatriots waiting to embark for Oceania.
These various circumstances deserve some further amplification.
Don Giovanni Cani
Born in 1834 at Castel Bolognese, in the diocese of Imola, this priest worked in the Apostolic Vicariate of Queensland, established in 1876. He soon became interested in New Guinea. In 1879 he went to Rome and submitted to Propaganda a personal report, along with those of explorers, notably the magistrate H.M. Chester, whose work he translated into Italian. In his own statement dated at Rome, April 26th, 1879, and addressed to Cardinal Simeoni, Cani explained:
For several years I have carefully followed news and movements concerning New Guinea in the hope of finding there a promising site for a Mission.
Being recently in the Vicariate of Queensland, I had the good fortune to obtain very valuable information from people who have inspected a favourable locality. The most significant news came from a Catholic who had remained ill in a forest in New Guinea; he had fallen among a tribe from whom he received a great deal of assistance. These people were so spontaneous in their gifts of food, that he could state uniquivocally that he would be equally as happy living among these people as among Europeans; and he offered to accompany me as guide if I were prompted to go and visit them.
Cani continued his account with ample details about the island, its inhabitants, their manners and practices, the villages and native huts, the tools, crops, food, their craftsmanship, weapons and equipment for hunting and fishing. Even if one could demonstrate instances of cannibalism, he guaranteed that the people in general were extremely hospitable; he cited concrete evidence given by explorers and Protestant missionaries.
He outlined the work of Protestant missionaries, emphasising their care in forming catechists and their growing influence among the indigenous people because of their energetic and persevering apostolate. He concluded by again stressing the success of these missionaries, who had found in the Papuans great openness to the Gospel. And so Father Cani was very optimistic regarding the prospects of a Catholic Mission in New Guinea. He drew on the witness of mine workers, protestant and catholic, on their return from New Guinea to Queensland. These were greatly surprised at the absence of Catholic missionaries on this large island and urged him to look into the matter. Cani did not close his eyes to the difficulties facing Catholic missionaries, given the ever growing influence of protestant missionaries and insisted on the urgency of a Catholic foundation. Another reason for such necessity was the ever more frequent arrival of Europeans from Australia; their lack of tact could antagonise and even incite the people to retaliate. And Cani stated:
It is with these likely dangers in mind, together with the importance of the undertaking that I decided to address Propaganda myself, as soon as I was assured of the conditions and good qualities of the Papuans.
For these reasons and for the spiritual welfare of these poor people, there is need for an immediate missionary undertaking, if such is possible. At least some one ought to begin exploring the places to find out all that could be advantageous, so as to present to the Congregation of Propaganda more exact details and more convincing proof, and thus justify a hope of success for the Catholic Missions.
Even if nothing else were achieved this year beyond learning more of the capabilities and dispositions of the Papuans, gaining their esteem and encouraging some to go to Australia for instruction in religion and in various trades, in order to instruct their own people, this would be very beneficial.
To his statement Cani added his Italian translation of the official Report of the magistrate of Thursday Island, H. M. Chester, who had been commissioned by the Secretary of the Colony of Queensland to put an exploratory expedition in New Guinea, with a view to advise the government on the conditions of the island and its inhabitants. Cani's statement was written in April, 1879, and he planned to return to Australia on May 23rd or June 6th; however, Cardinal Simeoni actively encouraged him to undertake for himself the recommended voyage along the coasts of New Guinea.
To help him, the Cardinal wrote on June 12th, 1879, to the central Council of the Propagation of the Faith in Lyons, asking for a further allocation to Dr. Giovanni Cani of Cooktown, who had just been entrusted with the Apostolic Vicariate of Queensland and given the provisional title of Pro-Vicar. To support his request, he disclosed that Cani, along with another missionary from Queensland, had been authorised to search for a suitable site in New Guinea for a Catholic mission – hence the request for a subsidy, not only for Queensland, but for New Guinea.
The Cardinal even advanced the possibility of separating New Guinea from the Apostolic Vicariate of Melanesia and Micronesia.
We will have to return to the part played by Cani when referring to his letters to Cardinal Simeoni in May and June, 1881, and therefore after his voyage along the coast of New Guinea near Yule Island.
The preceding justifies the insistence of the Cardinal when he proposed the Mission of New Guinea to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
Free Colony of Port-Breton
This is a development, or rather "mirage", which historians are pleased to forget. However, the utopian project of the Breton, Charles de Breil, Marquis de Rays, was to occasion oddly enough the first expedition of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart to the former Vicariates of Melanesia and Micronesia. This plan of a colonial empire under the name of New France or the Free Colony of Port-Breton, was conceived in the whimsical mind of the Marquis, in the early years of the Third Republic, after the failure to restore the monarchy in France. He had no difficulty in finding homesick emigrants to join him, and the first convoy left Flessingue, Netherlands, in September, 1879, aboard the Chandernagor. The ninety passengers had no inkling of the wretched end awaiting them, and in Barcelona, where the Marquis had taken refuge, a second group was preparing to follow. As the administration of the Free Colony constantly reaffirmed the founder's intention that the enterprise was above all else a Christian-Catholic work (cf. newspaper La Nouvelle France, No. l, 15th June, 1879), it thought it advisable to write directly to the Prefect of Propaganda to secure chaplains to accompany the convoys, as well as missionaries for the Colony. On October l0th, 1879, the following letter was sent from Le Havre to Cardinal Simeoni.
FREE COLONY OF PORT BRETON
Bureau du Havre
46, Rue des pincettes
Le Havre, l0th October, 1879
To His Eminence
The Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, Rome
In New Ireland, New Britain and the Solomon Islands, we are founding a free Colony; a sailing ship left Europe a month ago and in a fortnight we are sending also a steam ship. Unfortunately we were unable to have chaplains aboard the first ship, but we are most anxious that some leave on the steam ship.
We applied to the Marists, who formerly had vicariates including the abovenamed islands, then to the Seminary for Foreign Missions of Milan, who later had these vicariates; we have received replies, copies of which I beg leave to send you.
The islands where we are going to found our Colony are not then under the jurisdiction of any apostolic Vicariate. And so we ask your Eminence to kindly give us some missionaries, including at least one who speaks French, who could be chaplain to our settlement.
They would enjoy the following benefits:
1. Free transport to the Colony;
2. In the Colony, free food and lodging; rank of field officer;
3. Transport facilities to evangelise the different parts of the islands;
4. A temporary chapel erected on the arrival of the first ship;
5. A church built as soon as possible;
6. Officer's share in the distribution of the net products of agriculture and fisheries;
7. Facilities for schools and grants of land.
If it is not possible, your Eminence, to give us missionaries to leave on the steam ship, we beg the necessary faculties for the priests who might be appointed by their bishops as chaplains; these would be subject to the Vicar apostolic, when one was named.
Member of the Colonial Council of the Colony of Port-Breton.
To this letter were attached the replies from Father Poupinel, general assistant of the Society of Mary, Lyons, September 21st, 1879, and from Mons. Giuseppe Marinoni, Superior of the Seminary for Foreign Missions in Milan, September 24, 1879, both politely acknowledging their inability to guarantee chaplains and missionaries for this 'New France' in Oceania.
Despite the guarded reply of Propaganda, two priests of the Irish College in Rome were appointed to accompany the second expedition, leaving on the Genil, in March, 1880. However, made wary by the obstacles put in the way of the expeditions by police and diplomatic officials, these withdrew at the last minute. A year later, the Marquis de Rays alluded to it in one of his letters to Father Chevalier:
You are also right, reverend Father, in speaking of the choice of missionaries. You are probably aware of the crushing blow we sustained in Barcelona last year, on account of two Irish missionaries sent to us by Propaganda. If such things happened to us again, we could never manage to establish a Christian colony in New France, but God will not permit that.
This incident would have added to the reticence of Propaganda. Another request was made in September, 1880, by the Consul General of New France in Belgium, who also took stock of the situation about three months before the arrival in Barcelona of the first MSC community.
CONSULATE GENERAL OF NEW FRANCE
Free Colony of Port-Breton,
Brussels, Rue de Beriot, 25
September 12th, 1880
To His Eminence Cardinal Simeoni
Prefect of Propaganda, Rome
On 9th August last it was my pleasure to write to you about Father Richard, who was to go as a missionary to the Christian Colony of Port-Breton (Oceania). Having received no reply to my letter, we do not know what we must still do to ensure the ministry of a priest aboard the ship which leaves at the end of this month; perhaps my correspondence has not arrived. Prompted by this double consideration, I take the liberty to forward to Your Eminence a copy of the letter sent; it reads thus:
The fourth ship to leave for the Christian Colony of Port-Breton will set sail from Antwerp during the month of September. Several Belgian families will leave for this Colony. As yet, only one Breton priest has left to cater for the spiritual needs of the people.
The ship, carrying some Belgians, will arrive at a point remote from the centre where Father Lannuzel, this first missionary, will work. Not wanting to be deprived of spiritual help, our settlers found a willing helper in Father Richard of the Capuchin Order in Mons, Belgium. As a condition of his acceptance, he begs me to convey a request to the authorities in Rome, letting it be clearly understood that he wishes to remain a member of his Order; unwilling to carry out his missionary work in isolation, he asks that a convent of his Order be established on this coast as soon as possible. While awaiting the other Fathers of his Order, he will attend especially to the needs of the Belgians, while not neglecting the evangelisation of the local people.
With the plenary powers granted me by the Marquis de Rays, founder and director of the Colony, I am authorised to approach you concerning the religious position of these Belgians and to assure you that any priests attracted to the Colony will enjoy our protection and support.
If then, as I now request through you, the Capuchin Fathers are empowered to establish a Mission in New France, we will give them, not only the necessary lands, but also free passage and reimburse expenses incurred in making a foundation. As soon as this authorisation is obtained, Father Richard will launch an appeal to the Catholics of Belgium to contribute to his needs. We will collaborate with him and are convinced of a successful outcome.
The numbers of Belgians wanting to leave is growing each day and, with this official sanction, it will increase yet more. The little time left before the departure impels me to seek an immediate settlement of this matter.
Allow me to say that, in view of the dispersion of the priests of the Society of Jesus in France, the Marquis de Rays would be very happy to obtain from the Holy Father the help of these holy, dedicated and intelligent servants of Religion.
The islands of New France are numerous enough to give an independent sphere of action to various religious orders. The Marquis would welcome a move from His Holiness to confide the Apostolic Vicariate of Melanesia to the Fathers of the Society of Jesus. He would protect them and assist them in every possible way to become established; he would gladly put them in charge of the public institutions of New France, of the national Academy and of public instruction; he would assign to them the missions among the indigenous tribes; they would have the protection afforded to government officers when dealing with the chiefs and kings of the neighbouring islands.
A better judge than we are in religious matters, Your Eminence will know how to turn these considerations to good account, for the Church and the spread of the Catholic faith. I can assure you that, if an appeal were made to the Society of Jesus in Belgium, there would be some eager to dedicate themselves to this work of evangelisation - with even greater reason, such men would be found in France.
In the hope that Your Eminence will honour me with a favourable reply,
With deep respect and humble submission
Consul General of New France in Belgium
Dr. P. de Groote
In summary on the back of this request, the Secretary of Propaganda referred to the departure of "two Capuchins", to whom were accorded the faculties necessary for parish ministry in these regions of Oceania, as well as other faculties which could be analogous to those granted to the military chaplains of Fernando Po. "Reply sent with the granting of faculties ad biennium for two missionaries, September 25th, 1880."
The two in question were Father Rene Lannuzel and the Capuchin, Father Richard; only the first would embark. The mistake in writing "two Capuchins" would be noticed by Lannuzel himself, who pointed out to Propaganda that he was not a "Capuchin"!
This was written in September, 1880. Two months later in France, following the dissolution and expulsion of unauthorised Congregations, our MSC communities at Chezal-Benoit, Saint-Gerand-le-Puy and Aries were closed; there remained only the presbytery at Issoudun with the archpriest Jules Chevalier; all his confreres still living at Issoudun were taken under the protection of the Archbishop of Bourges as members of his diocesan clergy. Some young members had already been sent to the communities in Rome and Watertown; the novitiate was transferred to Holland and a small community was formed in Barcelona.
The community in Barcelona
In 1880, our Society was still in its infancy. For some ten years the Founder, fully supported by Father Jouet, had hoped for a foundation in Spain. Finally, in October, 1880, a young, twenty-nine year old Spanish Father was sent to Barcelona alone; ordained in 1878, he had been straining at the leash in Rome since June, 1879. He was quite sure that he would establish a permanent MSC house in Spain; he had his dreams and schemes, which Fathers Chevalier and Jouet seemed to approve. A few weeks later, however, the forced exile of the French religious precipitated events; the Founder decided to send to Barcelona Father Deidier, superior of Arles; Father Charles Marie (Thorey) who had just returned from Watertown, and two scholastics, Henri Verjus and William Neenan (Irish). The unfortunate Father Casas was subject once more to a French superior. What would come of his plans to establish a work in Spain for the glory of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, with an Association and its sanctuary, an apostolic school and then a novitiate? The situation called for patience - no one in Issoudun or Rome had foreseen that the two exiled French priests would find in Barcelona a number of emigrants completely devoted to the Marquis de Rays. The first reaction of Father Chevalier is apparent in a letter to Father Jouet:
I am sending you another letter from Father Deidier. I'm afraid that he and Father Marie may spoil everything in Spain. See what can be done about it...If you think it helpful to go there, do so!
This was written February 11th; in the same letter Father Chevalier notified his Procurator (who knew already) of the death of Bishop Steins of Auckland; he wondered if the Mission would be offered to them again. The same day in Barcelona Henri Verjus noted in his Journal. "The Aucklands are at hand!” A fortnight later, February 26th, he was very cheerful: "We can still hope for the Aucklands."
At this time, he may or may not have had some suspicion of steps being taken by the Superiors regarding a Mission in Oceania. He heard many things around him, and each day he jotted down his impressions of the emigrants gathering in Barcelona for New France. He first wrote on November 19th, 1880:
They say things are bad in France. May the Sacred Heart set her back on the right path! Speaking of France, today I heard our Fathers discussing a mission rounded in Oceania, under the name of New France and modelled on that of Bishop Salvado in New Norcia. They hope to meet the good gentleman who watches over its interests here. This is exciting news. Who knows what may come out of this for me? I say, ‘for me' - I mean my missionary plans. My God, whatever you wish; I'm not ready. I don't want to rush anything.
He was soon to form a clearer picture of this venture of the "good gentleman" who, under the noble title of 'Marquis de Rays' appeared in his eyes to have such fine and generous intentions. What especially aroused his interest was anything that could promote the missionary work in general, and his own preparation for such work.
In Barcelona he was re-united with Father Charles Marie, his much loved director from Chezal-Benoit. Brother Verjus admired his former teacher in his whole-hearted service to the emigrants of New France; every day he visited them as they huddled together at the port of Barcelona.
For some time now Father Marie has been the Apostle of the French in Barcelona. It's wonderful to see the affection already shown him by these fine people. Every day this good Father welcomes their visits and repays them a hundredfold...The emigrants are delighted with him and he does them untold good...We must wait and hope. Perhaps Father Marie is preparing the way for us. My desire for the missions grows stronger...
January passed but, as Verjus realised, the Marquis was finding much to discourage him. He had been forced to eject from his home some Noumeans, who had made their way in to spy on behalf of the French Government.
The work of Monsieur de Rays is in danger of collapsing unless he makes an urgent appeal for God's help. I'll try to involve Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the business; I'll pray for the Marquis and the settlers - and also for my own intention.
On February 1st, he accompanied Father Marie to the home of the Marquis; they were well received, and at the end of the evening Brother Verjus noted:
Long live the Sacred Heart of Jesus! He still has his chosen ones on this earth. I've just seen the Marquis de Rays and am delighted with all I saw and heard - I saw and heard much; noticed and learnt much...The conversation naturally began with the Colony of New France. I shall never forget the powerful impression this great man made on me - so sorely tried, yet so uncomplaining and so untouched by all the ill-natured interference of those who want to harm him...
He spoke to us of his difficulties and trials, his plans and successes, as well as his wish to see several religious Orders settling in New France, to set up well organised orphanages which will give rise to as many towns, and to supervise the clearing of land. O my God! If only we were more numerous! If only I were a priest!... February 15th: I just heard some wonderful news this evening. The good Bishop of Auckland has died and at Issoudun they're thinking of someone for the "mission portfolio." It will be Father Superior (Deidier) or Father Marie. Both want to take me! O my God, that would be too great a happiness.
On February 26th then Henri Verjus had not lost hope of an early departure of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart for the Aucklands. He noted again, March 1st:
For some days I have been haunted by the thought that Saint Joseph has some surprise in store for me. What is it? Some good news, perhaps, about the Aucklands. As a matter of fact, for some time now it's been very much in everyone's mind. 13th March (after a novena to Saint Francis Xavier): Father Superior's prayer for a decision in this matter has not been heard.
Rene Lannuzel in New France
In the meantime, on the preceding March 7th, the fourth convoy left Barcelona for New France. All the friends of Father Marie were aboard the Nouvelle-Bretagne, and he himself had found them a chaplain, Marc Denis, a confrere and old friend of the diocese of Sens, who was at a loss to know what to do after his many vicissitudes in France and England. Through the instrumentality of Father Jouet in Rome and his confreres in Barcelona, Propaganda entrusted to Father Denis a document granting ecclesiastical faculties to Father Rene Marie Lannuzel, who had accompanied the third convoy on the India in July, 1880. He had arrived in Port-Breton on October 14th, 1880, and had celebrated the first Mass in the settlement on 1st November. Soon after his arrival in this illusory colony, Lannuzel recognised that, despite the efforts of the Marquis de Rays, the whole enterprise was becoming highly farsical and was on the brink of disaster. He left immediately for Sydney to take in fresh supplies and seek advice. During his absence of more than two months, Port Breton experienced appalling times, and in the end, an officer of the India set sail with almost all the emigrants and reached Noumea on March 12th, 1881.
On his return to Port-Breton in February, 1881, Lannuzel found the colony abandoned; he then went on to attempt a small mission in New Britain about which he had received encouraging information, and by the end of March, his Mission, 'Villa Maria', had been founded at Blanche Bay.
It is worth noting that, if the faculties for Father Lannuzel were handed to Father Denis before the departure of the Nouvelle-Bretagne, and therefore before March 7th, 1881, it means that negotiations were already under way between Propaganda and our Society, entailing not only a new proposal of a mission in Oceania, but also the consideration of taking advantage of the offer made by the administration of New France to any missionaries assigned to the islands of Oceania.
To return then to the preoccupations of our Founder, we already know that, with the announcement of Bishop Stein's death, Father Chevalier had asked Father Jouet to sound out Propaganda.
On March 3rd, Brother Verjus wrote in his Journal:
It seems that matters are being sorted out behind closed doors. Father Deidier says the surprise will come this month. We must hope - and work; time's moving on.
Issoudun is impatient
Let us return to February 27th. Father Chevalier knew little of the happenings in Barcelona:
I don't know a thing about Father Deidier's activities! Father Marie hasn't written a word since 1st January. What's happening to them? What are they doing? I don't know!
The appeal was made to Father Jouet in whom Deidier, also from Marseilles, confided more readily; it is clear, too, that the Procurator could get information, not only from Barcelona, but especially about the plans of Propaganda. He had already notified Father Chevalier that New Guinea was being offered to his little Society. Father Chevalier was gratified, though somewhat surprised, and on February 27th he plied these questions:
Aren't there any missionaries or missions in this vast land of New Guinea? It was discovered three hundred years ago and there must be grave reasons why it's so forsaken! Is it still inhospitable and hazardous for Europeans? Is it attached to any Mission? What's its climate like? Although hot, is it healthy? Has Christianity penetrated it? What are the people like - their customs, population? To whom does this large island belong? What kind of commerce does it have? What does it produce? Would it be established as an apostolic Vicariate? Would Propaganda give us resources? Don't you think this Mission would be too difficult and dangerous for our very small Society? Wouldn't our first men be completely sacrificed? And then, how would we replace them?
I need answers to all these questions; Propaganda will help you in this. There would surely be a small Mission which is easier, more suitable, less remote, with a gentler, less scorching climate.
The immediate response to this letter is not preserved to us, but as we will see in the following letters, it was backed up by copies of various documents lent to Father Jouet by Propaganda. Before examining the details, we will again cite Father Chevalier.
March 6th, 1881
Dear good Father,
...All our confreres are enthusiastic about the New Guinea Mission. They regard this proposal as providential and very advantageous. The geography of the country would indicate that the climate, although hot, would not be unhealthy. If, to begin with, the Sacred Congregation were satisfied with three or four priests with two or three scholastics, I think we could accept...and that this mission would be a blessing for us and attract genuine vocations.
Father Morisseau disagrees; he maintains that we should not go to America to help Father Durin, or to Oceania, because there are too few of us and we have no suitable person to put in charge.
I'm afraid that Fathers Piperon and Guyot think the same.
I've written to Father Guyot. Would you write and prevail upon both of them. The two Fathers Thomas, and Fathers Navarre, Cramaille, Vatan, Giraux, and I think Deidier, as well as Brother Verjus, would be quite prepared to go anywhere at all, but preferably to New Guinea.
If I could accept this glorious mission without a majority vote of the Council, I'd say, "Go ahead and work it out with the Cardinal Prefect." Look, what do you think we should do?
Father Ramot is set on going overseas.
Whom would you recommend as Vicar Apostolic, and then as his companions? If we accepted New Guinea, we could send three or four priests and give Father Durin one or two more, as well as one of his nephews. If you think Father Deidier could go to New Guinea as Vicar Apostolic, who would replace him in Barcelona? Would Father Chatelat be prepared to leave? If so, I could send you Father Bontemps to take his place in Rome...And what would Father Carriere like to do?
As you said, the great advantage is that we would be the only ones in New Guinea, and with time we could have an extremely important mission. Let us pray; let us pray very much about it.
What is happening with the outstanding business, that still has to be resolved?...
Good-bye, dear good Father,
Yours in C.J.
J. Chevalier. M.S.C.
Intentions of Propaganda
When the interests of the Society were involved, Father Jouet pressed ahead with an energy of spirit that withstood all obstacles. The following letter is undated, but it was written after the funeral in Rome of Miss Eleanore Koepper, a benefactress formerly devoted to the works of Father J.-M. Vandel. She had died on February 28th, and on Monday, 14th March, according to the Journal of Pierre Barral, Father Chevalier received from Father Jouet all the information that Propaganda possessed on New Guinea, including the first report of Father Giovanni Cani and the letters from the administrators of the Colony of Port-Breton.
Then on March 15th, Pierre Barral noted:
At 7.30 p.m. during recreation, Father Superior read us a letter from Father Jouet outlining his conversation with Cardinal Simeoni about New Guinea. The Cardinal and Father Jouet both want us to take charge of it. Father Jouet proposes several plans. Father Giraux is ready to go. Father Superior read us his letter.
Here is a section of this letter which concerns the Mission:
May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved!
Very Rev. and dear Father Superior,
1. I've had two long interviews with His Eminence Cardinal Simeoni who is very anxious to see us accept the beautiful and vast mission of New Guinea and its surrounding islands. Propaganda does not expect immediate results and conversions as soon as we set foot in Oceania; rather, we're being asked to resume an apostolate in a pagan land left unattended since 1854.
We would begin on a small scale and leave to God the success or failure of our first labours; but regardless of results, our reward in heaven is assured. The main thing is to sow and toil. Deus autem incrementum dedit. Nor is it a question of sending a great number; three would be quite enough for the present - even one at a pinch; he would then remain for some time exploring and taking advantage of all the means provided for missionaries by the Colony of New France; yesterday I sent you their brochure; tomorrow I will send their bulletin.
If he were alone, this missionary would be given very wide powers and he'd be required to submit a detailed account to Propaganda of all he'd seen and of all that he considered useful in actually establishing a mission. At present there's not a single Catholic priest in the whole of New Guinea. One priest from Nantes accompanied the settlers of New France to Cap Breton, in the vicinity of Guinea. Propaganda granted him powers for two years only, and it is set down in his rescript that he and the colony will depend on the Congregation which will be responsible for the overall direction of the Mission. Then again, the colony itself will be a great help to us in the initial stages.
The departure point is Barcelona and the governor of Barcelona has given strong support to this expedition. Today when Spain, like France, is threatened with social upheaval, this protection is not perhaps very effective, yet it would be valuable at the outset. His Eminence Cardinal Simeoni strongly advises you to use all possible means, from now on, to become well informed regarding this Colony of New France. The priest appointed to be its chaplain had promised to send a detailed statement, but this was not done. Propaganda is very surprised at this - they act only on written documents such as those I sent you.
Another priest of the diocese of Liege is going to join this first chaplain; he too, has powers for two years only and has been urged to keep a record? That remains to be seen.
His Eminence would like one of us to go and gather reliable information. It would be a mission officially entrusted to him for that purpose. No greater proof of confidence could be given us.
His Eminence came to see us here and was delighted with the welcome given him. He spoke at length about the missions.
2. Here now is my practical advice. As he indicates in the enclosed letter, Father Giraux will be very happy to go, and I think he'll be a good choice. But he's too young to go alone; I feel that Father Navarre, with his practical bent and taste for manual work, will also be of great service, but he and Father Giraux alone would be incomplete as a missionary team.
If Father Guyot was willing to go, that would be all right too. As for Father Deidier, I don't think his health would stand up to mission life, nor even to the voyage. But if you have no one else and he feels up to it, he could try - but I doubt he'll make a success of it.
At all events, if the choice of new missionaries demands a change of personnel in our houses, I accept in advance any position you give me. I'll stay here, go to Holland, Spain, Issoudun, or, very willingly, to New Guinea - either alone, or with others, for a time of exploration or for ever, as you wish; in such a case, then, I offer a simple suggestion - just my personal opinion: send Father Ramot here to Rome; he would be more than adequate as my replacement, especially now that the work on the Church will soon be completed. And with Father Ramot, send Father Bontemps as assistant, since Father Chatelat would be of little use here. He will do well with little Lenten sermons, retreats, a little work in the confessional and the office; but for the direction of a house and of young people, he's not the man; he's a disciplined, edifying religious, but he lacks the resilience needed to meet the manifold demands of the active life; he's hasty in his judgements and narrow in his thinking; he's happy in his studies; he jogs along in his own quiet way, but don't take him out of that situation. One more year of study in Rome and there will be nothing more for him here. That's how I feel.
Almost immediately Father Jouet hastened to add:
May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved!
March 13th, 1881
Reverend and dear Father Superior,
1. His Eminence Cardinal Simeoni, receiving only this morning the first letter from Father Lannuzel, chaplain to the settlement of New France, had nothing more urgent to do than to send for me. I now send you a copy of this letter. When I saw him again this evening, the Cardinal was not very pleased with such a short letter instead of a comprehensive report, and he hopes to have more information soon.
2. Today I also sent you several numbers of La Nouvelle France; they will give you some facts about the colony which can be very helpful to start with.
3. His Eminence is still convinced that New Guinea will be the best place for us to start a mission. I share his view entirely.
I'm half asleep as I write this - I've had no rest for the past week, but this question of the New Guinea Mission is very important and urgent; I had to act and I've no regrets.
4. If you don't want this mission to be founded under our name, it could, always with your consent, be tried by two or three Fathers whom you'd assign to it. But I think it would be infinitely better for the work to be officially established
in the name of our dear Institute, and then I'm sure God would bless it.
Impossible to write any more; I can't help it - I'm falling asleep.
May the Heart of Jesus be all yours!
Bless Father, your devoted son,
Father Founder's conviction
On the Feast of Saint Joseph, March 19th, 1881, after weighing the matter for four days, he replied to his Procurator:
March 19th, 1881
Dear good Father,
I received your letters and all the papers on New Guinea and New France. I share your opinion; we must accept this beautiful and important mission. Circumstances could not be more favourable. Without prejudice to our works in Europe, we can easily spare three or four of our confreres with one or two scholastics.
The acceptance of this important mission will draw down on our Congregation great blessings and bring us many vocations. I'm convinced of it. This is how I would organise things:
Father Durin already has some experience of missions; he is vigorous, holy and devoted; moreover he knows English which will be a valuable asset. And so I would put him in charge of the Mission, as Vicar apostolic. For companions, I would give him Father Cramaille, a devout, steady man and very pleased to go; then Father Thomas of Limoges; he's a holy priest, forty-three years of age and asking to go; finally, Father Giraux. Then Brother Verjus who would be delighted, and perhaps you could give another.
As for America, Father Ramot would replace Father Durin and Father Navarre would accompany him. We expect Father Ramot next week; he's run down at the moment. He's going to preach here for the closing days of Lent and then for the Month of Mary. I think this arrangement could work out.
Now here is what you must do. Write me a letter that I can show to the Archbishop of Bourges (who obviously will not approve of this mission), and also to our Council Fathers.
In this letter you would say that the Holy Father has notified you, through Cardinal Simeoni, that he wishes us to accept the Mission in New Guinea, etc; that we will please him in doing so; that it is yet another service we do the Church; that he will protect us; etc. etc.
Cardinal Simeoni would also have to write saying much the same thing. He would not leave us free to accept or not; he would say straight out that the Holy See is entrusting us with this mission etc. In this way there will be no trouble with either the Archbishop or our Fathers, who will bow to the sovereign will of the Holy Father. Since the Sacred Heart has put it in our power to accept this mission, we must do it immediately - without any delay.
The Archbishop of Bourges will come to Issoudun in the evening of the 26th for Confirmation on the 27th, and so I would need to have these letters next Saturday or Sunday 27th, without fail.
If vocations for the missions of New Guinea come to us when it is known, and especially when one of ours returns in two or three years with some native children and goes around France collecting money, we will be able to start a novitiate in Barcelona. The climate is rather hot and it is from there that the boats sail etc. Time will tell!
I look forward then to your letter and one from Propaganda in the name of the Holy Father. Immediate action is necessary. The time has come...
Thank the Cardinal warmly for this offer and for his interest in us. When this matter is settled, I shall ask Father Durin to come at once to France so that he can go to Rome for his instructions and episcopal consecration in partibus infidelium.
24 The personal letter from Fr. Jouet dated in Rome March 24th, arrived in time; but the official letter from the Card. Pref. of Prop., promised for March 25th, to the Procurator, was sent to him after this date, and Fr. Chevalier was able to pass it on only after March 29th.
On Sunday, March 20th, Father Jouet sent a telegram to Issoudun: "Do not send the Annales; wait for important letter to follow." On Thursday evening, March 24th, Father Chevalier was still waiting and growing impatient:
It is 9.00 p.m. Thursday, and I've received nothing. The letter has had time to go there and back. Why this delay? We have been disappointed several times now. It would be better to make no announcement. Are you ill? Would the letter have gone astray? I'm worried about your health. Look after yourself. Go somewhere for a change of air if you need it. Come and see us. If the trip could help, you must take it, particularly as your presence would be of considerable benefit in persuading the Fathers of the Council to accept the Mission in New Guinea.
The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that we must accept it. Father Ramot has been in Issoudun since Tuesday and he agrees. In fact, all agree except the Council. I believe we will still win over Father Morisseau.
If the Pope expresses a real desire and I have it in writing, consent is assured.
I wrote to the editor of La Nouvelle France, Place du Change, Marseilles, sending our cordial wishes and asking for information; he has sent me the complete set of his Journal. The number of March 15th, last is very useful and well worth reading. Try and get a copy. He also gave me the address of the Marquis de Rays, founder of the Colony and a good Christian. He is staying in Barcelona, Calle de la Ensenanza, 2, Spain. Have some enquiries made through Fr. Sans or the Vicar General, Fr. Morgades.
This Marquis de Rays may have bought an old mansion near Barcelona to be used as a novitiate for future missionaries in New Guinea, and for old, sick priests returning from the mission. It's really wonderful.
Tell Father Giraux that I haven't forgotten his request and that he'll be among the first to leave. Good-bye, dear good Father.
The letter from Father Jouet
This is dated March 24th and arrived in Issoudun on Wednesday the 26th.
March 24th, 1882
Very Reverend and dear Father Superior,
I received an urgent call from Cardinal Simeoni last Sunday, reverting to the question of the missions.
The Holy See is greatly concerned about New Guinea - the biggest island in the world; it hasn't seen a Catholic priest for twenty-five years, and already numbers several Protestant establishments. As yet, however, these Protestant stations are only on the coast; they have hardly made any impression on the interior.
The Holy Father would like two or three Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, three at the most, to go to this wild land to explore a little, study ways of founding a mission, learn a little of the language and then present an account of their modest apostolic venture. If we die without achieving anything else, it will be a small price to pay for the enormous advantages gained.
That's what Cardinal Simeoni told me on Sunday, adding that the practical means of making a start in New Guinea have never been easier, thanks to this Colony of Cape Breton which has ships and personnel at the disposal of the first missionaries.
His Eminence told me that he had been commissioned by the Holy Father to write directly to you and ask for the generous sacrifice of three of your missionaries, for which the Sacred Heart and the Church would be most grateful.
I've already sent you all the relevant documents and you'll probably receive the official request from the Holy Father at the same time or thereabouts.
I don't know how you'll reply, but after much thought I'm quite sure about it - we cannot refuse. Several of our Fathers and pupils chose our Society only because they hoped to share one day in such an apostolate in a primitive, pagan land. If God is calling us, the numbers wanting to go will be greater than that sought by the Holy Father.
For my part, I'm completely at your disposal if you want me, and I'm doing all I can to stabilise our small community here, so that you can soon put someone in my place and use me wherever you like.
The Holy Father shows the greatest interest in us and you'll see this in the letters I'm enclosing for publication in the Annales:
The Secretary of Propaganda is expecting me tomorrow to give me more particulars, which I'll pass on to you at once.
Bless, very dear Father Superior, your devoted son in C.J.
On March 25th, Father Jouet wrote a letter to Father Chevalier of which only the first part still exists; in it he sets out more precisely the intentions of the Cardinal Prefect:
Yesterday the official letter was promised for this morning, but I went in vain to collect it; it was not ready. The ceremonies for the Feast were claiming the attention of the Secretary, and Cardinal Simeoni, who promised to send it to me tomorrow, took the opportunity to speak more freely of the Mission in New Guinea.
He told me more than once that, for the moment, we need send no more than three priests and a brother; that he had already written to the central Council of the Propagation of the Faith for some of the available funds to be allocated to this new and important mission; that without lessening our claim on the Propagation of the Faith, he insisted that the Marquis de Rays give us the money promised to the missionaries of the Colony; that the main thing was to send two or three at once while the question of the Apostolic Vicariate was being settled. One of our Fathers would simply be appointed head of the Mission; they would go, carry out their exploration and write a report; after that a regular mission would be established on a solid foundation. He thought that the best thing would be for me, you or someone else, to go officially to Barcelona with a letter signed by him in the name of the Holy See to negotiate verbally, and then in writing, the terms to be offered by the Marquis to our missionaries. The Cardinal does not wish the Marquis to approach any other missionaries, for what ruins a Mission is more often the multiplicity of parties in the same place rather than the small number of subjects, especially if they're very united; he says that, if I could not leave immediately for Barcelona, I must at least be quite sure of what the Marquis is doing.
In response to this last recommendation, I've written at once to Father Deidier; here is the letter - please read it, delete or change as you wish, and send it on to him...
Official letter from Cardinal Simeoni
This was dated March 25th, Feast of the Annunciation, and reached Issoudun on March 29th. Pierre Barral noted:
Today Father Superior received the official request from Cardinal Simeoni and from the Holy See with regard to the Mission of New France and New Guinea. Father Superior read it to us at the evening recreation.
Wednesday, March 30th. Father Superior called me to his room to correct Father Jouet's translation of the official letter. Then I dictated it to Father Heriault, Ramot and Vatan, so that copies could be sent to Father Piperon and Father Guyot.
In our general archives we have the Italian original of this letter signed by the Cardinal Prefect and the Secretary, I. Masotti, as well as two French translations - the first, that of Father Jouet and checked by Father Barral; the second, that which was later published in the Annales de Notre Dame du Sacre-Coeur of August, 1881, and subsequently became the traditional version:
Most Reverend Father,
For several years, the Vicariate of New Guinea has been vacant for want of a religious community willing to take charge of it.
The Holy See entertains a profound interest in this important region, which is without a Catholic mission while more than one protestant minister is spreading his errors there. Well aware of your zeal and that of the members of your Congregation for the propagation of our holy religion, we would regard with great pleasure your acceptance of this vast apostolate. I fully appreciate the fact that the realisation of this plan will require time and patience.
For the moment, however, it is a matter of sending only a few priests of your Congregation; while being responsible for the Catholics in the already established Colony of New France, they could, at the same time, study ways and means of setting up a Mission in those parts, and of ministering also to the whole Vicariate, now vacant, as I have already said, for a very long time.
I am quite confident that you will readily accede to the proposal here set before you, and while hoping for a favourable reply, I wish you every blessing in the Lord.
Rome, Palace of Propaganda, March 25th, 1881
Giovanni Cardinal Simeoni, Prefect
Very Reverend Father Superior General,
Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart,
Since March 29th, Father Founder had been in possession of the two letters, drawn up as requested in his letter of March 19th to Father Jouet. He was now able to show them to the Archbishop of Bourges and to the Fathers of the Council, in the hope that they "would bow to the sovereign will of the Holy Father"! For a week, his Procurator in Rome had worked with the utmost diligence, and to the reproach of being late with his articles for the Annales, he could reply quite simply:
Very dear Father Superior,
...I ask pardon for the inconvenience caused by the delay in sending the article for the Annales. The delay is not intentional and I'm very upset about it. I thought that, as the question of New Guinea was more important and more pressing, I had to get it out of the way first; I've paid several visits to Propaganda and that took up time I could ill afford. But still, it's been a worry to you - please forgive me. (March 27th).
For a better understanding of the following correspondence and the reactions, whether of Father Chevalier, the members of his Council or even the Archbishop of Bourges, it is well to take account of the respective positions of each one at this critical period for religious in France.
Position of Father Chevalier in Issoudun
Archpriest of the parish of St. Cyr, Issoudun, since 1872, Father Founder, previously a member of the clergy of the diocese of Bourges, was able to retain his post and his curates; and to house also in the presbytery a few other confreres. Though still religious, all the MSC Fathers remaining in Issoudun after the expulsions of November, 1880, had been taken under the protection of the Archbishop of Bourges who would consider them as being absorbed into his diocese. This special and provisional situation had already been considered and endorsed as early as July, 1880, as a counter-measure to the anticipated enforcement of the anti-religious Decrees of March 29th. Since that time, prudence had prompted Father Chevalier to make his position as immovable archpriest very obvious to the civil authorities, and to avoid, in his dealings outside the Society, all that could point to him as superior. In the letters sent to him, as also in the articles in the Annals of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the greatest possible care was taken not to link his name with the title of religious superior. Thus the MSC superiors were set down as: Father Jouet, Rome; Father Deidier, Barcelona; Father Piperon, Haaren, Netherlands; Father Ramot, Watertown. But among the different procurators of the new Mission, that for France was listed as Father Chevalier, archpriest of Issoudun! And it was on this principle, too, that Archbishop Marchal of Bourges warned Father Chevalier against being absent from the diocese for reasons palpably associated with the Society. Regarding a proposed trip to Rome, the Archbishop, who was going there himself, believed it necessary to reply to Father Chevalier:
It is quite natural that for the consecration of your church, your presence in Rome is desired keenly. If you were absent for no more than eight days, there would be no reason for you to notify the authorities, nor could anyone have cause to stir up trouble for you. But you must still allow for the fact that correspondence from Rome will most certainly direct attention to the presence of the Superior General of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Issoudun - the inferences to be drawn from that by our enemies cannot be ignored.
Since the dispersion of his religious beyond France, Father Founder was isolated from the members of the General Council, these being the same as in 1879, when they were offered the Mission in Auckland. Since then, the first assistant, Father Charles Piperon, had left Issoudun to become superior of the novitiate house at Gerra, Netherlands; the second, Father Victor Jouet, procurator, had lived in Rome since December, 1875; the third, Father J.B. Guyot, relieved of his duties as Novice Master in 1875, had remained superior of the house at St.-Gerand-le-Puy up to the time of the expulsions. After that, while continuing his excellent ministry of preaching in different dioceses, he had withdrawn to Gannat (Allier), to be near his old father; only the fourth assistant, Father Joseph Francois Morisseau, remained at Issoudun with the Superior General. Since 1874 he had been director of the Secretariate responsible for the Association of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the Annales, etc. Business was, then, conducted by correspondence and, as was to be expected, the vital question of the Mission proposed by Rome was referred to each member of the Council; from those letters still available to us, we can discern the reaction of each.
Father Piperon notified
Father Piperon had been informed by letter on March 22nd, but it may surprise us that Father Chevalier waited about three weeks before mentioning such momentous news to his first assistant, particularly as he had written to Father Jouet on March 19th, outlining the procedure to be adopted in producing an official request from the Holy See. It is true that the Superior General already had some idea of the response he could expect from his Couneillors. Here is the first letter to Father Piperon:
March 22nd, 1881
Dear good Father,
Thank you for your kind letter..?
Three weeks ago, Father Jouet sent me a new proposal from the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda, speaking in the name of the Pope.
It is hoped that we will accept, if only in principle, the Mission of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, forsaken since 1854 and given over to Protestants.
For this vast area there is only one Catholic priest from Nantes; last year he went as chaplain on a ship carrying 150 French, Belgian and Alsatian settlers hoping to cultivate New Britain, an island close to New Guinea, which would be under our authority. The report of this priest is very encouraging; according to him, the people would welcome missionaries.
Cardinal Simeoni is very insistent; he says that the time has come for us to act; that Providence is clearly pointing out the way to us; that the persecution in France is going to become even more violent and that we will have a new region etc. He asks for only three priests and after a few years we would send more, if we were able. We will do only what we can.
The essential thing is to accept and make it known that this beautiful Mission is under the patronage of the Sacred Heart. His Eminence is convinced that from our acceptance will derive very great blessings and numerous vocations, while demanding very little sacrifice at present. Fiat! He adds that Propaganda will obtain from the Propagation of the Faith the finances needed for this work. He has sent me a mass of documents to study, so that I can become well acquainted with the situation.
I replied that we were not yet ready for this Mission. The Cardinal says that it is the wish of the Pope, who will be judge in the matter and will soon communicate his wish to assign us, in our own interests, this beautiful Mission. As the Cardinal reminds us, this is a great token of confidence on the part of His Holiness. What are we to do? Father Jouet is pressing us to accept.
Good-bye, dear friend; my best wishes to all.
Yours in C.J.
J. Chevalier M.S.C.
Surprised at this proposal of Propaganda, Father Piperon replied immediately. He stood by his decision of February, 1879, regarding the Auckland question: "We have no one ready for this Mission!" Under the impression that a Vicar Apostolic was to be appointed in the immediate future, he could suggest no one but Father Jouet himself. His reply was received on March 30th and sent at once to Father Jouet.
March 30th, 1881
Dear good Father,
I received your letters and that of Cardinal Simeoni. Thank you...
I let Father Piperon know of the New Guinea project. Here is his reply. I am sending him your last letter and that of Cardinal Simeoni, which makes it clear that there is no question of a Vicariate for the time being. Perhaps he will change his mind. Write to him.
Father Guyot will not be in favour. None of our important works which they now applaud had their support - quite the contrary. Father Morisseau thinks exactly as the other two. It is discouraging. Write to Father Guyot.
The Cardinal Prefect writes to me; he makes no mention of the Council. Can I decide on my own? If so, my acceptance will be sent quickly. I see countless advantages and not one disadvantage in the enterprise.
If Father Chatelat is so ineffectual that he could not replace you, there's no use keeping him in Rome; it defeats its purpose. When we work out the personnel for New Guinea, he'll have to be given another post.
Father Ramot couldn't go to Rome in the present circumstances, since he would be sent either to New Guinea or America. These trips involve considerable expense and must be made only for matters of urgency.
I've written to the Marquis de Rays and am waiting for his reply...
Our Archbishop of Bourges, to whom I showed the letter, has said categorically that we cannot refuse and that we must respond to the confidence shown, and accept promptly.
J. Chevalier M.S.C.
On March 30th, Father Piperon received Father Jouet's letter of March 25th to Father Chevalier, who then added these words:
(Post mark March 28th, 1881)
Dear good Father,
Here is a letter from Father Jouet. I had asked him to explain our position to Cardinal Simeoni, who then replied that our acceptance would be a very efficacious means of attracting vocations and that the Holy Father was set on it.
According to this letter, there is no question just yet of a Vicar Apostolic; this would not arise for two or three years when we were more familiar with the situation, and even then we would be under no obligation if we still found it beyond us.
I will probably receive the official letter this week.
How are we going to reply? It would be a serious matter to refuse what the Pope asks for. The Archbishop of Bourges was at Issoudun again this morning for Confirmation. I showed him the letter from Father Jouet and he told me bluntly: You must accept; in the present circumstances, it will be easy to find three or four priests without any harm to your works.
Here is my plan; I don't know if you will approve of it:
I would send Father Durin and give him Father Cramaille, who is quite willing; Father Giraux, who has asked to go, and one or two scholastics. Father Durin would be in charge. This Mission would be undertaken on a trial basis only. If, after two or three years, all went well under Father Durin, we would recommend him as Vicar Apostolic. If not, some one else would be chosen. And if the Mission proved too difficult for us and we could not accept it, we would relinquish it. But at least we would have no cause to reproach ourselves.
The drawback with Father Durin is his temperament and his sometimes immoderate and injudicious zeal - I recognise that. But this would be simply a mission of exploration, to become acquainted with the places and people - their customs, language, etc. Besides, Father Durin is a good religious - steady, hardworking, dedicated, energetic and full of faith; he also has a little experience of distant missions; he knows English which would be very helpful, and finally, he would be resourceful and intelligent with it.
For all these reasons and despite his shortcomings, I would not hesitate to nominate him for this Mission.
The administration of the hospices in Issoudun no longer wants a chaplain on the regular staff; it has cut down on salaries and the Archbishop wants a curate from St. Cyr to attend simply to the sick and to funerals, as previously. And so this would not leave a vacancy to be filled.
Now what about Watertown? I'd send Father Ramot and Father Navarre, and Father Grom would stay on with them. He knows English very well; he has a good spirit and he's also one of the registered owners of the house. I believe these three would get along very well together and have no trouble in managing this little house until we could send them more men.
This seems to be the most congenial arrangement for all. Do you accept it? If not, send your observations at once to Father Jouet, asking him to pass them on without delay to Cardinal Simeoni?
Good-bye, dear good Father. All yours in C.J.
Father Ramot is going quite well.
J. Chevalier M.S.C.
37 Fr. Ramot had just spent five months with Fr. Piperon at Gerra, and was at Issoudun for preaching. Fr. Navarre, former secular priest, professed since August, 1878, had been in the community of Aries and continued to accompany Fr. Guyot in preaching missions in France. Fr. Benjamin Grom, of the community of Watertown since May, 1876.
Even before knowing the contents of the official letter from the Cardinal Prefect, Father Piperon spent the night of the 30th turning over in his mind the communication between Rome and Issoudun, confiding his impressions to the Superior General:
Gerra at Haaren near Oisterwyk,
March 31st, 1881
Very reverend Father,
Your letter reached me last night. Having reflected, prayed and had prayers said, I'm sending you my feeble thoughts on the Mission to New Guinea.
l. Human reason still argues that we're not in a position to take charge of this mission; however, in spite of all that, if it is the recommendation of the Holy See and the will of the Sovereign Pontiff, we must yield to it. An order is not needed; a wish is enough. Submission in this case will draw down on us the blessings of the Sacred Heart, provided that we are not guided by human considerations. In this I now reverse my previous decision.
2. In choosing people, we must resign ourselves to sending imperfect subjects. As I see it and as I said in my last letter, only one has the combination of qualities required. But he's in his right place. Father Durin is certainly the best equipped. The other two don't seem at all qualified for this important mission.
As for the scholastics, they ought not to be exposed to such an enterprise. It is dangerous and I feel quite unnecessary. Leave them to be educated and formed in piety and the practice of solid virtue. Community life and study will benefit them much more than a life of adventure (please take this expression as well meaning and honest; I should perhaps say, involuntary); but it is what can be expected in the early stages. It may be different when a house is well established. Young people could then be an asset; in the meantime they would hinder the activity of the others and risk losing their own vocations - therefore, no scholastics in this first expedition.
3. If some unforeseen obstacle prevented Father Durin from going, who would replace him? Dare I tell you what I think? I may be foolhardy - you can be the judge.
Despite my incompetence and my age, I am prepared to do anything asked of me. I don't see how I could be of any use but still I'm blindly and completely at your disposal in this as in everything. Although the life of the novitiate is the most tranquil and pleasant that I know, and it does me so much good to refresh my poor, dried out soul, I will leave it even for New Guinea if you wish.
4. A community made up of Father Ramot, Father Navarre and Father Grom will be untroubled and well-ordered. The first two are true religious. I fear only one thing - the scruples of Father Ramot; they are far-reaching and deep-rooted and plague him continually. Moreover, in spite of his fine qualities and his holiness, he is not a man of action and Father Navarre would not exact any work to help him overcome himself.
I don't know Father Grom and so I can't make any judgement there.
I was hoping that Father Ramot would come back here; next year we will need someone to take the class of "rhetoric" (bridging course), and direct our scholastics. But I accept your decision in this. Every arrangement will have its disadvantages. Perhaps it would be better to sacrifice the house in America? But I wouldn't venture an opinion on this yet; I need more light on the subject...
There are some rather serious indiscretions being committed and grossly exaggerated rumours are reaching me here. In one letter I was told that the whole Congregation is to leave for New Guinea; and also that, as well as novices, we're
losing many of our religious etc. I pass this on to you so that you can redress the situation, if possible...
Please bless me, very reverend Father,
Yours devotedly in the Sacred Heart,
Ch. Piperon N.S.C.
On April 2nd another letter arrived from Issoudun, with a French translation of the official letter from the CardinaI Prefect. Father Piperon replied at once to confirm his previous position.
Gerra, at Haaren,
April 2nd, 1881
Very reverend Father,
This morning I received your latest letter about the New Guinea Mission. I think our letters have crossed and by now my reply has reached you. In case it hasn't, I sum up what I said.
1. When the Holy See expresses an earnest wish, we must obey. Obedience is a fundamental duty even if it costs us everything. The request has come and no further deliberation is possible.
2. The choice of confreres is difficult. Every arrangement will be defective. I think Father Ramot is a saint; he goes straight to God; he's intelligent and educated, but he lacks initiative and his scruples paralyse all action.
Father Durin is particularly well qualified. He knows English, and being resourceful and full of initiative, he has the ability to launch a new work; but he can also create difficulties - he's not always prudent nor sufficiently master of his feelings; he's too changeable and too hard on his subordinates.
If the good points of each were combined without their failings, we would have a perfect man. I find it impossible to choose and I accept whatever is done.
3. As for the other missionaries: Father Cramaille is unequal to this kind of ministry and with his lack of education, together with an uncommon degree of hastiness and stubbornness, he seems quite unsuited. But he's a solid religious. Is Father Giraux stable enough and strong enough in his vocation? Doesn't he shrink too much from sacrifices? Is he fond of work? We wont speak of the others.
4. Since my last letter, I read a copy of La Nouvelle France which was sent to me. It confirms my view that scholastics should not accompany the Fathers. They would be no help but rather an encumbrance, and their virtue would be at risk - a twofold objection with no balancing advantage.
I added that, if you were in a quandary and you judged my poor self useful for any work at all, you need only say so. But you know how lacking I am in ability and knowledge...
I say nothing about the arrangements for Watertown; I said what I thought in my other letter. What I can say is that we must try to begin well, because the work of a mission is not one to be set aside - I would not say as much for the work in America. I think that Port de France holds out hopes for founding a good mission, if it is well managed. The main thing is to begin well with a reliable and steady man.
Please bless your son,
What does Father Guyot think?
With Father Navarre he had just preached a mission at Sazeret, in the diocese of Moulins, near Montmarault, birthplace of Father Durin. Returning to St.-Gerand-le-Puy, he found a letter from Father Chevalier with a copy of that written by Father Jouet on March 24th. Here is his first reaction:
March 30th, 1881
Very reverend Father,
I hasten to acknowledge receipt of the copy of a letter from Father Jouet which I found on my return from the mission at Sazeret.
As you suggested I'm letting Father Jouet know what I think about a Mission in New Guinea, pointing out to him that the request of the Holy See proceeds from a misconception regarding the condition and strength of our Society, and that it is his duty to clear up this point.
There is no doubt that, if the Holy Father and Cardinal Simeoni were well-informed, they would never have dreamed of giving us the directive that you have perhaps already received.
I'm also telling Father Jouet that, if he doesn't do it, I will consider myself obliged in conscience to attempt to do so. Then, if this untoward project were pursued, I could do no more than bewail the fact and pray to the Sacred Heart to watch over each of the hapless men sent; history has taught us that many missionaries better formed than ours, have lost their moral standards and their faith in pagan countries.
I shall fear no less for our Society as a whole; it is already experiencing so many difficulties in its organisation, and this will perhaps remove indispensable members.
Before God, and with all the respect I owe you, reverend Father, I could not feel otherwise. If it is painful for you to receive such an opinion, I ask pardon, while assuring you of my deep esteem and filial affection in C.J.
Father Chevalier sent this letter immediately to Father Jouet, adding the following lines:
From this letter, dear good Father, you can judge how our dear confrere feels. His dispositions are deplorable.
I repeat that, if the Holy See leaves it to me to decide, I wont hesitate to accept. Without exception, my confreres at Issoudun and elsewhere are delighted with this proposal and urge me to accept; only the Fathers of the Council - except you - are opposed to it. What should we do? Go ahead with it, if the Cardinal approves; that's what I think - because we can safely do what he asks...
Good-bye dear friend; all yours in C.J.
J. Chevalier M.S.C.
Father Guyot to Father Jouet
March 30th, 1881
Dear Father Jouet,
Our very reverend Father Superior has sent me your letter of March 24th, and has recommended that I write directly to you about the project of founding a Mission in New Guinea.
Here we are then on the verge of a formal injunction from the Holy See! It distresses me deeply. To ward off the blow, however, we need only tell the truth with simplicity and openness.
In addressing us, the Holy See thinks of us as we should be, and is obviously ignorant of what we actually are. Let me tell you, as a good confrere, that you have a duty to present an exact account of our position - and without any self-deception. The matter is of the greatest consequence.
If this were a formal expression of the Holy Father's will, I would feel compelled to ease my conscience by sending his Eminence the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda, a statement setting out in detail the Society's general condition and personnel, quite convinced that, once aware of this, he would change his mind; the whole proposition rests on a false assumption.
The Church, dear friend, cannot expect any more of us in New Guinea than we have given it in America, where we have paid dearly for our imprudence, and been anything but edifying. Of the eleven subjects sent, only two have remained; two have had to be recalled to France; one died soon after his arrival - the result of a constitutional weakness which we, as superiors, ought to have taken into account; and six have left the Society with scandal.46
Now, the mission presented to us today is incomparably more difficult than that of Watertown. Our Society has nothing to gain in this undertaking, before God or before the world, which will judge us all the more harshly since we will have acted contrary to the norms of prudence and the simplicity which becomes us.
We will not even have the blessing of obedience, because this work would not have been asked of us had we not deliberately sustained the false estimate of our strength.
Except for our very reverend Father Superior, I see nobody who combines the various qualities needed for the direction of this undertaking. But to send him would be to destroy our Society. Besides, could he, at his age, learn the language? And if the shepherd should happen to be struck down, what would become of the sheep? Think about it, dear Father; experience shows that many missionaries in pagan countries lose both their faith and their morals, and the virtue of ours would not seem to place them above the unfortunate ones who have been ruined, even though judged suitable by enlightened superiors. Not to mistrust ourselves, after witnessing the many deficiencies in the religious formation of our subjects, would be blindness.
That, dear Father, is the advice that before God I must give.
I ask pardon for the pain it will cause you, while assuring you of my very sincere affection in Corde Jesu.
46 This statement can be moderated: Eleven were sent to Watertown. Frs. Durin and Ben. Grom still remained. Two were recalled: Chappel, because of Fr. Durin; he returned after Fr. Durin's departure; Fr. Ch. Marie had been sent only for a year and as 'visitor'; he returned on the insistence of Fr. Durin. One died, Fr. Jean-Marie Neenan, already weak in health. Of the six indicated as having 'left': Father Ariens could not get on with Fr. Durin and left in 1879; the young priest Ignace Grom, brother of Benjamin, was absorbed into the diocese of Santa Fe, USA, after leaving Watertown in December, 1879; J.B. Metayer subdeacon, had been secularised in July, 1878; another scholastic, Desire Legros had returned to France with Father Chappel, then left the scholasticate in Issoudun, in December, 1879; the scholastic Gustave Thevenot left in March, 1880; the sixth, the lay-brother Charles Bono, former Jesuit brother, professed MSC in March, 1876, went to Watertown in October, 1879; he had asked to leave more than once, but was still present in March, 1881; he left shortly after to go and join Father Ariens, parish priest of Dayville (Connecticut).
Father Guyot exaggerates in saying that they left the Society "with scandal."
Father Founder replies to Father Guyot47
47 Copy of the original signed by Fr. Chevalier who noted at the top of the paper:
Copy of the letter written to Father Guyot in response to his enclosed herewith J.C. Cf. letter Guyot March 29th (30th).
First Friday of the month
April 1st, 1881
Dear good Father,
You are right - your letter came as a painful shock. You give the impression that the Holy See is asking for a dozen men and a Vicar apostolic to set up a regular Mission.
When I was first approached I asked Father Jouet to explain quite frankly to Cardinal Simeoni the position of our Congregation and the present impossibility of our accepting the offer, however gratifying it may be - there was actually question of an Apostolic Vicariate. He did this and the matter was referred to the Holy Father.
After four or five weeks of silence, Father Jouet wrote to me that he had just received an official summons from Propaganda. Since we were not ready, it no longer involved the establishing of a regular mission; rather we were being asked to send two or three of our confreres for two or three years, in order to get first hand knowledge of the character of the people, their customs, the climate, the nature of the soil, etc., and then submit an accurate report - and this was the express wish of Leo XIII. Then in a few years, if we could undertake this glorious mission, it would be entrusted to us all the more willingly because it would then be under the patronage of the Sacred Heart. This was the tenor of Father Jouet's letter which I sent on to you, and that of Cardinal Simeoni which you must have received this morning.
The Holy See knows our position, and so it is with full knowledge of the case that it asked for two or three priests. Can we refuse? No!
1. because we can easily supply them;
2. because we are not committing ourselves for the future;
3. because, after two or three years of experience, we can withdraw if the task is beyond us.
The Apostles also raised objections when Our Lord asked them to let down their nets. The Master insisted and, without any hope of success and indeed with a certain air of displeasure, the leader acquiesced: in verbo tuo laxabo rete. The sequel demonstrates the reward of his obedience. We must not be more stubborn than St. Peter; let our human prudence defer to the will of the Master. Let us know how to cede with grace and good will. God could not let us be destroyed because of our obedience, if it were completely blind and heroic.
We will have every right to count on miracles to protect us, and we will have them. I assure you of it.
As you know; several of our works were established in the face of the keenest opposition, but by a combination of circumstances which seemed to us providential, we have nonetheless forged ahead. Today we see that the spirit of God was directing all and we rejoice in it.48
Let us be confident, dear good Father; the future will vindicate our acceptance, I'm convinced of it. Let us be united in confidence, dedication and charity. If you would rather not be responsible for the enterprise, trust yourself to the discretion of your superior. Give a vote of confidence and I take it all on myself. don't think you'll ever have cause to regret it.
If, to answer the call of the Holy See, we have to sacrifice the house at Aries, rather than re-open it when the time comes, we will do so.49 Then again, who knows what will happen to us in France? I believe more persecutions lie ahead and the crisis may last a long time.
Good-bye dear good Father, etc.
J. Chevalier M.S.C.
48 Reference to the House in Rome; to the purchase of the Church of St. James; the foundation of the American house in Watertown, and the taking of the parish of Issoudun.
49 House in Aries (dioces Aix-en-Provence), opened Sept. 1876 and closed Nov. 1880 (expulsions).
This same day, the first Friday of April, while the Father Founder was peacefully writing this letter, Father Guyot, having just received a copy of the official letter from Cardinal Simeoni, was also taking advantage of this monthly recollection to clarify his position; to accept in principle the proposition of the Holy See and to give an objective appraisal of possible candidates for New Guinea.
April 1st, 1881
Very reverend Father,
I have sent Father Miniot your letter with that of the Holy See.
This dear confrere advises me to hold to what I said in my letter of 29th March, which you must have received by now. We only have to instruct the Holy See on the general state of our Institute and on the number and quality of our subjects.
However, I must tell you, dear Father, that at the beginning of Mass this morning, for the first Friday of the month, it struck me that humanly speaking we had committed quite a few follies, which had actually served to glorify the Sacred Heart, and that our acceptance of New Guinea could well have the same result.
This idea persisted and is still with me. But for this, on receiving your letter I would have drawn up a submission to the Holy See. I want to pray and think more about it before having recourse to such a step, but I would like Father Jouet to prepare an honest report in your name and in the name of the Council.
With this reservation, dear reverend Father, I offer my suggestions, endorsed by Father Miniot, on the choice of subjects. None of the names suits us.
Father Durin has taught us a painful lesson in America; his brusque manner alienates his subordinates, and those who were under his thumb in New Guinea would be in an unenviable position.
With your permission, very reverend Father, I will point out that Father Navarre is not volunteering at all. You had told me once before that he'd offered to go to America. I mentioned it to him and he just gave a smile: "Well, what do you expect, When you're asked, you can't say no." This arose in connection with his health. This good confrere was sick when he arrived at Sazeret and he told me that he could not travel for even a few hours without being affected in some way. He would probably not reach his destination. Then again, his good points which we both recognise would not qualify him to be head of a mission. So far removed from superiors, he would lack authority with regard to his subjects; nor would he have the discernment, the confidence or knowledge of the world necessary to deal with the civil authorities. My friendship with Bishop Vitte, formerly of Noumea. has taught me something in this respect, but even then I don't flatter myself on knowing everything.
As you quite rightly said, very reverend Father, Father Deidier could not be sent because of his health. But we must also take into account his suspicious, uneven nature which makes him quick to develop a dislike for others; also his tendency to show preference to those he likes; in doing this he hurts the feelings of others. His fine intellect and other qualities, which make me like him very much, could not compensate for his failings or even make them bearable to his subjects.
It is unreasonable, also, to consider Father Marie or Father Chappel. The temperament of the first and his past record; the age of the second and his idiosyncrasies, rule out any discussion about either.52
Finally, in the case of the excellent Father Ramot, we are far from agreeing with the confreres you consulted. When you know him, you understand his need to feel a firm and experienced hand over him to help him fight against the scruples which are destroying him. This hand is yet to be found - Father Piperon and I both lack it. In New Guinea, faced with black men and women, debased, naked or almost so, Father Ramot will not hold his own. When he was put in charge of the novitiate, he did not assume the necessary authority. Father Miniot and I know many young brothers who have boasted of having done only what they wanted during their novitiate; and this is not mere bluster; I have often seen things, but not wanting to make matters worse, I've had to close my eyes to them.
Then again, Father Ramot has neither the ability nor the urbanity needed to head a Mission; he's completely ignorant of social convention. I'm not alone in this judgment; to my own opinion, I add that of the gentlemen of St-Gerand - I'm speaking of the laymen - who were closely associated with him, particularly in the days preceding the expulsions of September 5th. If he has left this impression on dedicated, kindly-disposed men, how would he manage with ships' captains and governors of colonies who are often unfriendly. Even the least critical are sure to find Father Ramot unequal to his position and this will create many problems.
If, very reverend Father, you comply with the wish of the Holy See, you really have no one but Father Jouet to put at the head of the Mission, and even he lacks some of the essentials. Has he sufficient health? Don't you think his natural ardour will soon leave him burnt out? Father Piperon would be more robust but would he have enough acumen? I wouldn't swear to it.
If you look beyond these two, I doubt the enterprise will succeed; while doing further damage to our already poor public image, we run the great risk of seriously jeopardising our high standing with the Apostolic See. There is food for thought here.
For the other two to be sent, I see only Fathers Chalelat, Heriault and Casas as possible choices; I could never agree to sending Fathers Giraux, Barral or Eugene Thomas."
It goes without saying that if Father Piperon left, we would no longer have a suitable Novice Master; when we put him in the novitiate we played our last card.
Of course, no one will replace Father Jouet for his drive. Though less flexible in character, Father Deidier would have the insight and dignity required for the office. In his dealings outside the house he would bring credit on the Congregation, but within the community he would not be able to preserve harmony among our young people.
You see, very reverend Father, I am writing what I think about it all, as I feel duty bound to do so. The failings I have pointed to in each of these confreres do not lessen my esteem and love for them.
Finally, I thank you, very reverend Father, from the depths of my heart, for the offer of a loan to help towards securing the ownership of St-Gerand. I accept it most gladly. When this business is settled, you will have relieved me of a problem which is causing me great anxiety and which could have disastrous results?
Please accept in advance, v.r. Father, my deepest gratitude, with my filial affection in Corde Jesu.
Father Jouet informed of Father Guyot's opinion
April 3rd, 1881
Very dear Father,
...Father Guyot writes to me this morning, to say that he consents to the folly we are about to commit, because he hopes that God will turn it to his glory.
And so he gives his vote for New Guinea. Father Piperon also and Father Morisseau. That's a difficult business settled!
Thanks be to God! Long live the Sacred Heart! Long live Our Lady! Long live Saint Joseph!
Now the question is - who will go?
Father Ramot is too scrupulous at present. You're still needed in Rome; Father Piperon can't be taken from the novitiate; Father Deidier, hasn't the health. That leaves Father Durin. Fathers Piperon and Morisseau accept him ad
duritiam cordis; Father Guyot wont have him at any price. He suggests that you go, and that Father Deidier take your place. That's out of the question for the moment.
I think Father Durin could go for two or three years with Fathers CramaiIIe and Giraux. Father Guyot considers the latter quite unsuitable and could not vote for him. Are you not sure of Father Giraux?
As I said before, I would send Father Ramot to America as superior, with Father Navarre. Would Father Chatelat be happy enough to go to America?
I'm going to write to Cardinal Simeoni during the week to thank him and present an official acceptance.
Good-bye dear Father. All yours in C.J.
J. Chevalier M.S.C.
P.S. These gentlemen would not agree to sending any scholastics at this point.
The astounding offers of this baffling "New France"
What was happening in the nebulous Colony of Port-Breton? The press of the time was hardly encouraging for those other emigrants who still had faith in the Marquis de Rays. New France had its Journal, published in Marseilles, and this continued to recruit followers; its leader and founder, its administration and its port of embarcation were in Europe, but in distant Oceania there was nothing tangible.
In Barcelona Fathers Deidier and Charles Marie vied with each other in courtng the favour of the pious Marquis, who, in turn, was pleased with their generous care of the emigrants, and eager to involve the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in his enterprise. Father Casas kept his distance from them, while the two young scholastics, especially Verjus, judging only from appearances and dazzled by what they saw, found in it all a powerful stimulus to their missionary vocation. Brother Verjus was ever on the alert, noting the comings and goings and picking up scraps of news; he wrote in his diary:
March 31st: ...This morning, Father Superior (Deidier) gave me a letter for the Marquis de Rays. My heart was thumping. When I returned he told me to hurry up and send the Annals "for many reasons." I was working and, at the same time, guessing at a thousand possibilities, when Father Superior came and told me that the Marquis was asking us to go to New France. If only Father Superior (Chevalier) was sure to accept...and three Fathers and two Brothers left ... and I was one of them!
That's enough of this wild talk! O my God, I'd do anything to see these negotiations turn out well.
April 2nd-3rd: ...The Marquis came to speak to Father Superior...What an inspiration it was to see this esteemed gentleman praying so fervently in our chapel...What a blessing if the letter from Rome granted his request! Let us hope and pray!...
April 5th: ...This evening the Marquis de Rays left his card. Is there something in the wind?
April 6th: ...Still no news from Issoudun.
In the meantime at Issoudun they had plenty to think about. Letters were arriving from Barcelona and Rome. Father Barral noted:
Tuesday, April 5th: We read in the Univers the sad news about the Colony of New France, and M. de Rays is writing long letters to Father Chevalier, who has them read at the evening meal.
(extracts from the letter of the Marquis to Father Chevalier: some ten pages)
Barcelona, April 3rd, 1881
Very Reverend Father,
I cannot express my happiness on reading your kind letter...
- Foundation of New France. His intentions...
- initial difficulties, "and men are lacking...and great suffering among our followers..."
- need for a European centre in New France, which would also be the residence of the Vicar Apostolic; hence the need for able men with a good understanding of our work. The good Father Lannuzel, an excellent and devoted priest whom I love very much as a compatriot and priest of my diocese, would not perhaps be capable as yet of assuming the direction...
- need of mission among the indigenous people, also demanding men with special aptitudes; these missions will determine the political and religious future of New France, and so there is need for the missionaries to take up residence not far from the chiefs, and for parishes and municipal councils to be formed.
"In the religious interests of our newly-formed colony; we would also like to be freed of the responsibility of choosing the priests or religious who present themselves to us. Therefore we would be all the more satisfied if our religious organisation took on a definite and well constituted character; we accept in advance every decision coming from Rome. We would welcome as a blessing that oneness of outlook and direction of which you spoke and which we would like to see concentrated in the hands of the Fathers of the Sacred Heart. We could not find apostles more in harmony with our ideals; at the outset our people were consecrated to the Heart of Jesus. God surely wished it and we are delighted?
As soon as you let me know your final decision I shall send you all the questions or requests of a religious nature, which could be addressed to me from any quarter whatsoever."
- Reference to the two priests already obtained, Fathers Lannuzel and Denis. To two others recommended, Father Hervieu and Reyners.
- establishment of European and indigenous orphanages in the colony, both of which to serve as the starting-point for future parishes and local administrations...
- direction of public education, entrusted at the beginning to the Vicar Apostolic, "who would thus be part of the civil administration of the Christian nation we wish to form. For that it would need a man of some account, a good judge of men and one possessed of tact and the many virtues necessary for such a position."
Novitiate in Barcelona. "I would be very happy, very reverend Father, to see you carry out your plan of setting up a special novitiate in Barcelona for the missions of New France. Reverend Father Marie, whom I have the privilege to know, kindly undertook here in Barcelona, the spiritual care of our last contingent of emigrants to leave on the Nouvelle Bretagne; he seems to fulfil all the requirements for that work, and he is, moreover, loved and revered by all our settlers; I would like him to meet them again one day - they would have a real family celebration.
"We would find him suitable also as Vicar Apostolic, though the very reverend Father Deidier might not agree to it; this would allow him to remain in charge of the novitiate in Barcelona and we would study and work out to our mutual satisfaction, the complex question of the political, religious and social organisation of New France. For the moment then it would be sufficient, I believe, to have in the colony itself an ecclesiastical superior and some simple missionaries, visited from time to time by a delegate; this latter would have such powers as would enable Father Marie, with our support and co-operation, to direct from Barcelona both the Apostolic Vicariate and the special novitiate destined to give it apostles!" etc.
Barcelona, April 3rd, 1881
Ch. de Breil,
Marquis de Rays
52 Father Charles Marie (Thorey), then at Barcelona; Father Jean-Baptiste Chappel (1817-1884), the first MSC sent to North America in 1873 and the one who prepared the foundation in Watertown (1876).
53 None of these six will be sent to Oceania.
54 Father Guyot, having been at St-Gerand since the beginning of this MSC residence in Sept. 1873, and local superior right up to this period of 1880-81, wished to save the house from a possible expropriation.
58 Consecration made at first at the port of Barcelona, July 4th, 1880, by Father Reno Marie Lannuzel, chaplain on the India, blessing the ship and consecrating to the Heart of Jesus all the regions he was to evangelise; then on 1st November, 1880, celebrating the first Mass at Port-Breton, New France, Lannuzel publicly renewed the act of consecration of the same regions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
59Fr. Hervieu, chaplain of the Sisters of St Gildas-de-Rhuis, near Sarzeau (Morbihan) and Fr. Reyners, Belgian parish priest, presented by Mr de Groote, consul of the Free Settlement of Port-Breton, in Belgium. Neither embarked for New France.
All these good intentions of the Marquis de Rays were confirmed and clarified in a Communication written by him from Barcelona on April 3rd, 1881, headed: Note sent to Rev. Father Deidier at the request of Very. Rev. Fr. Jouet. Here are the main points:
"The founder and head of the free Colony of New France, being unable, as a layman, to engage effectively in the religious organisation of the vast archipelagos which he intends to occupy, ardently wishes to obtain from the Holy Father an apostolic director for the spiritual guidance and ecclesiastical government of his newly-formed Colony."
- Expresses the desire to see continued the assistance already given to his emigrants by the good Fathers of the Sacred Heart, presently established in Barcelona, and notably that given by the highly esteemed Father Marie.
- As future emigration has to be drawn from Canada, on account of "ever increasing difficulties created by the French Government", he would appreciate the help of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart who are already established there.
- Consider advisable the formation on Spanish territory close to France, of a novitiate or religious house for the preparation of subjects - French, Spanish or others - for the evangelisation of the free Colony, and this to be with the collaboration of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. The Colony could regard this as one of its own religious institutions, helping in its maintenance, notably by an annual endowment and other allowances.
- Protection assured to the young Church in this Colony, for the full exercise of its ministry, while facilitating means of communication between the missionaries and granting them free passage on the Colony's ships.
- Apart from Fathers Lannuzel and Denis, the two priests already attached to the Colony, others are applying, but their acceptance would be left to the ecclesiastical superiors appointed by Rome.
- Some orders of religious women have been in touch with the administration of the Colony with a view to establishing houses in New France - two are cited.
- The same applies to orders of religious men; but despite the support of some Belgian and French Jesuit Fathers, the Superior General, Rev. Father Beckx, "did not think it advisable under present circumstances to give his consent."
- Case of Father Aurelien, Superior General of the Benedictines of Mourron, who acquired and resold much of the prime land in the Colony, to help set up orphanages. "Unfortunately, Father Aurelien does not seem to have the talent needed to direct such a work..."
What does Father Deidier think?
On the same day, April 3rd, he replied to the request for more details, made by Father Jouet after consultation with Father Chevalier. But in his letter which was meant to be a report of a direct conversation with the Marquis de Rays, Father Deidier constructed the dialogue by quoting word for word the statements of the preceding Note sent. Then, being sick and confined to bed, he first sent Father Chevalier the letter intended for Father Jouet, the two main topics of which were the question of the Marquis and that of the possibility of another house in Barcelona. His letter added nothing to the statements made by the Marquis in his Note. However, he began by saying:
I had a long meeting with the Marquis de Rays. He has replied to the letter written by our dear Father Superior. There is no need to say anything about this letter as you must know about it.
We have no letter to tell us what Father Chevalier thought of the Note. Many ideas would certainly have appealed to him in theory, but how would they be translated into fact? In his letter to Father Jouet, shortly after April 3rd, Father Chevalier said nothing at all about the bright picture painted by the Marquis of the yet unrealised politico-religious organisation of the Colony of Port-Breton. But he is surprised at the involvement of two priests mentioned by the Marquis in his Note:
The Marquis de Rays is not sufficiently informed about Father Aurelien, who caused such a scandal at Vichy. Let him write to the Bishop of Moulins, who suspended him and dissolved his so-called community etc.etc; this man must be kept at a distance.
This Father Denis is from the diocese of Sens; it was Father Marie who found him (for the Colony). He's one of his friends. He came to the Sacred Heart. You must have seen him. He even wanted to enter the novitiate. He's a hot head. He compromised himself. He's no great acquisition...62
Returning briefly to the major question of the moment - that of New Guinea - Father Chevalier added:
Fathers Guyot and Piperon give their assent. I send you their letters. But, who is there to send? You're indispensable in Rome, at least for a few more years, and Father Piperon at the novitiate!!!
Your opinion please...
I will send you shortly our official acceptance of New Guinea and a long letter from the Marquis de Rays.
Father Chevalier replies to the Holy See
On April 9th, at the evening recreation as Pierre Barral noted, Father Chevalier "read us his letter to Cardinal Simeoni accepting the mission of New France. It will be sent tomorrow", that is April l0th, with the following letter to Father Jouet:
April l0th, 188163
Dear good Father,
I'm sending you the official letter of acceptance of the Mission of New Guinea. Please deliver it to his Eminence Cardinal Simeoni after going through it.
You can date it whenever you like - Good Friday, the day of Salvation, for instance, or any other. If it does not conform with appropriate formalities, add or cut, and I'll rewrite it. I set it out so that we can use it for our Annales. I really think we can also print the Cardinal's reply as he will probably reply to me.
Think hard about the three we'll have to send. It's important. I don't think they can leave before the end of June. Tell this to the Cardinal. We'll wait and see what he says.
With this letter I'm sending an article for the Catholic papers and the religious weeklies of France, Belgium and Canada. It is addressed from Rome. You can write in the exact date. It wont be published in Rome, Italy, etc., until Cardinal Simeoni has received my letter.
This correspondence from Rome could be used for an article in our May Annales, if it comes out early enough.
Check this article; prune or add as you think fit. I don't think we should delay too long in making it public. Send it also to the conservative papers in Paris and throughout the country. It will be well worth the expense.
Don't let anyone suspect that the article comes from me. Don't forget the Triboulet 35 Bd Haussmann, Paris, Le Figaro, Le Francais, Paris-Journal, La Gazette de France, etc. Le Rosier de Marie, Le Pelerin, etc. etc.64
The 150 copies of this article are being sent to you by registered post.65
I'm enclosing the letter just written by the Marquis de Rays. Keep it and tell me what you think of it.66
You had better go and thank the Pope too.
Should we recall Father Durin and send Father Ramot to replace him? Father Navarre could go with him. What do you think?
That's enough for today. Good-bye dear good Father, All yours and my best wishes to all in C.J.
J. Chevalier M.S.C.
62 This Fr. Denis had come to see his friend Fr. Ch. Marie at the College of Chezal-Benoit when the latter was principal (1873). At this time he was the guest of the House of the Sacred Heart in Issoudun, where Fr. Jouet was local superior. He was later in England for some years. In 1881 Fr. Marie encouraged him to go to Barcelona, so as to recommend him to the Marquis as chaplain. He embarked on the Nouvelle Bretagne, March 7th, 1881: arrived at Port-Breton July l0th, and founded the short-lived parish of St. Joseph. Abandoned the Colony in Jan. 1882 and returned to France.
63 This letter left Issoudun on Palm Sunday.
64 This "article" has its own story; we will return to it.
65 These 150 copies were printed by courtesy of the author.
66 Cf. resume of letter of the Marquis de Rays, Barcelona, April 3rd.
Holy Week followed; at Issoudun, Tuesday 12th, it was the Feast of St. Jules. Despite other problems confronting him at this time, Father Chevalier's first concern was the delivery of his letter accepting the Mission; he had left it to his procurator to date this document. But in the community at Rome there was another cause for anxiety; for some days the scholastic, Octave de Brinon, had been ailing from what soon proved to be severe tuberculosis. He died on Holy Thursday, April 16th, the date given to the official letter from Father Chevalier to Propaganda.
Even before Palm Sunday, Father Jouet and his community had sent feast day greetings to Father Chevalier and in the same letter he had told him of his uneasiness over the health of Brother de Brinon. On the Feast of St. Jules, Father Chevalier replied to Rome, thanking all and adding for Father Jouet:
I received your letter telling me of Brother de Brinon's illness. We shall pray. Keep me informed.
I received your telegram saying that the letter about New Guinea had arrived etc.
The "great affair" of the Mission was not completely overshadowed by the feast of the Father Superior - quite the contrary. The spirit of the day is reflected in the Journal of Pierre Barral:
Tuesday, April 12th: ...Father Superior (who had been absent since Sunday) arrives about 11 o'clock with Fr. Sautereau, Vicar General of Bourges, Fr. Morel of the major seminary, together with the parish priest of Vatan. Magnificent bouquet from Orleans. The Vicar General wishes Father Superior a happy feast. Lively conversation about New Guinea, because of the bananas, dates, oranges sent by the Marquis de Rays...
Wednesday, April 13th: Community dinner at the presbytery with Fr. Morel. Conversation turns to New Guinea. Fr Posse, coming at the end of the meal, predicts that within six months, I shall be Vicar Apostolic...Father Morisseau reminds me that, being Vicar Apostolic, I'll be the first one to meet the cannibals' teeth. I reply that nothing would be dearer to me than martyrdom; that the baptism of blood is necessary for every religious Society; that the Marist missionaries in Algiers began their missions that way; that the Church has had three centuries of martyrs. I add that I don't say this honour will be mine, but it is my heartfelt desire for the Society. At the end of the meal, the canon raises his cognac and drinks facetiously to the health of the Vicar Apostolic.
Now that Propaganda had been notified of the acceptance, Father Chevalier also "drank" to the health of the future Vicar Apostolic. The question now to be resolved was the choice of a leader. He had already mentioned to Father Jouet that he was considering Father Durin, superior of Watertown. And now this same Father Durin, just a few days before receiving the offer to head the first missionary team, embarrassed Father Chevalier by asking for funds to cover some of his debts. Father Chevalier was taken unawares and his reaction was clear from his letter of April 12th to Father Jouet:
I'm sending you a letter from Father Durin. You can see the effrontery of the man. After buying and building against our wishes, here he is writing to us so imperiously. It's a bit too much to take. But that's the man! Is he really fit to be put in charge of three or four or our confreres? I don't think so. We'll always have trouble with him.
Don't you think Father Navarre would be better suited? And Father Durin could be an assistant. Then, for America, what about Father Ramot and Father Thomas of Limoges? Let me know.
Good-bye dear good Father. All yours in C.J.
At this point we will look at the well known letter of April 16th, 1881, to Cardinal Simeoni.
To His Eminence Cardinal Simeoni,
Prefect of Propaganda.
April 16th, 1881
The proposal that the Holy See is pleased to make us through your intermediary honours us as much as it alarms us. We did not imagine that His Holiness would cast his eyes on the lowly Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart to entrust it with a Mission of this magnitude. To undertake the evangelisation of New Guinea and the surrounding islands is surely far beyond our strength. The primitive nature of these people, their customs and their difficult languages, the equatorial climate - all, in a word, suggests a most arduous apostolate. The "official letter" which I was honoured to receive from Your Eminence, conveying the desire of the Holy Father, is dated March 25th; this date is significant - it is the day when heaven chose to announce the news of Salvation through the Incarnation of the Word; and it is the day when Leo XIII chose to offer us, through his faithful messenger, the Mission of Melanesia.
After the example of Mary, we have made known with simplicity our manifest inadequacy and our legitimate misgivings. Despite this sincere admission, you reassure us, as did the angel: Do not be afraid: accept the offer made to you; the spirit of God will be with you and cover you with its shadow. We yield then with respect, and our humble Congregation replies with the Virgin of Nazareth: Ecce ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum, and with Saint Peter: In verbo tuo laxabo rete.
We would like to be in a position to send to these poor pagan people very many apostles; but we are still limited in numbers. And so despite our best will. it is not immediately possible to assign to this important Mission any more than
the required few missionaries. While conveying to the Holy Father our deepest gratitude and veneration, would you kindly offer also the assurance of our blind obedience and complete loyalty.
Please accept my deep respect and gratitude in Corde Jesu.
Superior General of the Congregation of the
Missionaries of the Sacred Heart
Proposal made to Father Durin
In spite of his annoyance at the last letter of Father Durin, and the reservations expressed to Father Jouet, the Founder wrote to Father Durin on April 14th.68
Issoudun, April 14th, 1881
The Holy See desires that we take charge of a Mission among the Savages in Oceania: New Guinea, Solomon Islands etc. The distant countries have been abandoned since 1854. There are no catholic priests there. When the mission was first offered to us, I opposed serious objections.68
The Holy See has again invited us to undertake this work, and has sent me an official letter, through Cardinal Simeoni, to that effect.
The Archbishop of Bourges has been consulted and his opinion is that we can no longer refuse. I have, therefore, accepted this important Mission.
Among the islands adjacent to New Guinea there are two principal ones, called New Britain and New Ireland, where a Frenchman - le marquis de Rays - has founded a colony composed of French, Belgians and Spaniards, under the title of New France.
His Holiness thinks this colony will be very useful to our mission.
The marquis de Rays is a fervent catholic and has promised to assist us. The Missionaries will have a free passage on a steamer that frequently sails from Barcelona to this new colony.
My desire is to choose among the members of our Society three or four who will not fear this dangerous mission.
The Apostolic Vicariate shall be erected as soon as our Missionaries have become acquainted with the country and with the customs and manners of the savages.
In the meantime, the superior and chief of the expedition shall be vested with all the faculties and the title of Apostolic Prefect.
I desire to take you, dear Father, for the Mission of New Guinea.
Are you disposed to go? Tell me sincerely your feelings. Are you willing to go to those distant and savage countries?
The savages are not difficult to access. They are hospitable. They prosecute68b polygamy. They believe in the immortality of the soul. The climate is not intolerable; the temperature varying from 75 to 85 degrees.
This Mission will draw down from Heaven abundant blessings on our Society, and will secure to us solid and good vocations. This is the firm hope of Leo XIII himself.
If, as I hope, you accept my proposal, dear friend, send us a telegram to that effect, as I shall immediately send your successor with another priest to Watertown.
As soon as you have sufficiently initiated the new superior, you will leave Watertown and return to Issoudun where you will receive instructions for your new mission, and sail from Barcelona.
Adieu, dear Father
J. Chevalier m.s.c.
68 We do not have the original French text of the letter sent to Fr. Durin. This is the English version as published by Fr. Durin in The Annals of Our Lady of the Sacred Vol. V (1881), June, pp. 4-5. Watertown NY.
68aThe original French was probably ambiguous, but would have been better transk~ted "...I put forward serious objections against it." See Note 68 above. (Editor).
68b Polygamy was, on the contrary, accepted practice. The misinformation may have been caused somewhere along the line by use of the French word "poursuivre" which can mean both "prosecute" and "follow". (Editor).
The first response of Father Durin arrived by telegram at the end of April and Father Jouet was informed at once by letter of 30th: "Father Durin telegraphed to say he places himself entirely at my disposal for New Guinea."
But before that, on April 26th, Father Chevalier was still wavering and sent a reminder to his procurator:
I sent you a letter from Father Durin but you are slow to say what you think about the business in America and the suitability of Father Durin for New Guinea.
After these latest events I fear we may jeopardise the Mission in Oceania if we put him in charge. The more I think about it the more apprehensive I become. He could go perhaps as bursar and supervisor of stores.69 But then to whom can we entrust this mission?
Father Ramot seems too scrupulous and diffident; perhaps Father Navarre will not have enough authority or insight. Those who would suit, such as you, Fathers Piperon and Guyot, can't be moved for the present. Would Father Deidier have the health? Should we offer it to him? Would Father Marie suit as second or third missionary? I believe so. But what would become of the house in Barcelona? I'm at my wit's end. We're no further ahead now than when we started, and yet we must choose soon. Let me know what you think of it all.
Fathers Guyot and Morisseau want nothing to do with it, because they see no one fit for the work. Father Piperon is also undecided about the choice of subjects. You see my position. I'm sending you more letters from the Marquis de Rays.70
69 Father Chevalier had had Father Durin at Issoudun as bursar from Sept. 1873 to May, 1876.
These were justified by the ever more disturbing news regarding New France. Since the beginning of April the Republican press of France persisted with its accounts of the scandalous happenings in this distant Oceania. With complete honesty, however, the unfortunate Marquis reported to Father Chevalier on the crisis, while yet remaining optimistic about the future.
April 16th, 1881
Very Reverend Father,
It gave me the greatest pleasure to receive your kind letter of l0th of this month; it has been absolutely impossible for me to reply sooner, caught up as I am in the storm raging against us - will you please excuse me.
Details of the temporary abandonment of the colony are reaching me by telegraph. It was a plot? Every conceivable means were employed to detain my ship, Nouvelle Bretagne, for more than three months, so preventing it from carrying the new recruits needed for the colony. Through the Consul at Barcelona, the French Government was encouraging the emigrants to forsake us, and was forcing my crew, officers and sailors, to defect, by threatening all registered seamen with three months' prison, and two years' correctional service aboard a warship, if they did not abandon our expedition. At the same time, in Sydney, three successive campaigns were waged to induce the crew to desert our steamer Genil, loaded with food and provisions, animals and various other supplies, to prevent these from reaching the colony in due time and to force the settlers to leave!
This is what happened. The delay in the return of the Genil was exploited by the many renegades and spies who, through the consolidated subversive tactics of the government and the International, had infiltrated each expedition of emigrants in order to sow discord among them. These people stirred up honest settlers and together they decided to go to Noumea, ostensibly to ask the support and protection of the French government, our sworn enerny.72
70 Notably the letter of the Marquis, Barcelona, April 16th, 1881.
71Colonel Le Prevost and the chaplain Rene Lannuzel had left Port-Breton on December l0th, 1880 to restock in Sydney, which they left again February 1st, to reach Port Breton about February 20th. In their absence a revolt broke out among the settlers of Port Breton; the India was seized and sailed to Noumea.
72 The Genil was in Sydney from December 26th, 1880 to February Ist, 1881.
On arrival in Noumea, the ship was seized by the French Government which is having it sold at this moment, with all the equipment it can transport from the colony; this is to compensate the settlers who claim to have been deceived, although they accepted freely and quite willingly all the risks of the enterprise.73
At the same time, in Aden, Australia and Caledonia, the boilers of our three steam ships were being smashed to put them out of service.
Such are the machinations of our opponents!
To attend to the most urgent matters first, we sent a telegram to Manila instructing them to send a Spanish ship to Port-Breton, with a number of workmen to occupy the place and continue a few works until the Nouvelle Bretagne arrived.
The repairs to the Genil were carried out in Australia and it set out again for the colony on 5th March, with all its cargo, some workmen, Father Lannuzel, a few settlers and various types of machinery; it must have arrived at least a month ago.74
Although temporarily abandoned, the organisation of the colony was resumed and it is to be hoped that no further misfortunes befall us there; but this can be assured only by severing all connections with Australia and France and forming a strong and steady alliance with Spain and the Philippines?
And so it is through Manila, that we will henceforth maintain our ties with Europe, and as far as possible we will use Spanish ships to link our colony to the Philippines; this will ensure connections with these important colonies and the maintenance of supplies to our own, as there can be no interference from hostile and treacherous agents of the French Government and the International.
This is our plan for the ftlture.76
You are quite right, Reverend Father, when you say that we must be able to choose the settlers from sincere and practising Catholics. That is quite true, but unfortunately in practice it is not possible at the outset of the colony. Sincere and practising Catholics are not, as a rule, very venturesome and are loath to leave the security of their own parish to set up a new colony. Certainly they will give their weekly sou to the Propagation of the Faith to help departing missionaries and support them in primitive countries; but they will not follow them, especially as a family.
And so to set up an initial European centre, we are forced to take what we can get, and be a little less discriminating; then little by little, we can eliminate the undesirable elements and group together the better types of people.
Without the International and the French agents, we would already be very firmly established, but our work has become the target for all who hate the name of Christian. We can hope for victory only with the help of God. In the midst of the storms, the horizon is clearing and, if God permits it, our future will be very bright.
You are quite right also, very Reverend Father, when you speak of the choice of missionaries!
...You are probably aware of the terrible trial that we underwent last year in Barcelona with two Irish missionaries who had been sent to us by Propaganda.77 If such things continued, we would never succeed in establishing a Christian colony in New France...
A Spanish ship will be sailing for the colony on June 1 st next. The missionaries could take advantage of this departure, as also of the proposed monthly passage to Manila.
Yours very sincerely,
Ch. de Breil
Marquis de Rays
73 This refers to the ship India which will be put up for sale in Noumea.
74This date given for the departure from Sydney is incorrect, as it had weighed anchor February l st. It could not reach Port-Breton before February 20th.
75 It will be necessary to await the arrival of the fourth expedition aboard the Nouvelle Bretagne, of which Father Denis was the chaplain, in early August. It will be yet another appalling end with the disappointed settlers deserting.
76 This new plan is to be noted; it will be the means and the itinery of the expedition of September 1st, 1881, with the first Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, as far as Manila.
77 This dates back to the time of departure from Barcelona of 2nd expedition on the Genil, in March, 1880.
This letter' helps us to understand the changing relations between the administrators of the Colony of New France and the MSC Superiors, in particular Fathers Chevalier and Jouet. They still entertained a genuine sympathy for the Marquis de Rays but, like Propaganda, they were becoming increasingly uncertain as to the prospects of this enterprise, already so discredited; hence the recommendations for more caution, evident in the ensuing correspondence from Rome. However, they still hoped to avail themselves of the facilities offered by the Marquis, to allow an early departure of missionaries for Oceania.
Ten days later Father Chevalier sent Father Jouet the latest letters of the Marquis, and asked for Rome's impressions; at the same time he looked forward to the reply from the Prefect of Propaganda regarding the acceptance of the Mission.
April 26th, 1881
Dear good Father,
Has Cardinal Simeoni endorsed our acceptance of the Mission in New Guinea etc.?
It would be very good, and more effective, if you could persuade him to officially acknowledge my letter in the name of the Holy See, and to send us, on the part of Leo XIII, an apostolic blessing for the new missionaries and the peoples whom they are going to evangelise.
It would then be time to make known to the public our acceptance of this great Mission; as you will see by the attached letter, Marquis de Rays thinks so too.
I feel that, even in the interests of the work itself, we can't delay any longer...
The reply to this letter has not been preserved but from Father Chevalier's letter of April 30th, it can be surmised that Father Jouet did not share, at least to the same degree, the impatience of his superior; after all, Father Durin may have placed himself entirely at the disposal of the Superior General, but he had not as yet been officially appointed; the Council had not been consulted.
April 30th, 1881
Dear good Father,
I just received your letter? Like you, I am grief-stricken over the death of Brother de Brinon...
It is clear that in our negotiations regarding New Guinea and the Solomon Islands etc., we must act independently of the Marquis de Rays, whose enterprise has a doubtful future.
We are being sent by the Holy See and are dependent on Propaganda Fide; that is how I have always understood it.
You say nothing of the letter from Father Durin which I sent you,80 nor of the article for the papers, with the changes you suggested?
On the one hand we must be active, and on the other, work out together who will go to New Guinea. I believe that we can send four at the moment. I await your reply to our last letters.
Aspirations of Verjus
At Barcelona the scholastic Verjus was keeping his ears open, though his information was limited to the confidences made to him by the Superior Deidier, and by Father Marie. The difficulties of the Marquis were not hidden from him, but this in no way diminished his admiration, nor his desire to see the Marquis succeed in his enterprise, especially in view of the attendant missionary apostolate; his sentiments are clear from the entries in his Journal during April, 1881:
April 13th. To do all for the success of the work of the Marquis de Rays - I am called to that; I can no longer doubt it, and I must devote myself to it body and soul. Therefore, all my actions, aspirations, prayers, sacrifices, self-denial, work - all will have no other end but to hasten the realisation of this great work and to obtain the grace to be sent there for the greater glory of the Sacred Heart Jesus!
In the meantime, Father Superior has told me some wonderful news. Rev. Father Superior General has just accepted the Missions of New Guinea. Three of our Fathers are going. No scholastics will go this time. That will happen later. O my God, what a blow! But I don't want to force your will. No, I'm asking nothing of men, but of you, my God. Why not? Please don't let them leave without me; let me go along as an extra!82
April 22nd....I don't know if the business of New Guinea and our dear Society is making any headway. I'm waiting anxiously for the outcome. We'll have every reason to hope when Our Lady is brought to New France.
April 24th. Father Superior83 thinks that, through the Marquis, he can get the former Hospital of St. John of God, for the community and future novitiate...
April 25th. This evening Father Superior and Father Marie went to visit the church and former convent of the Brothers of St. John of God. Father Superior likes the church very much and hopes to carry out the transaction through the Marquis de Rays. It will be for his Seminary, for our Apostolic School and for our Fathers.
April 29th .... The John of God affair seems to have come to nothing.
May 3rd....It seems that our missionary enterprise will succeed. It is independent of the Marquis and its purpose is above all else the evangelisation of the indigenous people.84
This last observation indicated that Barcelona, as well as Issoudun, had received a salutary warning. This is, in fact, what Pierre Barral noted in his Journal on May 1st:
Last night at the evening meal, Father Superior told us that Cardinal Simeoni doesn't want us to go to the Marquis de Rays about the Mission of New France - the Marquis is to come to us; we must be independent and the colony must be no more than a means of assisting us, without any obligation on our part; the Congregation (of Propaganda) will withdraw the powers of the priests of the colony who must be in all things subject to the authority of the Society of missionaries; next Thursday the Cardinal will speak officially to the Pope; he has already written on behalf of this Mission to the Society of the Propagation of the Faith in Lyons, asking its full co-operation and the greatest possible help?
Rome finally replies
Since Father Chevalier's letter of Holy Saturday, April 16th, accepting the mission, Issoudun waited for the Holy See's official assignment of Oceania to our Society. About a month passed more or less in silence, and some were becoming a little impatient. At Barcelona young Henry Verjus was restless: "...As for the missions, there's nothing on the horizon, but I think Father Ramot has written and discussions are under way with the Marquis!" In Holland, Father Piperon wrote, May 2nd, to Father Jouet:
What's happening to the Mission? I've heard no more about it. Are you going? We often speak of it here. Some are rather afraid of the cannibals' teeth, but I must say that there's no wavering; all are resolute, even to the point of being devoured if necessary. Inspired by their example, I embrace - though with less alacrity - their fine sentiments; if I'm needed I feel ready to set out, but I know I won't be asked because I'd probably be quite useless. But I don't say 'no'.
On May 14th, the Secretary of Propaganda asked Father Jouet to send Father Chevalier a "letter relating to the missionaries for Melanesia and Micronesia." Monsignor Masotti added, "I recommend, too, that when you have examined them sufficiently, you return to this Secretariate the documents concerning this Mission."
Father Jouet did not merely go through the papers; he had already asked one of his scholastics to copy all of them. Then in jubilant mood, he sent Cardinal Simeoni's letter, along with his own message:
May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved!
May 15th, 1881
Very reverend and dear Father Superior,
Here is the most beautiful of May flowers. Twelve million pagans given to us as beloved younger brothers. The Pope gives us the great Mission proposed; the official letter is attached. It arrived last night after everyone was in bed.
The simple and honest statement of our lack of personnel, resources and experience edified the Holy Father and in no way deterred him. As Our Lord said to Peter, he says to us: Duc in altum! We must go then. And fortunate are those who will go first to toil and die to prepare a fruitful harvest for their successors.86
I'm writing only a few words today. I haven't stood still all the week; yesterday I went to Propaganda again - quite needlessly; then arriving home I found the letter. I have to return to see the Cardinal who is studying the practical details of the question, to map out for us our policy and provide us with all the means necessary to operate.
He is not in a hurry for us to leave. To ensure success, he wants us to profit from the failures of others and have everything well prepared.87
We must remain silent then about this great matter, at least publicly, until appointments are officially settled.88
You know my thoughts on this matter. I vote89 for Father Durin as Superior of the Mission and if he accepts, the Council must count on him to appoint the others. To send subjects who will not go to the Superior is to export discord to New Guinea.
If Father Durin is not accepted by a majority vote, then a second one is to be chosen and the question of the others will be treated with him.
I have a long and interesting article to send you on the Pope and the chapel of St. Joseph. I would be grateful if you could wait for it and publish it in the Annales. I will do my utmost to send it to you tomorrow.
82 Father Chevalier spoke no more of sending scholastics, taking account of the contrary opinion of Father Piperon; cf. letter Piperon, March 31st, 1881.
86 We must not forget that letters of this kind from Father Jouet are directed to his associates also, and especially to the Councillors. One can understand his care to convince the reticent by giving the best possible interpretation to the thought of the Holy Father.
87 Reference to the disasters of the Colony of New France.
88 Hence the silence about the Annales and the postponement of the article written by Fr. Chevalier for the press.
89 “I vote", as a general Councillor for...
90 Cf. Annales N.D. du S.C., Issoudun, July, 1881, pp. 152 ff.
In the name of Leo XIII, Cardinal Simeoni expressed thanks and encouragement, and determined the immediate objectives:
To the Very Reverend Father Chevalier, Superior General of the
Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Issoudun91
May 14th, 1881
Very Reverend Father,
I am happy to make known to you the Holy Father's satisfaction in learning of your willingness to send missionaries to evangelise the apostolic Vicariate of Melanesia and Micronesia, comprising New Guinea, New France and many other islands of Oceania.92
His Holiness praises you for your zeal and imparts the apostolic blessing on you and on all the missionaries of your Congregation.
For the moment, it will require only a few missionaries to go to the Vicariate. When you have given me their names, I will lose no time in granting the appropriate faculties,93 and to name, as Superior of the Mission, the one whom you designate as fitted for such an office, and under whose authority will come the priests already in the Colony of New France.
Later, with the number of missionaries and faithful increasing, it will be possible, I hope, to re-establish the bishopric definitively and approve the appointment of a Vicar Apostolic.94
In the meantime, I pray the Lord to reward you with an abundance of his graces, you and your Society which demonstrates such zeal for the salvation of souls, and to bless particularly the works to be undertaken in this vast Vicariate, for so long deprived of apostolic missionaries.
Very affectionately yours,
Jean, Card. Simeoni
This letter was providential, arriving as it did at a time when confidence in the mission was waning; for about four weeks, matters had seemed to be at a standstill, and on May 17th, Pierre Barral could say:
Nothing in particular lately. Very little is said of New Guinea; its like the calm before the storm.
Then at last came the encouraging communication from Rome. Father Chevalier replied immediately:
91 The original letter is in Italian; apart from an important noun in one sentence, the text is consistent with that of the Archives of Propaganda (Letters and Decrees & Notes from the Secretariate, 1881, vol. 377, f. 257, r.v.). In 1881 two French translations were made, one sent by Jouet to Issoudun, the other altered and published in the Annales de N.D. du S. The text presented here takes into account the two versions of 1881, while giving certain expressions a sense closer to the Italian original.
92 Worth noticing is the name of the vast mission comprising the double Vicariate, separated in 1844 from that of Western Oceania. And in this mission were, among others, New Guinea, the objective assigned as a priority, and New France, simply taken into account with the reservation which follows regarding priests who might already be there.
93 In the Italian text: le opportunefacolta; in the first translation 1881: les pouvoirs necessaires; in the second translation, published in 1881: les facilites opportunes.
94In this sentence is the variant pointed out above (note 91). Original Italian text of the Archives of Propaganda:
In seguito...giova sperare che potra definitivamente ricostituirsi il Vicariato et nominarsi un Vicario Apostolico.
Original text of letter sent to Issoudun:
Il seguito...giova sperare che potra definitivamente ricostituirsi il Vescovato et nominarvisi un Vicario Apostolico.
Plus tard...j'aime a esperer que l'on pourra definitivement reconstituer l'eveche et nommer un Vicaire Apostolique.
Second translation, published in 1881:
Plus tard...on pourra, je l'espere, reconstituer l'eveche et y precaniser un Vicaire tolique.
May 20th, 1881
Dear good Father,
I received your letter with the official one from Cardinal Simeoni regarding New Guinea. The question is settled.
I see no one but Father Durin to recommend as Superior of the Mission. Father Morisseau agrees to it as a last resort.95 There is no one then opposed to this choice except Father Guyot. When asked to choose another, he replies that
there is no one - that all the others are necessary where they are.
What are you to do with such a decision? Go ahead.
In a fortnight Father will be in Issoudun. We will see then. And now, who will replace him at Watertown? Father Ramot is the only one I see. After that,96 Father Navarre as second, with Father Benjamin Grom as third confrere. It's
an ill-assorted arrangement, but what can we do? Let me know what you think.
Father Guyot will not accept it, nor do I believe will Father Morisseau. These two gentlemen would like the house in America closed. I think that would be disastrous...97
Should I write to the Cardinal and thank him, and along what lines?
The Marquis de Rays insists that the Spanish opposition to his work is simply for the sake of appearances to satisfy the French Government, but that secretly and basically Spain is encouraging it. A new ship has just left Barcelona for
The letter was brief and restrained; Father Chevalier still had many worries - at hand he had Father Ramot from the house in Gerra, whom he was seriously considering sending to Watertown to replace Father Durin, now on his way to Europe.
At Rome, the finances for the restoration of the church constituted a growing problem and the opening was expected before the end of the year. At Issoudun itself, the archpriest Chevalier had to cope with the increasing hostility of an anti-clerical municipality, to which he referred in this same letter:
95 The only assistant at Issoudun, Fr. Morisseau says that he does not feel free enough to give his opinions. We will see this again regarding the “Guyot affair”.
96 Still for the house at Watertown.
97 Father Piperon would also favour the closing fo Watertown. We will see the courageous stand taken by the Founder to maintain this first American house; cf. letter June lith, 1881, to Fr. Piperon. p.114.
98For the material replenishment of Port-Breton.
The Municipal Council of Issoudun is devising a thousand ways to trouble us. By a resolution in April they are asking the Minister for my transfer. We will see what happens. I don’t think that the ministry will countenance this manoeuvre of the Freemasons. I am immovable. It would require canonical reasons. Supposing that the Archbishop consented - which I doubt - there would be recourse to Rome. It's a serious matter of principle.99 Good-bye dear friend. Let us pray pro invicem.
When writing to the Archbishop of Bourges on May 22nd about affairs at Issoudun, Father Chevalier also let him know of the recent letter from Propaganda:
I am sending Your Grace a copy of the letter that his Eminence Cardinal Simeoni has just written me in the name of the Holy Father to congratulate us on our acceptance of the Mission of New Guinea etc.
It is a great work, my Lord, and we need, more than ever, both your guidance and your prayers.
In a letter dated May 26th, only part of which is preserved, Father Jouet passed on in every detail the recommendations of the Secretaries of the Congregations of the Council, and of Bishops and Regulars, made to Father Chevalier, archpriest of Issoudun, in the event of his being deprived of his office as immovable parish priest. He advised also on the steps to take regarding the Society of the Propagation of the Faith:
His Eminence Cardinal Simeoni has written to the Central Council of the Society to ask for a generous allocation to help in the re-establishment of our huge Vicariate. This first step will facilitate the approach to be made by Father Durin after his official appointment. We must make genuine and loyal friends of all the members of this Society, and for that, a visit or a kind letter is needed. His Eminence Cardinal Simeoni promises to recommend especially the one who is to solicit aid for this new Vicariate.100
I think that tomorrow or the day after, as Cardinal Simeoni has promised, I'll be able to speak in private to the Sovereign Pontiff on your behalf, simply to thank him for his kindness in choosing our little Society, and assure him again of our absolute attachment.101
After that I'll send you a letter about this important business...102
Cardinal Simeoni is not in a hurry for the missionaries to depart. He says that it is better that everything, and above all the missionaries, be well prepared for this great enterprise. This involves knowledge, finance, a wide variety of objects
99 To foresee every possibility of such a measure, the Procurator had even been charged to find out in Rome the necessary procedures in case of any recourse to Rome. Cf. Letter Jouet, May 26th, with replies from Mons. Caprara, Congr. of the Council, and Mons. Agnozzi, Congreg. of Bishops & Regulars.
100 Hence the letter of recommendation of Cardinal Simeoni (June 6th, 1881) to Mr. Des Garetz, President of the Central Council of the Propagation of the Faith at Lyons.
101 The private audience took place on Monday, June 13th, at 11,45 am. Fr. Jouet will give an indication of it in his letter of June 24th, published in the Annales of August, 1881. pp. 180-181.
102 Cf. letter Jouet of June 24th, 1881.
to be taken etc. etc. The Colony of New France certainly enjoys the goodwill of the Cardinal who wants it to succeed, but he has little confidence in it, and so he's not anxious to have the interests of the Mission too closely bound to those of the Colony.
As for the Seminary in Spain for the formation of missionaries,103 it looks very fine on paper but in practice it's premature. Plans announced in advance do immeasurable harm when they can't be implemented. The main thing is to begin and then to speak of the work when it is begun. The most urgent thing then is to appoint the Superior (of the Missions).104
Father Durin in Europe
As suggested by Father Chevalier, Father Durin replied by telegram; he agreed to lead the first team of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart into Oceania; the message reached Issoudun at the end of April. Even before the arrival of his replacement in America, he made preparations to return to Europe, so convinced was he that the appointment was official. On Sunday, May 15th, he gave a moving farewell sermon to his parishioners of Watertown, who were both surprised and proud to see their zealous pastor called to be "Prefect Apostolic" in the distant islands of Oceania. The next day, he left Watertown, leaving behind the young Father Benjamin Grom, ordained in December, 1880, with Brother Charles Bono who was to leave the Society in September, 1881.
A telegram had announced his coming and on the morning of 30th May, Father Durin arrived at the railway station in Issoudun "dressed like an English lord"! At midday he was at the presbytery to learn that the next day, Feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, he was expected to celebrate the solemn High Mass, with Lanctin as deacon and Cramaille as sub-deacon, and then to preside at Vespers at 3.00 p.m. with cantors wearing copes. Honour to whom honour is due! At the end of Vespers, Father Chevalier gave the report of the Association of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart; then went on to say that "soon 14.000.000 pagans - as many as there were Associates of Our Lady (!) - would be placed under her protection; that soon Oceania would be evangelised by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, and that today, Feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, we were to commit this mission to her protection..." It was the first public announcement made at Issoudun; the next day before all else Father Chevalier reported to Father Jouet:
Father Durin has been in Issoudun for two days. He willingly accepts the Mission of New Guinea. All the Fathers of the Council, except Father Guyot, recommend him as Superior, and you can now submit his name officially to Cardinal Simeoni so that this matter can be settled.
As soon as we receive the approval of the Holy See, Father Durin will attend to the choice of his confreres and the organisation of his Mission. Will he have to go to Rome to thank the Holy See and receive instructions? And when?
Supported by a letter of recommendation from Cardinal Simeoni, he will go to Lyons to see the members of the Council of the Propagation of the Faith. Has his Eminence received a favourable reply from the Council? There is no time to lose.
Now Mr. de Maguelone can write his article. But read it over. Write yours also for the next Annales, and its publication can be brought forward.
This idea of a Seminary or Novitiate for the Missions in Spain came from the Marquis de Rays, but was inspired by Father Marie; it was shared by Father Chevalier who will often return to this question.
104 The rest of this letter is not in the dossier.
Father Chevalier was pressing ahead, but Father Durin had already been quite imprudent in his haste. Before leaving America he had even found time to write the June edition of the Annals of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, which he had himself founded in June, 1877, in Watertown. As Director of the Archconfraternity, he gave his recommendations to the Associates; then he published two letters of Father Rene Lannuzel, missionary in New France. But more importantly, he reproduced in its entirety the personal letter which the Superior General had sent him on April 14th, proposing to him the role of superior of the first group for New Guinea, as well as the official letters between Rome and Issoudun, copies of which had been sent to him by Father Chevalier; and all this accompanied by some untimely comments implying his appointment as Prefect Apostolic - a point raised by Father Chevalier only as a future possibility! After the publication of this June number, the news burst like a bombshell in the Society. It was the first public statement on the matter. And so when the Watertown magazine arrived in Barcelona, Henri Verjus recorded in his Journal:
June 9th: We learnt today through the English Annals, the official and definitive news of the acceptance by our dear Society of the Missions of New Guinea. We read with delight the various documents printed in these Annals. The letter of the Cardinal is excellent. Rev. Father Chevalier's letter encourages me. Father Durin's leave-taking was ably conducted; it seems that this good Father will be Vicar Apostolic in New Guinea. Rejoice, O my dear Society. Be joyful and sing, for today your true support is in sight. Here is your hope, your future strength, the source of your vocations! I desire nothing more.105
The reaction in Rome was very different; conscious of the objections that could be expected from the redoubtable Father Guyot, Father Jouet again pleaded with Father Founder; on June loth he wrote:
For our part, v.r. Father Superior, we must be prudent and not rush anything. This good Father Durin has certainly acted quickly in publishing the letter addressed to you by Cardinal Simeoni. It was a letter which should have been published only when everything was decided. He has also published the letter that you wrote to him in America proposing the Mission. This letter was not at all for the public. Besides this, he announces that he is setting out; for him the appointment is ratified; he sees himself already in New Guinea, when in fact nothing is settled. All this is so very unfortunate.
I, for my part, am very upset by it. I am doing as much as is humanly possible for this work and then this good Father Durin oversteps the mark. It is bad, especially as the American papers state in no uncertain terms that Father Durin is called by His Holiness Leo XIII to the Mission of New Guinea. This is not true etc. etc.
Despite everything, the devoted Procurator proceeded with the business and obtained from the Prefect of Propaganda a recommendation to be presented to Mr. Des Garetz, President of the Central Council of the Propagation of the Faith, by a Missionary of the Sacred Heart, as yet unspecified (prudent wording of Father Jouet!).
Very dear Sir,
The bearer of this letter is a Missionary of the Sacred Heart, representing the Reverend Father Chevalier, Superior General. He comes to discuss with you the measures necessary for the appropriation of funds for assistance which your praiseworthy Society will gladly grant to the Vicariate of Melanesia and Micronesia, recently entrusted to this Society by the Holy See.
I hasten to second his request, renew the recommendation already addressed to you in my letter of May 31st last, and to remind you that we are dealing with a resurgent mission whose needs are immeasurable.
I pray the Lord to grant you every blessing.
Rome, Propaganda, June 6th, 1881.
Jean Cardinal Simeoni
There is nothing ambiguous in this statement; the Mission is specified; it is a mission to be reconstituted and entrusted to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart; there is no reference whatsoever to the free Colony of Port-Breton, New France. When this letter arrived in Issoudun, it was quite simply sent to Father Durin, the representative of Father Chevalier. The latter wrote to Father Jouet on June 14th:
Father Durin left for Lyons a few days ago with the letter from Cardinal Simeoni to plead the cause of New Guinea.
I had already seen in his English Annals the indiscretions of which you speak, and I have reproached him as he well deserved. He told me that he had thought it necessary to print these letters to explain his departure, and that he did not believe the publicity would go beyond his Annals. I urged him to be more prudent in the future and I found his dispositions admirable; obedient and devoted, he is ready for everything. I really think he has the qualities needed for the Mission in Oceania.
As we shall see, this opinion was not 'shared by all the Council; it was flatly contested by Father Guyot. At Issoudun itself, where Father Durin spent the first week of June, everything suggested that he was in fact the man chosen to be the "Superior of the Mission to New Guinea." As such he went to Lyons, spoke to the pupils of the Apostolic School, and above all, discussed with Father Superior the possible members of the missionary team.
Father Durin had left Issoudun on June 7th to visit his parents and then go to Lyons. While passing through Bourges, he picked up one of his nephews, Georges Durin, who had been admitted to the major seminary through the mediation of a priest friend. We will meet him later.
Father Chevalier sent Father Jouet an immediate account of his dis cussions with Father Durin.
June 7th, 1881
Dear good Father,
Father Durin thinks that Father Navarre would be well suited in New Guinea, together with Father Cramaille.
Father Barral is very anxious to go; he says that he would get on well with Father Durin, who, in turn, would gladly accept him. With this stable combination Father Ramot could only gain by it.
Father Ramot would go to America and as his deputy, Father Thomas of Limoges, who makes his vows at the end of the month. Father Ramot would be happy to take Father Giraux, who would go to Oceania after one or two years in America; he would then know English and could be very useful.
Father Barral doesn't relish going to America.106
Sound out Father Giraux and let me know at once, as the departure for America is urgent; Father Benjamin Grom is alone there, and he finds it tedious to be on his own...
Father Barral, living temporarily at Issoudun, did in fact manifest a great desire to go to Oceania, and our first "Roman doctor" considered its possibility with a certain assurance. He wrote in his Journal:
106 Pierre Barral will later get a taste of the Ecuador, then the United States, founding his own work at Immensee, Switzerland, 1895.
Thursday, June 2nd: Rev. Father Superior asks me if I want to go to New Guinea. I tell him that I await the decision of the Council. He says that the Council chooses the Superior, but the other members are chosen by the Superior General; but he will choose only those who have asked; he tells me that this is the procedure in all Congregations; he urges me to pray and talk it over with the confreres.
Friday, June 3rd: This evening, I am going to speak to Father Cramaille about the Mission in New Guinea. He tells me that Rev. Father Superior spoke to him about it a long time ago and that he is prepared to go, etc. This is how we arrange things: Father Durin, superior; Father Navarre, assistant; Father Cramaille, bursar, and Father Barral. At evening recreation Father Durin looks bored and says unequivocally that he is out of place in Issoudun.
Saturday, June 4th: I speak to Father Morisseau about New Guinea; I disclose my fears and desires; I tell him that my hope for those who go is that we be four brothers with one heart and soul, for that is the fundamental condition for the success of the Mission. He says that we will know next week, and for the moment we must pray.
Pentecost, June 5th: I'm going to give Communion to the pupils of the Apostolic School. I say a few words exhorting them to offer Holy Communion for the Missions in New Guinea in order to draw down on those chosen the blessings of the Sacred Heart and of the Holy Spirit. I tell them that they must be interested in this Mission for four reasons - as children of the Sacred Heart; as children of the Church and the Sovereign Pontiff; as children of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, and as children of the Apostolic School.
At 5 o'clock I'm going with Father Durin to the Apostolic School; he is to speak to the pupils until 6.15 p.m. and give Benediction in their chapel. It is fitting that the Superior of the Mission to New Guinea conclude the ceremonies for the Feast of Pentecost, all of which were conducted for this mission.107
Here is part of Father Jouet's reply to the proposals of June 7th:
Father Giraux is willing to go to America. Here is his gracious letter. If he is to go, he asks, and I ask with him, that you kindly give him a few days to say good-bye to his family who have not seen him for a long time.
Please keep me informed about everything and be assured of my complete devotedness to you, to the work in America and to that in Oceania. I would not like to see Father Ramot sent to Oceania.
Our Constitutions are quite explicit regarding the missions - page 51 French edition: One must be thirty years of age. That is the reason I gave Father Giraux and he accepted it.
One must be perpetually professed for three years, and Father Navarre does not qualify on that score. We would be reproached for that; we must consider it and make up our mind.
I gladly accept Father Cramaille.
We still have to find a third if possible. If not, two and a brother would be enough. There is no urgency with numbers. Brother Fromm would like to go.
The dialogue between Issoudun and Rome continued, and in his letters of June 14th and 18th, Father Chevalier went into greater detail.
(June 14th) Father Cramaille is also in the best dispositions; a holy religious, he is filled with the spirit of obedience and sacrifice. He is a valuable choice.
I have re-read the article of our Constitutions, page 51. It does lay down the conditions required to go to the foreign missions, but it obviously does not preclude consideration of the devotedness of those who offer themselves for this heroism.
Because of his piety, dedication and reliability, Father Navarre would have much to contribute on this initial expedition. Two would not be enough: if one fell ill or died, how would the other manage - for confession? or advice? Then again, if Father Durin should be off-handed or offend his assistant, who will restore peace? I think a third is necessary.
Brother Fromm could very well go if you judge it advisable...108
(June 18th): As I said, Fathers Durin, Cramaille and Navarre are our three priests. Father Navarre is necessary. Father Giraux will be the only one to go to America with Father Ramot; Father Thomas of Limoges has backed out. If Father Giraux has not gone, send him at once to spend a few days with his family, as his departure for Watertown is urgent.109
108 MESMIN FROMM, ALSATIAN, born in 1860 like Henri Verjus, whose fellow-student he was at the Apostolic School at Chezal-Benoit, then in the novitiate of St.-Gerand-le-Puy; professed together, Feb. 15th, 1878. In Jan., 1879, he agreed to pass into the ranks of the lay-brothers; worked in the Office at Issoudun from January to June, 1879; then sent to Rome, as a brother, where he spent most of his time in the office of the Annales. When leaving from Barcelona, he will meet again his former companion.
109 Father CHARLES GIRAUX, born 1854, former pupil of the seminary of Luxeuil, professed MSC, Oct. 17th, 1876 (he was the last to make his perpetual vows at the end of the novitiate, according to the rule in force from 1869 to 1876). Ordained priest at Lyons in November, 1879; in Rome since November, 1879 as bursar of the house and student (merely attending lectures) of theology at the Roman Seminary until he left 15th June, 1881, to go to Le Havre, to embark July 2nd following, with Father Ramot, new superior of Watertown, and the layman Fernand Durin, brother of Georges, who would work for some time as a teacher at Watertown.
Father Chevalier saves Watertown
The community of Watertown, already hard-hit in its personnel, was deprived of all leadership by Father Durin's appointment. Father Guyot had disapproved of its foundation and Father Morisseau now advocated its dissolution. Whereas Father Guyot was going to oppose the departure of Father Durin, Father Piperon, for his part, was very eager to have Father Ramot back with him and so he, too, argued for the closure of Watertown. On May 27th, Father Chevalier notified Father Jouet:
This morning Father Piperon writes and gives his vote to Father Durin, but he also votes for our withdrawal from Watertown.
Father Morisseau and Father Guyot are clearly of this opinion, but I can't share it; it would be a disgrace and a disaster. In the unfortunate times we're passing through, this house can be a very great help. Who can be sent there?
Since Watertown would have been a "victim" claimed by the Mission in Oceania, it is not irrelevant to consider here Father Founder's letter to his first Councillor, Piperon:
Dear good Father,
Issoudun June lith, 1881
...I don't agree at all with you about the house in Watertown and I believe that you're mistaken in this matter. Here are my reasons:
1. We have established ourselves there and are well situated on the border of Canada and the United States. The greatest difficulties have been overcome. The beautiful, spacious house belongs to us, as does the church.
The total value is perhaps 80.000 francs. Out of that we owe 25.000 f. on the house and 4.000 f. to the Bishop, on the church. To re-sell all that, we would incur considerable losses. The Canadian parish, where French is spoken and which is served by the house of Watertown, brings in from three to four thousand annually, without counting Mass stipends; this is adequate provision for five or six missionaries.
2. For our Mission in Oceania we will need subjects who know English and we will find them there.
3. The Bishops of the surrounding regions - Montreal, Ogdensburg, Boston, Albany, New York, etc. - have a high regard for our Society and the house in Watertown; this can be gathered from letters I received on the occasion of Father Durin's departure. To close this house for no grave reason would be a scandal for the district, a considerable loss for us and a deathblow to our influence in America.
4. The foundation in Watertown has the approval of Rome; to withdraw would require the authorisation of Rome; now, can you imagine the outcome of that and the hopeless dilemma in which we would find ourselves - and without any necessity?
5. Yes, we may need this house if we're forced to transfer subjects to escape the upheaval here. At this time, every Congregation would like to have foundations overseas, even in America, and we would forego ours! That would be incomprehensible and inexcusable.
6. What do we need to maintain it? Nothing more than three holy and responsible subjects. There are no longer any serious difficulties; the house is well organised, and the ministry untroubled and smooth-running. Well then, have we these subjects? Yes. For three months I have been studying Father Ramot! He's better in every way. His piety, blind obedience, good spirit, intelligence, and prudence warrant my confidence. And so I have no hesitation in saying that Father Ramot is suitable for America in the present circumstances. If his health gave him trouble we could always recall him. You say he doesn't know English. That's not correct; he can read it very well, and being young and intelligent, he will quickly learn to speak; then later, knowing English, he will be very useful for England and New Guinea.110 But the Canadians who make up the parish of Watertown, speak French, and it's French that is used for preaching, etc. I would plan to give him, as assistant, Father Thomas who's going to make his vows;111 he will be in charge of this small Canadian parish; This holy man will create no difficulties for Father Ramot, nor will young Father Grom who is a very holy priest.112 I would also consider sending Father Giraux, who gets on very well with Father Ramot. He would take care of the material side of things; he would learn English and in one or two years when he's better prepared, we would send him to Oceania.
I think that with these men the house in Watertown would function very well. If complications arose, these gentlemen, having the real interests of the Society at heart, would send us an unbiassed report, showing whether we should really maintain this house in America. In doing this we would at least be acting prudently.
Father Durin declares that in conscience and before God, he would be obliged to abandon the idea of Oceania and return to Watertown, if we're not willing to replace him. Father Jouet's letter this morning tells me the same thing. Since I take responsibility for the re-organisation of Watertown, solely for the benefit of our Society, I feel that we can no longer hesitate and that your vote must support it. However, I respect your freedom. One last word please! Time is pressing. Father Grom is missing Father Durin very much; he tells me, and rightly so, that he can't stay alone for any length of time, and begs me to send a Superior and some confreres.
110 Fr. CELESTIN RAMOT (1846-1928), priest in 1870, professed MSC 1874; socius, then novice master at St.-Gerand-le-Puy from 1875 to Nov. 1880. He had just spent some months at Gerra NL as socius. He would be superior of Watertown from July, 1881 to 1891, but as early as 1890, he was looking for another house in U.S.A., closer to the big cities, and gave Hammonton N.J. a trial; the Chapter of 1891 opposed this foundation; Father Pierre Barral, having marginalized himself in the Society, tried to establish a special work there, before going to Switzerland.
111 Fr. JEAN THOMAS, born 1834, former parish priest of Verneuil, diocese of Limoges, professed July 1881; joined the Carthusians in 1883.
112 Fr. BENJAMIN GROM (1857-1893), entered Apos. School in 1871; professed MSC Oct. 1875; left for Watertown April 22nd, 1876; ordained Ogdensburg, Dec. 1880. He replaced Fr. Ramot at Hammonton, Dec. 23rd, 1890 and returned to Watertown, Dec. 1891, after the arrival of Pierre Barral at Hammonton.
Father Guyot back in action
The end of this letter to Father Piperon made reference to another "Guyot affair." It broke out the previous week with a storm of abuse over the appointment of Father Durin as Superior of the Mission. They were both from the diocese of Moulins where they had been parish priests before entering the Society. At the end of a letter sent to Father Jouet, 7th June, Father Chevalier added:
Here's a letter from Father G. It's beyond words. He makes no allowance for circumstances; Father Durin had such poor subjects at Watertown. His Appeal sent to Rome will be a fresh scandal. Write to him, if you think it advisable. If he had a spark of obedience and humility, Fr. G. would give his assent, when the majority of the Council accepts Father Durin.
On June l0th, Father Jouet returned the unfortunate letter, which was not kept by Father Chevalier; he said simply:
V.R. and very dear Father Superior, I return the letter of Father Guyot; it upset me when I read it and it still does. It is a time when we can least afford to be at cross-purposes. Rather must we unite and go ahead. It is what the Sacred Heart wishes. Yes, I will certainly write to him in this vein.
On June 11 th, before receiving this letter, Father Chevalier wrote also to Father Piperon:
Here, dear friend, is another sword - one of the sharpest - to pierce my heart, and it is our dear Father Guyot who is responsible for it.
After receiving a full account of the situation regarding Oceania, he finally wrote: I agree to this Mission. It is yet another folly that we are committing, but our two or three previous follies - the parish of Issoudun, the house in Rome, the day school of the Sacred Heart - have proved successful and have shown me that God allows such things, to derive glory from them later.
Having the consent of the whole Council, I notify Rome that we accept the Mission. Cardinal Simeoni thanks me in the name of the Pope, etc. He writes to the Propagation of the Faith on our behalf to obtain resources, etc.
I question the Council members about the Superior of this Mission; you, Father Jouet, Father Morisseau and I reach agreement about Father Durin. While recognising his failings, we have seen great qualities in him and we believed that, if needs be, he could be suitable for this exploratory mission (for it is not as yet a question of a Vicariate).
I consult Father Durin who replies that, although Watertown is his work, and he has put his whole heart into it, he belongs entirely to the Society: he wishes only its good and is quite prepared for the greatest sacrifices and ready to go to Oceania; his greatest satisfaction is to obey and I can count on him. As he was to come here this year, I telegraph to say that he can come to Issoudun. He arrives. I admire him for his devotedness and humility, unselfishness and spirit of sacrifice. He asks for the last place in the Mission etc.
Then I write to Father Guyot to ask him what he thinks of Father Durin, telling him that the other members of the Council seemed all in agreement. Three or four days ago, this poor confrere wrote to say he was absolutely opposed to sending Father Durin as Superior and that, if I insisted, he would write immediately to Rome, that his appeal was prepared, etc.
So we're on the brink of a scandal. Is the administration of a Society possible under such conditions? What is the use of a Superior or a Council? If each individual refuses to abide by the decision of the majority and threatens us with an appeal to Rome, we have a state of chronic upheaval. This course of action is indicative of a total lack of obedience and of obdurate pride, which leads one person to place his judgement above that of others - and that, on the day after an act of extreme deference to his wishes; all the members of the Council believe it best to sell St.-Gerand, faced as it is with almost certain spoliation. It is what the Jesuits, etc. etc. are doing. Father Guyot alone objects. To satisfy him, I bow to his will, exposing the Society to a loss of 80.000 francs, for the bank is willing to lend only 25.000 fr. on St.-Gerand and 80.000 fr. on the Sacred Heart. What are we to do? It is heartbreaking and with all the other problems elsewhere and the troubles of each day, it is too much for me. What do you think? What should be done? All yours in C.J. Good-bye dear good Father.
Fathers Durin, Cramaille and Navarre would go to Oceania. They are holy, steady men and will be very suitable.
On June 18th, Father Guyot, sending his vote as Councillor regarding the temporary profession of Father Louis Couppe, advised Father Chevalier:
I take advantage of this occasion, v.r. Father, to let you know that I was able recently to send His Eminence Cardinal Simeoni the appeal which I mentioned in my letter of 6th or 7th inst. I also informed Father Jouet, when replying yesterday to his letter of the 12th.
I set out before His Eminence the reasons why I considered inopportune both the choice of our Society for the missions in New Guinea and that of Father Durin as Superior of such missions.
It was proper, v,r. Father, that you did not learn through any other channel what I believed to be my duty in this difficult situation.
With filial respect and most sincere devotedness in Corde Jesu.
It comes as a surprise to find that Father Guyot had protested to Rome after indicating on June 6th his acceptance of this "other folly."
The following letters confirm the reception of the Guyot appeal by the Cardinal; one copy was sent to Father Chevalier whose comments are contained in his letter to Father Jouet, 25th June; another was sent to Father Piperon, who would write directly to Father Guyot about the untimely and useless appeal. This famous document has not been preserved but we can determine its main arguments from the remarks or rebuttals of Father Chevalier, in his letter to the Procurator, signed also by the Councillor Morisseau, who will explain later the restricted meaning to be given to his signature (cf. p. 124).
Father Chevalier to Father Jouet
June 19th, 1881
Dear good Father,
This morning I received a letter from Father Guyot saying that he's sending his appeal to Cardinal Simeoni to protest against the Mission entrusted to us and against the choice of Father Durin - it's so perverse.
Two months ago Father Guyot endorsed the undertaking, and now that all is decided; the news is released to the public; 113 the Council of the Propagation of the Faith is agreeable and we have unanimously accepted it, here he is, creating a new scandal, similar to the one we suffered when we purchased St. James.114
We cannot pull out now. Under the terms offered to our Society, the Mission is very advantageous and we have accepted it unanimously; furthermore, the choice of Father Durin is ratified by all the Council except Father G. And in the present situation, I think this choice is very good. Father Durin is not what Father G. supposes. He is very devout, very dedicated, prudent, experienced and resourceful; that is what is needed, and for the moment we could not make a better choice. He was a man of some standing in America and his going away was deeply regretted; he has the esteem and affection of the Bishops who knew him - proof of this is in his hands. Uphold his cause before His Eminence. If he has to go to Rome to introduce himself, render an account and receive instructions, send me a telegram and he will leave at once. Such a journey seems very useful and perhaps necessary just now. Think about it!
If it's true, the news of the Colony of Port-Breton is disturbing. Good-bye dear friend; all yours in C.J.
J. Chevalier MS.C.
113 June 13th by dispatch from Rome to the newspaper Univers and published June 15th, 1881. Cf. p. 140 ff.
114 1878, purchase of the former Roman church of St. James of the Spaniards, still in the midst of restoration in 1881; to become a sanctuary of Our Lady of the Sacred lieart.
Father Chevalier kept very few of Father Piperon's letters, but he judged it wise to file the copy he had received of the latter's reply to Fr. Guyot, written before June 20th. Writing to his Superior General, Fr. Piperon had said:
Here is a copy of my reply to poor Father G. We certainly need patience and submission to Providence, which will use this, as all else, to bring good out of evil. Here then is what I am writing to the dear Father:
If the first part of your letter caused me great joy, the second was very painful for me. I tell you quite simply. It came as a damper to the joy filling my heart. I've no doubt that you acted in good faith and with due reflection. Nevertheless, the more I think about it, the more distressing I find it.
I could understand if we had sought the mission and accepted it without being morally bound to it. My first reply was a refusal, conscious as I was of our powerlessness; my second was an acceptance, prompted by the will of the Holy Father whose wish is an order from heaven.
We are helpless and of no account, it's true; but were the apostles any better? Father Durin has his faults, it's also true, but who hasn't?
Whom would you send? I think you will admit that you too have faults. As for me, poor specimen that I am, I would have gladly gone, failing any other possibility. If I'm asked I shall go, strengthened by the words of St. Paul: ignobilia mundi elegit Deus ut confundat fortia.
1. Your appeal serves no useful purpose; it comes too late.
2. It will cause deep sorrow to several, in particular to our venerated Father Superior. We should do everything we can to alleviate his anxieties and not aggravate them by such useless actions. It's our duty because he's our Father.
If, in the past, I've given you bad example, I ask pardon for it. In my solitude it is my only sorrow, yet a bitter one. Anything else is as nothing compared to the remorse caused by my past behaviour. No, very dear Father, this appeal was not a matter of conscience for you. I know we gave our opinion with great freedom, but when the majority has decided, it does not require a great effort of humility to silence our own judgement.
This dear Father, is the letter I'm sending him; may it do him some good!...
I deeply regret this new trial, and assure you, venerated Father, of my complete devotedness in the S.C.
Ch. Piperon M.S.C.
Reply of Father Chevalier
June 23rd, 1881
Dear good Father,
Thank you for your letter; what you wrote to Father G. is excellent. But unfortunately the damage is done. Father Jouet writes this morning that Cardinal Simeoni sent for him about an appeal of one of the assistants, opposing the Mission to New Guinea. Poor Father Jouet is devastated. He will keep me informed of this untoward business. But the good God has allowed it; we deserve this new trial! May his holy Name be blessed! As you say, good will come from the evil; let us hope so...
Father Ramot will leave for America with Father Giraux, and probably Ferdinand Durin; his uncle agrees to it, I believe. Georges, who is too deaf at present to be ordained, will probably go to Oceania with his uncle.115
Father Chevalier to Father Jouet
June 25th, 1881
Dear good Father,
We have read carefully the Appeal of our dear confrere, addressed to His Eminence Cardinal Simeoni.116 We respect the intention which dictated it; it must have been good; but we find it exaggerated, even incorrect on several points, and what's more, imprudent.
Our religious formation has been what is usual in any Congregation in its early stages. For many years there were just only two of us. We did our best. A third came to join us. One of us was given the charge of examining the vocations of those who applied, of testing and forming them to the religious life as we wanted it. Poor and stripped of all means, we were obliged to use the house that we had and the individuals at hand.117
Being only diocesan missionaries, we sought to know God's designs in our regard. For fourteen years, that is from our foundation until 1869, we were of little consequence. Our numbers were still limited. The creation of a regular novitiate was therefore impossible. During this time we were not inactive. We raised a magnificent church to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a spacious monastery for future needs. Moreover, we established the devotion to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, her admirable Association, and we spread everywhere her devotion and that of the Sacred Heart of Our Lord. It was only then, when all was ready for a major work, that divine Providence seemed willing to allow our little Society to go ahead by leaps and bounds; under the patronage of Archbishop de La Tour d'Auvergne, we obtained from Rome a Decree of Praise, and we considered laying the foundations of a novitiate outside the Mother house.118 It was not perfect, but there was good will on the part of all, and those who received their formation at this time, when grace was very active, are not the most mediocre members of the Society.
The great error of the author of the Appeal is to wish that one be a man without passing through the weakness and pains of childhood.
While not eagles or saints, our men are, on the whole, quite as good as members of other Congregations. We recognise our poverty, our weak points, our imperfections (so much the better!); but these same deficiencies are found more or less everywhere. I know many communities of men and, to the best of my knowledge and belief, I can say that our religious are by no means inferior to others in their spirit of dedication, obedience, poverty and regularity.
In his calculation of our numbers, the good Father Guyot forgets the three priests in the novitiate, two of whom have just made vows and the third is going to do so within the next month; he forgets also the scholastics in Rome and elsewhere, whom you know and of whom several are ordained.119
The defects of Father Durin are exaggerated and greatly so. But, if he has shortcomings (and who hasn't?), he also has valuable qualities; no one could question his piety, zeal, dedication, love of the Society, his ability, perseverance and steady character.
I object when the author of the Appeal says that there was continual friction between Father Durin and me, and that for both of us the situation was intolerable.120
I object, also, when he declares that, of ten subjects who were sent to America, six lost their vocation while with Father Durin; all the Council members know that these poor confreres had already seriously compromised their vocations.121
Of all the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart I believe that Father Durin is one of those best suited to deal successfully with this stage of the mission entrusted by the Holy See to our little Society.
I object, also, when good Father G. says that the desire to get subjects and establish works opened the door of the Institute to men who ought never to have entered. In the admission of novices, the Council of the Congregation has always been guided by supernatural motives only, and has always acted conscientiously and in the interests of the Congregation. It might have made mistakes - it is not infallible - and it might also have been deceived.122
We have never undertaken a work through caprice; we have always followed the indications of divine Providence, and the guidance of our Superiors. We have never had any cause for regret, despite what Father G. says at the end of his Appeal; the truth points to the contrary. No doubt our dear confrere refers to your house in Rome which he totally rejected - I mean the one you occupy today - and also to the acceptance of the Parish of Issoudun, that our late Archbishop123 laid on us as a duty, so to speak, as security for the future. Now, where would we be today, without Rome and Issoudun?
Yes, we all believed we should gratefully accept the important Mission of Oceania.
1. because the Holy See has offered it to us and our obedience is blind, like that of St. Peter, when he threw his nets into the sea at the word of the Saviour;
2. because it is an honour for us;
3. because it is a source of blessings for the Congregation;
4. because it will give us the opportunity to work for the conversion of pagans, which is one of the principal ends of our Society;124
5. because it is to meet the desires of a rather large number of our confreres whose sole purpose in coming to us was to engage in this work;
6. finally, because this providential offer comes at a time when we are being driven from our houses, and when France is expelling religious from its midst.
We can send three or four subjects to New Guinea without harm to our present works. Here are the names of those who offer themselves and whom we have recommended to the Holy See: Father Durin, Superior; Fathers Cramaille and Navarre; these are dependable, seasoned men whose virtue has been well tested.125
All yours in C.J.
J.F. Morisseau M.S.C. J. Chevalier M.S.C.
N.B. Father Piperon's letter will also be of use in your dealings with His Eminence. Father Durin will go to Rome in a week's time. Father Ramot and Father Giraux leave for America on July 2nd.126
115With regard to the two nephews of Father Joseph-Fernand Durin, Georges (born 1860) and Fernand (born 1861), both entered the Apostolic School of Chezal-Benoit in 1875; they followed the same courses and entered the MSC novitiate at Saint-Gerand in April, 1880. At the time of the expulsions in November, 1880, and of the transfer of the novitiate to Holland, their father recalled them, using police force. Thanks to the intervention of a priest friend, Georges was admitted to the major seminary at Bourges; because he was slightly lame and rather hard of hearing, his superiors hesitated to call him to Orders; and so his uncle decided to take him with him to New Guinea as 'secretary' for the moment. His brother, Fernand, who had been able to find a teaching position at the Institution St Louis de Fourchambault, followed the advice of his uncle to go to Watertown with Father Ramot, to be a lay teacher. Then he withdrew and stayed in U.S.A.; in 1881, neither was a novice or MSC brother. Georges, who would return to Europe with his uncle, thought then of becoming an MSC lay-brother, but Father Piperon, Novice Master, did not think it advisable to accept him; he learnt the printing trade; he was received into the Salesians of John Boseo, made his religious profession at the hands of Don Michel Rua, first successor of Don Bosco January 29th, 1895, and was ordained priest at Monaco June 4th, 1898; he died a nonagenarian in 1950.
116The plural we indicates that the letter will be signed also by the Assistant Morisseau, to be shown to CardinaI Simeoni, as official refutation of the Guyot appeal. Cf. N.B. of the letter.
117 In fact, from December, 1854 to the year 1864, there were only two or three priests in the community; from 1864 to 1869 the number remained small: from five to about twenty-four.
The MSC novitiate in Montlucon (Allier) was built in 1869, blessed on August 19th by the Archbishop of Bourges in the presence of the Bishop of Moulins; the opening took place September 12th, with Father Guyot as Novice Master, while yet remaining parish priest of St. Paul.
119 The three priest novices of 1881: Edouard Bontemps, Jean Thomas and Louis Couppe.
120 When Father Durin was bursar at the house of the Sacred Heart (Sept. 1873-April 1876), there was some opposition between him and Father Chevalier. Cf. acknowledgement by Father Durin in his letter of August 7th to Father Jouet. p. 150.
121 Cf. note 46, following the letter Guyot to Jouet, March 30th, 1881.
122 After the death of the Founder, his friend J. Belleville of the diocesan clergy of Bourges, in his memorable obituary printed in l'Univers, can say, not without foundation: "The disciples came from everywhere, near and far, from country presbytery and seminary, from the temples of religion and of the world, which sent him their strays. Like God himself, he received all: et infirma, et ignobilia et conternptibilia; he gathered together, arranged and vivified all these elements, and he used them for the conquest of the world. Wait, and you will soon see them in Europe, America, Oceania. His Congregation had grown quickly by the arrival of elements perhaps too heterogeneous to be fused into a unified community. This led to divergence of views, aspirations and inclination, which was to manifest itself sooner or later..."
123 Archbishop Charles Amable de La Tour d'Auvergne, succeeded Cardinal Dupont in 1861 and died in 1879; a true father and benefactor to the infant Society.
124 Expression to be retained: "one of the principal ends of our Society."
Father Chevalier to Father Piperon
June 26th, 1881
Dear good Father,
I am sending you a copy of the famous Appeal of Father G. which Father Jouet sent me.127 You will see the exaggeration, the inaccuracies and, in the present circumstances, the untimeliness and imprudence of it.
He calls into question Father Morisseau who denies having ever shared his views on this matter.128 This testifies to the true measure of judgement and prudence exercised by the poor confrere. It's pitiable.129
Father Jouet tells me that Cardinal Simeoni was little impressed by the Appeal or its author and will pay no heed to it at all.130
I have replied, setting the facts in their true light and refuting all that was exaggerated and inaccurate. Father Morisseau has signed with me.131 We cannot let such things pass without protest...
And so, it is Fathers Durin, Cramaille and Navarre who are appointed for New Guinea.
125 To join them will be the lay-brother Mesmin Fromm, of the House of Rome; and the seminarist who was not a member of the MSC Society, Georges Durin, one of the
nephews of Father Durin.
126 With the other nephew of Father Durin, Fernand, lay teacher.
127 The copy of the Appeal was not found in the Piperon file.
128 Morisseau, then the only assistant present at Issoudun, was a man of good sense, of a calm and peaceful nature, according to his contempories; beside the strong personality of Father Chevalier he yields, but when required, he will show in many circumstances, that he is not always in agreement; he was inclined to let himself be influenced by Father Guyot.
129 Father Guyot, an intelligent man, quite superior to Fathers Piperon and Morisseau, but less pliant than they; carping and caustic, he often assumed the role of master, letting himself be carried along by his impressions and preferences; rather jealous of Father Jouet, the confidant of the Founder.
130 This letter from Father Jouet is missing from his file.
31Cf. below P. Morisseau explaining his signature to Father Piperon.
Father Morisseau to Father Piperon.'
June 26th, 1881
Dear Father Piperon,
...I signed Father Superior's reply to the statement of Father Guyot, but I don't, for all that, share his views on all points.
In the beginning I believed that the undertaking of a foreign mission was premature, and today I'm still not sure that it's advisable. I was unwilling to offer any opposition because I wasn't in a position to express my opinion freely.
I don't think Father Durin has the qualities and talents necessary for a mission of this importance. But, as there is no one else to choose, I have no objection to his being sent. To that extent I have signed. I'm anxious to let you know.
All yours in SS. Corde
J.F. Morisseau M.S.C.
Father Piperon's reply is not in the archives, but Father Chevalier wrote to him on July 2nd:
Your comments on Father G.'s Appeal have been a great help to me. Thank you! I ardently wish that to be so...
Here is a copy of the telegram received just now from Father Jouet in this regard: Affair settled - Cardinal very well disposed - today sent me all faculties for Durin, Navarre, Cramaille.
Father Chevalier had remained confident of the understanding of Cardinal Simeoni, who had always been sympathetic. It was thought at first that an enquiry might be held to examine the allegations concerning Father Durin as Superior of Watertown. On June 23rd, Father Chevalier observed to Father Jouet:
If the enquiry takes place, it can only be favourabIe to Father Durin. Let them write to the Bishops of Ogdensburg, Montreal and Boston; their testimonies will be very gratifying and justice will be done him.
All the Fathers of the Council, apart from poor Father G., accept Father Durin. I am sending you the copy of Father Piperon's letter to Father G. It may help to clear up matters with Cardinal Simeoni. I think that Father Durin should go to Rome at once to state his case.
Father G. has done what he could, I think, to destroy our Society, all the while protesting his loyalty.
Father Jouet's telegram of July 2nd was to be developed by his letter of the same day - a letter both triumphant and suppliant, and truly reflecting its author; the causes were different but the occasion doubly opportune and favourable:
May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved!
V.R. and v. dear Father Superior,
1. - It's a marvel of the Heart of Jesus: despite all that the devil has done to prevent us from accepting the Mission of New Guinea, here we are in possession of this vast Vicariate. It would be too long to go into all the vicissitudes and the frightful anxieties that the unfortunate and more than untimely appeal of our dear Father Guyot has brought on me. Each article had to be answered; every falsehood and exaggeration pointed out, and ambiguities clarified, etc. I was ready for everything and summed up for the Cardinal what you yourself would certainly have said if you'd been there.
"Well!" replied the Cardinal, "I trust your judgement; you can do what you like with the appeal, etc.''
Then I asked that the powers needed by our Fathers be signed as soon as possible and dated on the Feast of the Sacred Heart whose glory is the sole purpose of our obedience to the Holy Father in accepting the great mission. That has been granted and yesterday I received all the papers.
Now let us forget all the sufferings and thank the Heart of Jesus and Our Lady. Either. Providence is in this, or it is nowhere,
I shall hand over everything to Father Durin. His powers are more farreaching than those of Fathers Navarre and Cramaille. Among others, he has the power to confirm and his jurisdiction extends over an area of three thousand by five thousand kilometres, etc.134
2. - For the past fortnight, I've forgotten everything else, to save the New Guinea Mission, and to offset the terrible impact of the appeal. Today this total victory repays me a hundredfold for all my trouble; let us speak no more of it. There are other matters; allow me to open my heart to you as a son.
I am suffering greatly - I tell you as in Confession - to see Rev. Father Chevalier, for whom I would die a thousand deaths, abandon me in the difficult times when my efforts for him and the Society are beyond the power of words to describe; even if you know something of my devotedness to you, you will grasp its full extent only in heaven...
132 The famous Appeal was not, therefore, kept by the Cardinal Prefect, but entrusted to Father Jouet for him to confer with his Superior General about it. The document has not been found.
133 "Yesterday, I received all the papers..." That is to say, July 1st. But in 1881 the solemn Feast of the Sacred Heart was transferred to Saturday, June 25th, because of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist falling on Friday 24. We can understand the contradictions or distractions of Father Jouet in different articles of the Annales de N.D. du S.C., e.g.p. 170, under a grandiloquent title, he lets us believe that the two apostolic Vicariates of Melanesia and Micronesia in Oceania, deprived of missionaries for 25 years, are entrusted by His Holiness Leo XIII, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart "June 24th, 1881" (instead of June 25th), to the Society of the Missionaries oi the Sacred Heart of Jesus, of Issoudun. This announcement, deliberately late, was made in the Annales, as coming from other papers, under the heading Letters from Rome. All that was for the needs of the cause. We will return to it, to better show the origin and the dialectic of all that was published in the August number, 1881, and to point out the part of the Founder himself.
134 The powers of Father Durin: he was granted faculties of Ecclesiastical Superior for the whole of the two Vicariates, but without the title of "Prefect Apostolic", which he expected to receive, and wich he will use in certain correspondence, notably with the Vicar Apostolic of Batavia (Archives Jakarta). When the same powers are transferred to Father Navarre, it will still be as provisional "Ecclesiastical Superior."
The rest of the letter was nothing more than an S.O.S. from the incorrigible Father Jouet, up to his eyes in debt with the restoration of the church in Piazza Navona, and always behind in meeting dead-lines. He was no bursar and he needed help; and so he was asking that Father Pierre Barral return to Rome, particularly as Father Giraux had to be replaced. Pierre Barral noted in his Journal, June 20th:
Yesterday, Sunday, letter from Father Jouet, saying we must not count on Fathers Giraux and Barral for the New Guinea Mission, as they are not thirty years old. I tell Father Superior that I am quite indifferent with regard to this mission; I desire only one thing - that the will of the Sacred Heart be done in my regard...
Then, June 23rd: at 9.00 o'clock Father Superior sends for me to say that Father Jouet is asking for me in Rome to be bursar, and help in his various works; he asks me if I'm willing to go. I reply 'yes'. We agree then that I will leave on Saturday evening...
Saturday, 25th: Feast of the Sacred Heart; after the evening meal I say goodbye; I go up into the pulpit at St. Cyr and I give my sermon on the Sacred Heart, which lasts 40 minutes. I'm going to have a good glass of kirsch as I'm soaked through; we're making for the station; and here I am on the way to Lyons, etc.
The Guyot affair was indeed settled. Once more Father Chevalier can say to his Procurator: "My warmest thanks for the outcome of the Mission which was so seriously jeopardised by the wretched Appeal." Later in his manuscript Notes intimes, the Founder will recall the offer of the Mission:
The year after our expulsions, His Holiness Leo XIII offered us the mission of evangelising the two large Vicariates of Melanesia and Micronesia. After much hesitation and at the insistence of the Holy Father, we felt we had to accept it. Archbishop Marchal of Bourges strongly advised us to do so. Only one assistant, Father Guyot, was opposed to it. He believed it his duty to send a long appeal to the Pope to point out the impossibility of our accepting these missions, saying that it would lead to the break-up of our Society. He wanted to set himself up against the Vicar of Jesus Christ, who, despite our observations, was commanding us, and also against the Council which was obeying. Being unsuccessful, he nursed a grievance against the Superior General whom he held responsible, and continually opposed him, sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly. The situation was painful and I suffered very much from it. I could not make a proposal without his immediate dissent.
Father Durin in Paris and Rome
Thus, Pierre Barral left Issoudun in the direction of Lyons and la Tarentaise to see relatives and friends; reaching Rome on July 2nd, he was happy to see his brother, Francois, once again, and announced the approaching arrival of Father Durin, Superior of the Mission.
Good Father Durin took himself very seriously as can be gathered from his letters written at the end of June. On the 23rd he had left Issoudun for Paris, delighted to have found in his Superior General an understanding and broad-minded confrere, who showed such confidence in him. He could now treat him as an equal - or such might be assumed from his letter of June 26th:
Very venerated Father Superior,
Last Friday135 I went to Montmartre to offer the Holy Sacrifice for our Society, for you, all your works and with special mention of New Guinea. After that, my mind became much clearer and an idea struck me which I now put to you.
The Colony of Port-Breton is a complete fiasco. The most reliable people here recognise that; the opponents are resorting to threats, and a warrant is said to have been issued for the arrest of the poor Marquis.
We will therefore have to dissociate ourselves completely from this enterprise. With this support uprooted where shall we go? We haven't spoken of it.
I offered myself to God in advance; it matters little if I leave my body in the sea during the crossing, or if it serves as food for the cannibals. But it's important to know what happens after that; we're obviously not going for the sole glory of being devoured or of dying from a bout of yellow fever; we wish to achieve something of real worth.
Elegi vos, ut eatis et fructurn afferatis et fructus rester maneat. For this we need a sound organisation; a house where men will be prepared before going to the missions; a house for postulants; an apostolic school to foster vocations; a procure to consolidate the work of providing for the needs of the mission and, as a necessary consequence, a community of religious especially consecrated to the apostolate in our missions. It's impossible not to see the necessity of beginning in this way. The patience exercised in such preparation will certainly be fruitful.
The question now is to find a suitable place. France, Italy and Spain are too unsettled to promise us security. America is the only country I see, with Boston as a very favourable location; the Archbishop is very well-disposed towards us and he will give us a church; I have good reason to believe that he will encourage this great undertaking.
In this case, when things are settled, we would go to Boston with the Fathers named for New Guinea, and prepare the mission procure. And after spending the winter in preparation, and assuring for ourselves the protection of a regular government, we would call at important ports where we would win support and good-will. 136
I nominated Boston for several reasons:
1. because of the good-will of the Archbishop;
2. because I presume that he would like a work of this kind;
3. because we have something big, a centre for the mission of Oceania, to establish in America-the land of refinement and culture; 137
4. because the American government, with an eye to exploration, could be more interested in this work than other governments. We may fear that it will send Protestants there as soon as we arrive, but they would be no worse than the riff-raft the French government would send there; they have wormed their way very quickly into the Colony of New France. It is impossible to dwell on the idea of a new Paraguay, if indeed such a mission ever existed beyond the imagination of the Jesuits. I'm too well aware of the need to discount the reports of Father De Smet to give full credence to the other descriptions, such as they are presented to the public; 138
5. because there, more than anywhere else, we can get to know the missions and acquire a missionary spirit. Do you know what I mean? You have no idea of that in France.
I intend to present these views to the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda, unless you provide me with another plan equally advantageous.
Please think about it before the divine Master. Questions are cropping up. I can't say a word without being asked: Where are you going? Where are you landing? Yesterday when I went to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs for information on free transport, the first question asked was: Have you a residence? I couldn't say anything about the Marquis de Rays. I avoided the question and asked what the government would do for missionaries who went to explore these lands.
If we managed to establish our mission procure in Boston, what a mainstay it would be, dear Father, from the point of view of resources, and as a refuge in the case of expulsion from France! Watertown would then be a valuable asset as apostolic school and novitiate.
I hope you send me explicit instructions as to what I'm to do in Rome...
Good-bye. Do pray for me. I confess I'd be just as happy to be in New Guinea as in this Babylon, but I accept what the good God wills.
All yours in Corde Jesu.
Father Chevalier's reply was not kept but his sentiments are evident from his letter thanking Father Jouet for the telegram announcing the favourable resolution of the Guyot affair
135Last Friday, that is June 24th, Solemnity of Saint John the Baptist, and eve of theFeast of the Sacred Heart, transferred to the next day, Saturday.
136 Protection and support which Father Durin was hoping less and less from the Free Colony of Port-Breton.
137 The original is illegible, but seems to be "la terre atheniene".
138 PIERRE JEAN DE SMEDT (1801-1873), Belgian Jesuit, missionary in the United States of America.
July 3rd, 1881
Dear good Father,
Thank you for your telegram; thank you for your success!
Father Durin is going to Rome. I'm sending you an extravagant letter he wrote to me; it's full of pure invention and shows the little judgement of this poor confrere who, with his impracticable and fitful plans, can endanger the success of the Mission.139
I've written, strongly urging him to let himself be guided; to do nothing except under obedience; to watch over and mistrust his imagination, and above all not to compromise anything; to go to Rome, not to prescribe plans which are unfeasable and rash, but to receive orders and map out his course from which he must not depart. I begged him to follow your advice in every detail.
He replied that it was only an idea which he was putting to me. Urge him to be prudent and not to plunge into any ventures.
I think we should expedite the departure for the Mission; otherwise we could have difficulties.140 I've already received many articles, and about 1000 francs for Oceania. When this is published in the papers and in our Annales, enthusiasm will grow...
From July 3rd to 7th, there were no less than four letters from Father Chevalier to Father Jouet. Though occupied with Father Durin's approaching visit to Rome and the preparations for the departure of the missionaries, he responded vigorously to the lament of the Procurator in his letter of July 2nd.
...My warmest thanks for the outcome of the mission so seriously threatened by the ill-conceived Appeal... You and I consider it another great blessing of the Heart of Jesus, but unfortunately there are those who think otherwise; it is so true that good must be hard-earned.
Dear friend, you make an overture that I was far from expecting. You're suffering, you say, at seeing "Father Chevalier abandoning you in these difficult times when your efforts for him and for the Society are beyond the power of words to describe."
I don't know where you got the idea that I'm abandoning you. To do that would be to betray the Society. Now, I don't think anyone has its interests more at heart than I. You know all that I've done for the purchase of St. James, for its restoration and for the building of our house in Rome. I have drained the funds of the Sacred Heart, despite endless reproaches from you know whom. I borrowed 30.000 francs to pay for the construction and it is still owing... I must bear the weight of all the worries, the vexations, the disappointments, the difficulties of the Society and of the parish without a moment's respite, a crumb of comfort or consolation. I'm bending under the weight of it; I'm at the end of my tether and I have to hear dear Father Jouet say that I'm abandoning him...
...I'm sending you a letter from the Marquis de Rays. It's not bad. I think there is still hope for us in this direction. I've just answered him and asked for information which I'll pass on to you.
I'm sending also a letter from Father Durin which is very good...141
...Is there any reason why those leaving for New Guinea can't wear the white habit sanctioned by Pius IX? At the Chapter we decided in principle to wear it, but Archbishop de La Tour d'Auvergne, whom the Pope appointed judge in the matter, believed we should wait.
The occasion would seem to be suitable; it would be the first step towards carrying out the resolution and besides, this white habit would be more comfortable for hot countries. Think about it. Talk it over with the others. I think the missionaries to Oceania should take it; the rest of us would v›ear it when times improve. Good-bye dear good Father.142
139 Father Chevalier was rather changeable in his judgements of men, often letting himself be swayed by circumstances.
140 Difficulties either with the political development in France, or with the uncertain dispositions of those responsible for the enterprise of the Colony of Port-Breton, more and more in question.
141 Letter Durin, from Paris, July 4th. See below on this page.
142 The question of the white habit had been dealt with at the extraordinary Council in the form of chapter, on December 27th & 28th, 1873, with ten Fathers present: "It was agreed that we would ask permission to wear a religious habit. This would be in white wool with a red heart on the chest. If the Sacred Congregation approves this decision, the General Chapter will remain judge as to when it will have to be put into execution." Question submitted to Pius IX at the audience of June 3rd, 1874; opportuneness left to the judgement of the Archbishop of Bourges, acquainted by letter on July 26th, 1874, signed by thirteen MSC's; the Archbishop "influenced by the difficult conditions being experienced in France, advised us to wait for better times, to adopt this new habit." It has been said at times that this habit had never been worn by our men; but, apart from their travelling clothes, the three Fathers to leave in September, 1881, had this religious habit in their luggage, and wore it on various occasions, notably in Manila when they were the guests of the Augustian Fathers. Before they left, Prior Font wanted to be photographed with the group, on the terrace of the convent, on Friday, November 1 Ith, 1881. "Fathers Durin, Navarre and Cramaille, having put on the white soutane and the red cord, the costume they will wear from now on, etc. etc." (Unpublished Journal of Georges Durin, recopied in Rome by the scholastic Henri Verjus, 1882). The same habit will be worn later, for several months, by the Fathers in Quito, Ecuador.
Before leaving for Rome, Father Durin wrote to Father Chevalier. July 4th, 1881:
I just received your kind letter of yesterday.143 Glory and love to the Sacred Heart. This morning in the presence of Our Lord I shall renew my resolution to remain so close to you that nothing can cause a rift between us.
This is how I feel: In this mission, of which I am so unworthy, you will be the vital force; I will be the medium. You will draw from the Heart of Jesus the grace to touch hearts and send it forth to those distant regions. But please be quick to recognise any attempt of Satan to inspire me with all manner of romantic fancy and so impede our efforts for good. The best plan is to tell you all, to leave you to judge. Don't you agree?
In the absence of your good advice I'll do nothing without consulting our good confreres; you may tell them that in me they have one totally devoted to them; my own interests will always come last.
Yesterday, strengthened by the Precious Blood of Jesus, I really felt all my homesickness for America vanish, and I gave myself definitively to our poor pagans. Please then have prayers said for us all.
I will be faithful to your recommendations regarding Father Jouet.
I leave this evening for Rome, and as you tell me nothing about your trip to Paris, I wont wait for you.
Bless me, and believe me your very devoted in Corde Jesus,
Father Durin arrived in Rome, Friday, July 8th. Early that evening, accompanied by Father Jouet, he presented himself to Cardinal Simeoni to arrange an audience with Leo XIII; this took place Wednesday, July l 3th, at 8.30 p.m. and lasted about twenty minutes. Father Jouet gave an account of it in the form of a letter to the Superior General, to be printed in the August/innales of Issoudun. This reported on the presentation of Father Durin, chosen by Rev. Father Chevalier to be Superior of the Missions of Melanesia and Micronesia; the dialogue between the Pope and the two Fathers; the blessing of the banner of the Sacred Heart presented to the new Mission by the Sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul, etc.- all written with his characteristic warmth and vivacity, and aimed at stimulating a generous enthusiasm for the missions of Oceania.
The Procurator was able to hand over to Father Durin the ecclesiastical faculties granted in June and dated for the Feast of the Sacred Heart. That, too, was published in the August Annales, in the form of a letter to the Superior General, citing different texts of the MSC Constitutions relative to the Mission ad gentes.
This visit to Rome was decisive also for the choice of the brother, Mesmin Fromm, who was very happy to be part of the first missionary group.
Fever delayed Father Durin's departure from Rome; he was visibly disappointed at not having the title of Prefect Apostolic, but very happy to have been able to temper the unpleasant impression created at Propaganda by the Guyot affair.
After a visit to the Mamertine Chapel, on the morning of Sunday, July 17th, and a community farewell celebration, "Father Durin gave each a picture, blessed and embraced his confreres..." and took the train to Issoudun, passing through Marseilles.
Ten days later he could write "to the Romans":
July 27th, 1881
Dear good Father Jouet,
What do you think of this silence? I am truly ashamed of it. But you know from experience that here below we don't do what we wish. If anyone of our Fathers and Brothers in Rome had thought for a moment that Father Durin could forget them, let him be ana.144
Well, I left you on July 17th at 2.40. What a terrible sound was that whistle which meant separation! I'm the strangest individual - whether overcome with joy or weighed down with sorrow, though interiorly agitated, on the surface I'm like an Egyptian mummy. What oppressive heat! We were roasting.
I found it impossible to celebrate Holy Mass the next day, as I was consumed by fever... But I wanted to go at least as far as Marseilles. From Genoa, from 7.45 a.m. to 9.50 p.m. I underwent my incarceration. The visit to the Mamertine chapel gave me strength. At last I arrived at Marseilles. I was able to go to the Trinity to celebrate Holy Mass; the kind old parish priest is a charming person...145
Mr. Sumien, editor of the Gazette du Midi, is also one of the chief administrators of the Colony of Port-Breton.146 He received me graciously; he's a perfect gentleman.
I stayed two days in Marseilles, feeling quite exhausted. I left for Lyons Wednesday (July 20th). After seeing the President of the Council of the Propagation of the Faith,147 I set off for St.-Gerand. Bad luck! it was an express train and went straight through this small station.148 I stopped at Moulins for the night and from there I went to Montmarault149 to take the Holy Father's blessing to my mother.
Here I am at last, back in our dear Issoudun where I found all our Fathers in good health and happy to have news of their brothers in Rome. My trip will correct some unfounded judgements.150 When I'm convinced of something, I like to pass on my convictions.
The banner of the Sacred Heart is greatly admired by all who see it.
Very reverend Father Superior would like the Superior of the Mission to receive the power to confer the tonsure and minor orders, in case of necessity. In such a vast area it can be difficult to find a bishop.151 And so, dear Father, would you mind stepping over to Propaganda to settle this question? It would need to be done as soon as possible, as we're speeding up the departure...
Cani gives more information
During his stay in Rome, Father Durin could examine the copies that Father Jouet had of letters to Cardinal Simeoni, written in May, 1881, by Father Giovanni Cani, then Pro-vicar of Queensland, concerning his exploratory journey along the coast of New Guinea. It is not unimportant for the history of our entry into New Guinea to know what Father Cani had been able to do in accordance with the directives received from the Prefect of Propaganda. In June, 1881, Father Jouet wrote to Father Chevalier:
The Holy See has sent an Italian, Monsignor Cani, appointed titular Vicar Apostolic of Queensland, and having no other mission but that of exploring Oceania to see where a landing could be made in New Guinea.152 This monsignor has just sent a telegram to Cardinal Simeoni saying simply that the prospect for missionaries in New Guinea is quite favourable; the Cardinal is now waiting for his letters. The Cardinal doesn't set any great store on New France. We must not be hasty - it will all work out in due time. The Heart of Jesus is in this; it will succeed. (June 10th).
143 The tenor of this letter of Chevalier of July 3rd remains unknown.
144 "let him be anathema!"
145 The canon, Gonzaque Caseneuve, parish priest of the Trinity, good friend of Fr. Jouet and Issoudun. From this year, 1881, he will be for many years, a volunteer "procurator of our Missions."
146 Mr. E. Sumien was also the editor and business manager of the paper of the Free Colony of Port-Breton. La Nouvelle France
147 Mr. DES GARETZ of Lyons.
148 Not being able to see Father Guyot again, who still stayed there to watch over the former Novitiate house.
149 Birthplace of Father Durin in l'Allier.
150 Reference to the Guyot Appeal.
151 Such a power was conferred on a Prefect Apostolic, according to the practice of Propaganda. Father Durin seems a little impatient, unless he had in petto the desire to be able in the near future to confer on his nephew, Georges, minor orders to which he had not been called at the seminary of Bourges, etc. In the absence of the Procurator Jouet, Father Pierre Barral asked the advice of Mons. Giov. Zonghi, Secretary of Propaganda, who advised to present a petition after the holidays!
152 In fact, Mons. G. Cani was, in the apostolic Vicariate of Queensland, Pro-Vicar, after the death of Mons. James Quinn, whose Vicar General he had been. As we have already seen, it was on his own accord that he first became interested in New Guinea; then at the time of his visit to Rome in 1879, Cardinal Simeoni entrusted him with a mission of exploration with a view to sending Catholic missionaries. Let us add here, that in December of this year 1881, Rome was creating a new diocese of Rockhampton in Queensland, and was preparing for the appointment of two new bishops, one for Brisbane and the other, as it happened, Mons. Cani, for Rockhampton (January 3rd, 1882). The latter would be consecrated in Sydney, May 21st, 1882.
Here are some extracts of the letters from Mons. Cani to Cardinal Simeoni, in 1881. It is understood, of course, that in keeping with his commission, he paid no attention to New France and considered only New Guinea.
May 29th, 1881
I have finally managed to visit some parts of New Guinea. I regret not having been able to do so sooner but during these last two years, some massacres were perpetrated there against foreigners. Boats would venture there very rarely, and then only with people liable to arouse suspicion and provoke the hostility of the native people.
On February 15th last, with Mr. Andre Goldie and his company, aboard his little 13 tonner, the Alice Meade, I left Thursday Island by the Gulf of Papua. Because of the difficulty and the dangers of navigation in these waters, we dropped anchor on four occasions, near islands, of which the largest and most fertile are Darnley and Murray. On these as on various other islands, Protestant missions have been established for several years. They have gained a strong influence over the indigenous population and have had some conversions.
Mr. Goldie and Company have always treated the Papuans with great kindness, and so they are highly esteemed and cordially welcomed by those who know them. In past years they were able to go without any trouble to dangerous places, never before visited by foreigners. And so I had hopes of benefitting from this situation to make a long voyage of discovery, without any cause for fear.
It was agreed that we would visit several villages along the coast from the West, right beyond East Cape, as well as some of the islands close to New Guinea, and then, at the end of the wet season, to go inland about 80 miles. But circumstances arose which forced us to interrupt this long and interesting navigation towards East Cape...
We had already resumed our voyage from Port Moresby, heading towards the South East, when a small boat drew up alongside us with some grim news. Three days before, at Kalo, a village of some three thousand inhabitants, and only 54 miles from Hula, where we intended to spend the next night, some native people had, without a moment's warning, put to death four school teachers from the Protestant missions, two of their wives, four of their sons, with two or three natives of other villages.
As Mr. Goldie, fearing reprisals, had left his provisions and merchandise at Port Moresby, he decided not to go too far until the danger had passed.
Despite all that, I really had a very good opportunity to gather information and gain some experience of the people in different parts of New Guinea, both on the coast and in the few inland areas as yet explored, and to meet enough people to form some idea of their dispositions.
There followed several pages of information about the population, the villages, the indigenous people; their languages, education, occupations; their dances, marriage and family customs; their food and gardens: the occupations and handicrafts of the women; the religious elements, belief in the spirits, the sorcerers; the celebrations, the place and time of assemb/ies and of retirement; the common houses such as the very spacious one of Maiva, etc. Facts were also supplied about the Protestant mission, schools, catechists and their growing influence.
New Guinea offers enormous scope for Catholic missionaries. I chose the district of Maiva153 as that which has more promise as a place for two priests to make a start, until the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda can provide for the needs of New Guinea, giving it, if possible, to the Jesuit Fathers...
From Thursday Island - this is the place which I had to choose for my departure - the new missionaries for New Guinea will be able to reach their destination with less serious obstacles than one would suppose; but they will need a boat and sufficient protection...
Brisbane, June 1881
I fear that some of my letters have not arrived. I would hope that those sent in September (1880), and last February and May, containing a special report on New Guinea, have all been received...
More information followed about the Papuans:
Maiva, a spot where I had chosen to begin our missions is near Cape Possession. The villages that I visited are about eight miles to the east of the Cape and about eighteen miles from Yule Island. From a boat out at sea the crops on the hills near the villages can be easily seen and, from a distance of about four miles from the beach, the huts of the people can be glimpsed.
At Maiva the beach is unprotected and exposed to the winds and surging waves; a boat could approach only with difficulty. But there is a good and very safe port at Hall Sound, in the passage between the mainland and Yule Island.
Yule Island itself provides another position to establish a Mission, which can serve and protect any which are set up in the highlands.
The distance from Maiva to Hall Sound is about twenty-two miles, and so there will be no great danger of ships landing at Maiva and causing trouble among the people there.
Since my return from New Guinea to Cooktown, I have been very busy preparing for the departure of two priests, Rev. P.M. Bucas and Rev. M. Hackett, who have often stated their willingness to go there.154
153 Maiva in old maps, then Waima; (MSC station founded in 1897).
154 Father Bucas, French, aged about forty years, missionary in Queensland for several years, had been under the authority of Fr. Cani. Later when our missionaries, Fathers Navarre and Cramaille, were passing through Cooktown in July, 1882, Father Bucas, at first absent for reasons of his ministry, met them on July 28th, giving them abundant information about New Guinea on the one hand and about Fr. Lannuzel on the other. This latter, after his experiment in New Britain, had just spent about six months in Cooktown with his fellow countryman, Bucas; then had embarked for Europe (Issoudun, Tilburg, London, Paris, Issoudun, Rome, etc.) a few days before the arrival of Fathers Navarre and Cramaille at Cooktown. Regarding Bucas, Navarre wrote in August, 1882: "This fine Father
Because of the lack of available transport, it is difficult to arrange the expedition in such a way that potential dangers are avoided and the success of the enterprise is ensured; boats to New Guinea are rare. It is not advisable to use the two or three boats which go in that direction there during the year, because their landing place is too far from where we would need to go; they are often manned by people of dubious conduct, likely not only to get drunk, but also to give the indigenous people opportunities for hostility; and this could create a dangerous situation. Of the four boats which went from Cooktown to New Guinea last year, three were burnt by the Papuans who first killed some of the sailors.
For the success of the expedition, I think it necessary to buy or hire a small boat and, to avoid the numerous reefs, it is advisable to engage as captain a sailor familiar with the region, and two other sailors, not simply to take the missionaries to their destination, but also to ensure immediate help in case of danger or of illness, and convey them to the most desirable settlement.
After looking about for a boat, in Cooktown and neighbouring parts, I was obliged to go to Brisbane to obtain one which was safe yet less expensive. At the same time I am trying to get sisters and women teachers for the schools in our Vicariate.155
I arrived in Brisbane twelve days ago and I hope to return to Cooktown by this week's steamer...156
All these observations, sent on to Father Jouet, were invaluable to Father Durin, who was in Rome when they arrived. But he was never to benefit from them; Navarre, his companion, then successor, would learn of them through Father Bucas, during his stay in Cooktown. And in Rome, an ardent young aspirant for the New Guinea Mission, Henri Verjus, would soon discover them as he perused the copies of these letters. Later, his expedition of June-July, 1885, from Thursday Island to Yule Island, would remind us of the comments and advice of Cani.
In June-July, 1881, however, Henri Verjus was still in Barcelona, intent on seeing and hearing all he could of the Marquis de Rays, especially since the latter was offering a passage to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart destined for Oceania; this was in the hope that they would take up their apostolate in his Colony of New France.
Bucas, a good priest, came to these parts to dedicate himself to the conversion of the people of New Guinea; but the death of priests in Queensland has kept him in Australia..." In the Vicariate of Queensland there were in 1881 only five priests for 1.500 scattered Catholics (Cf. Cani to Cardinal Simeoni). The new Pro-Vicar, Fortini, well known in Rome by Father Jouet, fell out with Father Bucas; on August 3rd, 1882, Bucas decided to rejoin his former superior and friend, Cani, then Bishop of Rockhampton. If I am not mistaken, the other priest, Rev. M. Hackett, was Irish.
155The Apostolic Vicariate of Queensland, before its division into two dioceses, in December, 1882.
Barcelona: hopes of the scholastic Verjus
June 14th: ...I learnt today that Father Durin has been at Issoudun since 1st June. Everything seems to tell me that I'll be going. Something extraordinary is going on inside me.
June 26th: It was disheartening to read the paper, La Nouvelle France; it's not very reassuring, despite apparent good news, and those who know our leaders certainly have something to think about. Freemasonry is rife! We see bishops recommending to the Marquis de Rays men whom he naturally trusts, but who then betray him shamefully!!157 The Colony is threatened. I don't know what will come of it. The women and children are staying in Singapore; the men alone press on to Port-Breton - heaven only knows under what leadership. All it needs is a good leader. O my God, who is to be trusted now? It's sickening. O my God, let our missionaries succeed! Perhaps they will be the salvation of the colony, but they will suffer in the process.
July 7th: ...The Univers consecrates two long columns to our dear Society and to its acceptance of the Mission of Oceania! It's superb. It's going to be translated into Spanish; I'm going to re-read it, ponder over it and relish it. I'll keep this number and treasure it. It seems a good omen that these missions were abandoned in 1854, the year when our beloved little Society was born, and that the proposal was made on 25th March, Feast of our dear Apostolic School. Our Society has reason for hope, but before all else, we must hope for the spirit of faith! Yes, we will have martyrs and then everything will go well.158
The article in the Univers
Although preceded by a slightly changed article in Le Monde, that published in the Univers has a history dating back to the beginning of April, after the official letter offering the great Oceanic Mission to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. With the very best of intentions, Father Founder at once thought of acquainting the faithful with this offer; in doing this he hoped to attract vocations and appeal to the generosity of Catholics on behalf of this new missionary work.
With this in mind, he drafted a lengthy article for the Catholic press. On April 10th he sent Father Jouet, together with his official letter of acceptance, "an article for the Catholic papers and religious weeklies of France, Belgium and Canada." He wrote it as coming from Rome, and asked Father Jouet to date it as he pleased etc. Above all he insisted:
"Don't let anyone suspect that the article comes from me." We already know the reasons for this; since the expulsions of November, 1880, Father Chevalier, archpriest of Issoudun, was not to present himself as the "Superior of a religious Institute." Thus his name no longer appeared in the Annales of Issoudun.
In this same letter he added: "The 150 copies of this article are being sent to you by registered post..." - printed copies!
If Father Founder had kept the reply we would be more cognizant of Father Jouet's thoughts on the matter. However, he must have manifested a certain embarrassment, if his short letter of April 17th, Easter Sunday, is any indication:
Don't worry about the article on New Guinea. No one, absolutely no one, knows about it except you and me. This evening I received the modified copy; alter it as you think fit and then send it back. I will return it to you at once, so that you can have 150 copies printed and sent to the papers; tell me if you'd like me to do this. The account of the Marists and of the Milan Missionaries given in this article is quite factual - I took all the information from La Nouvelle France, August, 1880, page 16. It is authentic and known publicly; however, you can change or ignore it if you prefer. Do as you think best - prune or expand; please be quick.159
For Father Jouet, the matter was not really so crucial; he believed that it should wait until the composition of the missionary team was determined and Propaganda had decided on the title and facuIties to be conferred on the Superior of the Mission. And lastly, they needed further reassurance concerning the enterprise of the Marquis de Rays - the news from Oceania was anything but auspicious. Father Chevalier remained optimistic and confident of the good intentions of the Marquis, who in his turn, would be happy to see his work gain more credence among Catholics; this would certainly follow an announcement in the press that the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart had accepted the great Oceanic Mission. Knowing the reticence of Cardinal Simeoni, Father Jouet considered it more prudent to delay, still further, any publicity. Ten days after his official reply to the Cardinal, Father Chevalier was surprised at having received no official acknowledgement from the Holy See. In his letter of April 26th, already quoted, he added:
It would be time to make known to the public our acceptance of this great Mission; as you will see by the attached letter, the Marquis de Rays thinks so too. I feel that, even in the interests of the work itself, we can't delay any longer...
I haven't yet received the article for the papers. Do you think it's untimely? I returned it to you with the alterations you noted. I'm waiting for your final comment. Don't be long!...
I'm enclosing more letters of the Marquis de Rays.
Three weeks later, May 20th, no doubt in reply to a letter from Father Jouet, he merely observed:
Yes, change the printed article; show due respect to the Marists and give them the credit they deserve. That's very good. But it seems to me that they should prefer not to be mentioned at all in this article on the Missions of Oceania. Do what you think best. I think the news of the Mission should be made public without more delay, whether it be to foster good-will, attract financial support and a body of enthusiastic workers, or make necessary preparations. etc. etc.
On May 25th he made a fresh attempt, specifying his arguments:
I agree with the Marquis de Rays that it's time to publicise our great Mission; there are several reasons:
1. This is a time of persecution, and at any moment the storm could burst with even more ferocity, restricting us in our plans.
2. We must have resources for this Mission, both in money and in kind; we can still obtain them. Later, who knows?
3. We must also have vocations. Will we have any in a few months?
4. In our Congregation, minds are prepared for this Mission. Do we know what may happen in a month or two etc.?
5. We need time to organise for the departure and we have little time left.
Just think - the business has been at a standstill for two months now. So please ask permission to speak and send me the planned article that Mr. de Maguelone would accept as his; this ought to be sent everywhere, as we have said.160
Finally, in his letter of May 26th, Father Jouet dispels any apprehensions of his Superior, setting out clearly his intended line of action:
I think that tomorrow or the day after, I'll be able to speak privately to the Sovereign Pontiff on your behalf, simply to thank him for his kindness in choosing our little Society, and to assure him again of our absolute attachment. Then I'll report on this and on the important business in hand, enclosing also various official letters exchanged between you and the Holy See. At the same time as I send you the article for the Annales, Mr. de Maguelone will write the same thing - but worded differently - for the Univers. He wishes to be the first to speak of it. As soon as the audience is ended, he will first send a telegram announcing the matter; he will receive great attention and write a special article.
As the Marists have not yet replied to the request for information, and Rev. Father Forestier has given me nothing in writing,161 I shall, as you say, speak very little, if at all, of the Marists.
On June 1st, Father Chevalier gave his assent. In Rome, the audience was delayed yet again but Father Chevalier pressed on resolutely:
Has His Eminence a favourable reply from the Propagation of the Faith? Time is short.
Now Mr. de Maguelone can write his article, but look at it beforehand. Prepare yours also, for the next edition of the Annales...
I would like to see the articles on New Guinea; I wouldn't want any mention made of me, because of my position as parish priest. You must have noticed that in the plan of the article I sent you, I deliberately left out my name. (1st June)
If, in his letter of June l0th, Father Jouet had protested over Father Durin's ill-timed publication in his English Annals, it was only three days later, June 13th, that Mr. de Maguelone sent a communique to the Univers in Paris; it was published on Wednesday, June 15thz
We have received the following dispatch from Rome:
Rome, June 13th, 6.30 p.m.
His Holiness has just entrusted to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Issoudun the Apostolic Vicariate of Melanesia and Micronesia, comprising New Guinea, New France and the other islands of Oceania.
157 Reference to the great disappointment of the administrators of the Free Colony of Port-Breton following the withdrawal of Fr. Rene Lannuzel, first priest of Port-Breton, who severed connections with the colony and became a "separatist."
158 Ms HENRI VERJUS op. cit.
159 Father Chevalier had written: "These distant lands...Since their discovery, in the 16th century, some Catholic priests have tried to land on them but without success. In 1845, the Marist Fathers accepted this great mission. Within a few years the cruelty of the indigenous people and the enervating climate had left them completely exhausted. In 1852, some Italian religious from Milan, offered themselves to the Holy See to go and carry to these primitive people the light of the Gospel. After two years of fruitless zeal, they also abandoned these inhospitable lands." Father Jouet, uncertain of the exactness of these statements and judging it tactless to make reference to the two previous Institutes, cut out the whole paragraph. And so Father Chevalier confined himself to the simple sentence: "...Since their discovery in the 16th century, some generous priests and missionaries landed there; but since 1854 all seemed abandoned, when..." (setting 1854 as a supernatural coincidence with the foundation of the Society). Fr. Jouet later received details from Fr. Forestier, Procurator of the Marists, and used it in his own article, published after that of the Univers, in the August number of the Annales; in it he recalled more fully the praiseworthy work of the Institutes of the Marists and the Missionaries of Milan. (cf. Annales, pp. 178-179).
160 Father Jouet was sufficiently acquainted with Mr. Henri de Maguelon'e, Rome representative of the Univers, to get him to have published as his own, under the heading Letter from Rome, an article written by Father Chevalier who had to remain anonymous. That is what would be done.
161 A little later, Father Forestier, will send Father Jouet some thirty pages of Notes on the missionary presence of the Marists in Oceania before 1881. These Notes were recopied by several young confreres of Father Jouet, who used them in writing his Letter from Rome, June 24th, 1881, published in the August number of the Annales of Issoudun.
This notification was sent from Rome on the day of Father Jouet's private audience which was arranged for 11.45 a.m. and its formulation was consonant with Father Chevalier's article as amended by Father Jouet. It would not be reproduced in the Annales, however, until the July number, p. 166. But in France, as in Italy, it was immediately reprinted in other papers; on June 18th, Father Chevalier advised Father Jouet to send the mission article for the August edition of the Annales. He was quite satisfied:
The Missions Catholiques has already spoken of our Mission and the papers are copying the dispatch of the Univers. We must not delay. What do you think about getting the article by Mr. de Maguelone put into the Osservatore Romano and the Voce della Verita? Then it would be supposed that Mr. de Maguelone and Mr. Vuillaume had taken it from the Osservatore Romano. You could then have a hundred or so copies printed for the other conservative papers of Paris and the religious weeklies, sending them from Rome. The effect would be better. We certainly have no time to lose. Good-bye dear good Father...
June 23rd, 1881:
Le Monde had to publish the article with a few alterations. We have delayed this publication too long. The Univers must hurry! Postponement is out of the question. The Marquis de Rays' paper, which I received yesterday, has some gratifying news, setting right many points.
July 3rd, 1881:
Le Monde has published its article; tomorrow it will be the Univers. Let us prepare an article at once for our Annales. I need it on the 15th of this month. Please don't delay. Good-bye dear friend.
In its number of July 4th, the Univers did in fact publish its Letter from Rome, entitled: The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Issoudun in Melanesia and Micronesia.
After a short introduction, three documents were cited - those of March 25th, April 16th, May 14th, 1881, containing respectively the offer, the acceptance, the thanks of the Holy See.
Then followed some observations about the region involved, briefly summarising a long paragraph of Father Chevalier's article drawn up in April, which had dwelt too much on the enterprise of the Marquis de Rays. Likewise, the formal introduction of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, made by Father Chevalier, was reduced to a few more discreet lines. But the laudatory address to the missionaries, such as it appeared in the original article, was retained in its entirety - though in the form of a quotation. It bears ample witness to the sentiments of the Founder:
"Allow me, reverend Fathers, to express to you my admiration. Rome asks a generous and superhuman sacrifice of you; you accept it without hesitation. You do so, knowing that an arduous apostolate is before you - one where some of you will find martyrdom; you know that you will have to contend, not only with the climate and every kind of privation, but also with primitive tribes where Satan reigns as absolute master; you know that you are leaving a beloved homeland, staunch friends, and parents to whom you owe all - you are their pride and they look to you to bring joy and comfort in their old age. And here you are, leaving all to go thousands of miles from France, to win souls to Jesus Christ. 0 sublime dedication of the Catholic priest! And it is at a simple word, a desire scarcely expressed, of an old man occupying the See of Rome, that you break so many ties to risk all, and brave all dangers. This fact alone is enough to prove that the religion you preach is divine, and that this man, whom we call the Pope, is the living image of Christ on earth and the depositary of his sovereign authority.
Valiant knights (In French: "Chevaliers". Editor.) of the Sacred Heart, the time has come to put on the armour which God offers you in order to stand firm in the combats to come. Put on then the breast-plate of justice and the helmet of salvation. Then, armed with the shield of faith and the sword of truth,1 62 you will march on to the conquest of these people who groan under the tyranny of the devil.
You are going to leave for the distant campaign to which God is calling you; but you will not leave alone. Our wishes and prayers will follow you everywhere; we will invoke the blessings of God on your works. Aided by grace, you will raise the standard of the Sacred Heart on these shores; you will erect altars and give him worshippers.
You are also taking Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, this heavenly treasurer of the gifts of God; this Mother of all peoples; this signal benefactress; this dispenser of all graces; this powerful patroness of hopeless causes; this first and true missionary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is to you that Mary owes this glorious title, and so you are assured in advance of her motherly protection.
In the beautiful mission that you are undertaking, you will have followers; I would be surprised if your dedication did not sow the seeds of many vocations. How many young people, how many generous students and holy priests aspire after the apostolate among the pagans!
The vast field open to your zeal demands serious-minded recruits and you will have them; with admirable diligence, the seniors of our Apostolic School are studying theology and philosophy in Rome, and if our prayers are heard, you will have a special seminary for your immense mission of Oceania, which can be called the seminary for New Guinea. For that you will find charitable people who will help you to the utmost of their power, for we are considering here a work of prime importance, concerning it does, civilisation, the glory of God and the salvation of souls..."
To this the journalist added, still by way of quotation:
"From the preceding, the readers of the Univers will, I think, judge that I have not been wrong in calling to their attention the missionaries of Issoudun and of arousing their generous support for these zealous priests, to whom the Sovereign Pontiff entrusts such a vast apostolic enterprise.
I do not fear then to solicit aid for them and their mission - it is thus that all will share in the work of Leo XIII." 163
The Jouet article
According to Father Jouet's plan, this material sent to the Univers was to be copied in the August edition of the Annales and then followed by an article which he had himself promised for July 15th. On receiving it at Issoudun on July 27th, Father Chevalier wrote:
Dear good Father,
I received your article this morning. Thank you. In is very interesting and needs to be disseminated. Our Mission to New Guinea etc. is generating great public interest and sympathy.
I received a letter from Louvain, Belgium, from the Chancellor, or the like, of the University; they are prepared to revive the venture of Captain Marceau, that is, to form a fleet of ships to back our missions, which are regarded as being of paramount importance. Time will tell...
Father Durin is delighted with his trip to Rome, with our house of St. James, etc. He tells me that you're not well. Take care of yourself. Come to France, if your health requires it. Rent a holiday house for our young people, if you think if would help. Take some time off. Look after yourself!
There is no doubt that all means were being exploited for the great Mission, and Father Jouet was faithful to his promise; the two articles arrived in Issoudun for the August edition, in the form of letters sent to Rev. Father Superior and, as arranged, without any identification of this Superior as Jules Chevalier.
The first letter was dated June 24th, 1881, Feast of the Sacred Heart (although that year, as was indicated in the June Annales, p. 122, the feast was liturgically transferred to June 25th, the day after the Feast of St. John the Baptist). The object of the letter is contained in the title given by Jouet:
Appointment of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, destined for the Missions of Melanesia and Micronesia, signed by the Congregation of Propaganda on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Inspiring words of His Holiness Leo XIII, regarding the Mission.
162 Saint Paul to the Ephesians VI: 17.
163 Extract from the Univers, July 4th, 1881.
As we already know, the audience of Leo XIII had taken place on Monday, June 13th, and the powers for Fathers Durin and company, had been delivered by Propaganda on the evening of July 1st. We will keep in mind that in his letter to Father General on July 2nd, the Procurator, happy to have finished with the Guyot affair, declared:
Then I asked that the powers needed by our Fathers be signed as soon as possible and dated on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. This has been granted and yesterday (Ist July) I received all the papers.
Contrary to what Father Jouet states in the letter of June 24th, designedly to edify the readers of the Annales, we know nothing of a decree of Propaganda, signed on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, 1881, "empowering our much loved Society to undertake an apostolate in the two vast Vicariates of Melanesia and Micronesia..." That had already been done. On the Feast of the Sacred Heart it was simply a matter of granting to the missionaries the ecclesiastical powers deemed opportune for the time being.
But the singular Father Jouet was not short of invention and he used it to good purpose in such a noble cause. On July 2nd, he could pronounce, "Either Providence is in this, or it is nowhere!!!" He wanted to associate the Feast of the Sacred Heart, June 12th, 1874, when Pius IX had approved the Institute of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, and the Feast of the Sacred Heart of this year, 1881, as the day on which they received their missionary charge. And in his true style he confessed himself to be "alive to this delicate attention of divine Providence and of the Holy See." It was an appropriate occasion to recall the text of the first approved Constitutions: Our little Society has also for its end the evangelisation of pagans. May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved! (Ch. II, art. 2 etc. 1877). Then, with the help of the Notes received from Father Forestier, Marist procurator, he supplied a glorious page about the first missionaries in Oceania - Monsignor Epalle, Father Peter Chanel S.M., martyr on the Island of Futuna in 1846; Father Mazzucconi, of the Missionaries of Milan, murdered on the Island of Woodlark, September, 1855; "and the same year 1855, in the same month of September, on the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, the Archbishop of Bourges, gave us the official title of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart." And faced with these multitudes to be saved in the islands of Oceania,
...the missionaries appointed are but three priests without resources, without experience of missions, without knowledge of the language and customs...That would be cause for discouragement if we did not know that in the Holy Church of God no member is isolated and separated from the others, but that each comes to the help of all and all to the help of each...
The second letter is dated July 14th, 1881, the day after the private audience granted to Father Joseph Durin,
...Missionary of the Sacred Heart, appointed Superior of the Missions of Melanesia and Micronesia. Our Holy Father the Pope blessed a beautiful banner of the Sacred Heart and placed it in the hands of the missionary as a symbol of his apostolate.
He presented an impressive dialogue between the Pope and his two visitors, adroitly devised to offer authoritative replies to any misgivings or objections apt to arise regarding this new apostolate.
All that is well known, as it was published in the Annales of 1881, where our lucky readers may find it.
Time was moving on! A departure of emigrants to New France was scheduled for 11th August, and the missionaries were preparing both spiritually and materially in the hope of sailing in September.
We had left Father Durin at the end of July, on his return to Issoudun. On August 2nd he and Father Chevalier were received by Archbishop Marchal of Bourges. The latter, writing to Father Jouet, who had sought the support of his diocese in the restoration of the church in Rome, referred to the visit of Father Durin. But whether it was a matter of assistance for Rome or for the Missions, Archbishop Marchal called for prudence; above all they must divert the attention of their antireligious opponents away from Issoudun and its works:
August 3rd, 1881
I favour your work in Rome, and I desire its prompt completion. I will gladly recommend it then to my diocese, and I think that it should be better received there than anywhere else. But, as I said yesterday to Rev. Father Chevalier, if we resort to the ordinary forms of publicity, must we not fear awakening the sleeping dog, or the one quietly on the watch, so provoking fresh trouble and interference at Issoudun? That is why, with all due deference, I think we should wait for the priests' retreat;165 then I can speak with less risk and perhaps to better effect.
I saw Father Durin and I wholeheartedly pray for God's blessing on this truly apostolic enterprise.
More than ever I wish to go to Rome, and I think it will be about the middle of November. Could you put me up? I will be very happy to be once more in your midst with Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Yours...
Joseph, Arch. of Bourges166
For Father Durin, the effect of his visit to the Archbishop was altogether different. On August 7th, at the end of his 'retreat' at the house of the Sacred Heart, he confided to Father Jouet:
August 7th, 1881
Dear good Father Jouet,
I am finishing my retreat that I would have gladly made in Rome if weariness had not forced me to leave you so soon. But divine Providence arranges all. You all waited on me hand and foot, and Rome offers so many distractions, that it would have been too difficult for me to be very recollected.
I spent a whole week at the Sacred Heart, near the tomb of Our Lady, in this absolute solitude. Blessed be the Divine Heart for all the graces he lavishes on the most unworthy of his children.167
Dear Father, for a long time now my ideas on an important point have been changing. The difficulties of Watertown, the artful insinuations etc.etc. had inspired in me a certain mistrust of our good and venerated Superior, a deep dissatisfaction with his administration. Join with me in thanking the divine (Heart); I am quite changed and the big resolution of my retreat has been to guard against falling into this depressing state again. Yes, I really see in my Superior the Father whom the good God has given me, and if I happen not to understand the reasons for a particular action, I readily withhold judgement, while I ask and wait for light.
The business of Father Gu. has tightened the bond, and I have come to understand the sad nature of such blindness which makes us rate our judgement above that of our Superiors.168
I tell you this so that you, too, will bless the Divine Heart and pray for my perseverance.
164Dossier Archdiocese of Bourges: 1881, Arch. Marchal GAmsc.
165 Priests' retreat in Bourges, which Father Chevalier, as archpriest of Issoudun, made at the beginning of September.
166 Arch. Marchal made his voyage to Rome, with his brother Auguste, arriving December 3rd, and on December 7th he assisted Cardinal Monaco La Valletta in the consecration of the church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart; he delivered the occasional address.
167 "tomb of Our Lady": reference to the Basilica closed since the expulsions of November, 1880.
168 "The business of Father Guyot": his Appeal to Cardinal Simeoni against the Mission.
I am going to Paris on Wednesday at the latest, and then by easy stages to Barcelona to prepare to leave, probably for ever. I leave it to the will of the good God.
Father Cramaille has gone to say good-bye to his mother. When the date of departure is known, he will come and join us, along with Father Navarre who will stay at Arles until then.
And good old Brother Fromm? Father Superior told me that he was accepted for the Mission. No doubt he will leave Rome for Barcelona. Then give Father Barral the charge of his outfit. He will give him only new clothes to save us mending. Don't let them forget flannel shirts; it's the best protection against sudden changes in temperature. I think that secular clothes will suit him better than the soutane. He won't need anything heavy, except for an overcoat when the sea is rough. I hope that the Roman ladies will cover the cost.169
Don't you think it would be advisable for me to have a few lines from Cardinal Simeoni for the Archbishop of Manila? According to the agreement with the Marquis de Rays, the Spanish ship will take us there. It is easier to establish relations with some introduction from an eminent figure.
Not having been to the presbytery for a week, I have no news. But Father Batard tells me that the Propagation of the Faith has promised 15.000 francs and I'm going to approach the Holy Childhood.
Dear Father, I want to speak to you about one of the most painful experiences of my life. Rev. Father Superior had thought that I could not be dispensed from a visit to the Archbishop of Bourges, and one day he took me with him. We presented ourselves before his Lordship and our venerated Father explained the reason for my visit. The Archbishop coldly asked for some information about the Mission; then he wanted to know who was going with me.
Father Cramaille was named and this led to the question of chaplains for the hospice. The Archbishop's attitude was one of autocratic severity. Then arose the question of the book on Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, proofs of which had been sent by Rev. Father Superior.170 Invectives intensified against our good Father because of your circular letter; 171 then, the re-opening of the Basilica, asked for
169 In fact, here is what Henri Verjus will note at Barcelona, on Ist September, the day of the departure of Father Durin and his companions: "About 7.30 a.m. Father Durin sent me on business with good Brother Fromm, to fit him out, for he left Rome without anything; he seemed a little sad and I took the opportunity to cheer him up a bit and get him some little thing in one of the cheaper stores. (Verjus and Fromm were former companions at the Apostolic School and were professed on the same day).
170 This refers to the proofs of the work being prepared and to be entitled: The Splendours of the Theology of Devotion to Mary Mother of God and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, according to the doctrine of the Fathers. The first proofs, printed by Pigelet of Bourges, had been sent to Rome to be examined by Father Daume O.P. Master of the Apostolic Palace. This work was not published but served as a basis for the great work of 1883-1884: The Sacred Heart of Jesus in its relations with Mary.
171 Circular which Father Jouet, with approval of Father Chevalier, had sent to the Bishops of France to recommend to the faithful the work of restoration in Rome of the church, St. James of the Spaniards, which had become the centre for the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
by the Church Council,172 was another matter for censure. I was both distressed and indignant. If I had not feared aggravating the situation, I'd have stood up and protested against such an indignity. A schoolboy admonished by his master would not be treated as badly as was our venerated Father, the Founder of our Congregation, a man so able and virtuous. It was unseemly in one raised to the episcopal office. I warn you that he will go to Rome and will want to stay with you. If I were you, I'd take the upper hand and not let myself be intimidated. The works of our venerated Father are very illustrious; the good God has not wished that they rob him of this admirable humility which so distinguishes him, and He uses this Archbishop to counterbalance the brilliance of his works. But if Father Chevalier, for his sanctification, puts up with such improper conduct, his sons are less at fault if they do not react in the same way.
Don't write to me any more at Issoudun but at Barcelona.
All yours in C.J.
Gathering in Barcelona
On August 6th Father Chevalier could notify both Father Piperon in Holland and Father Barral in Rome that "the missionaries will leave on September 1 st." To his former secretary, Pierre Barral, he wrote with humour: "The departure for Liki-Liki is set for September I st." LikiLiki, better known as Metlik, was the place chosen by the emigrants on the Nouvelle-France as the first settlement East of Port-Breton (PortPraslin). It was agreed that the MSC group would embark on the Barcelona, a ship of the Spanish company of the Marquis de Campo, thus assuring services with the Philippines. At Manila a ship from the Colony of New France was to take them to Port-Breton.
It was only on August 19th that the small community of Calle Ancha in Barcelona learnt, and then indirectly, of the impending arrival of the missionaries. They were impatient to receive Father Durin, who, as they already knew, was to meet the Marquis de Rays at Saint-Sebastien Then it was learnt that the three Fathers would be accompanied by "two Brothers", Mesmin Fromm, and one of the Durin brothers - whether Fernand or Georges was not specified, but as neither was a member of the Society, this was totally unexpected. All five were to arrive on August 25th, but the scholastic Verjus noted on that day:
Still no Fathers or Brothers! This evening we waited in vain for Brother Fromm. I went aboard the Nueva Estramadura, arriving from Marseilles173 - no Brother Fromm. Father Durin is now within reach of the Marquis. He's in Paris to be registered as an American citizen. The other Fathers will come tomorrow evening, which is a little late. These poor Fathers will scarcely have time to recover, before they have to set out again.
August 26th. This morning Brother Fromm arrived after spending the night at the port. He's in excellent dispositions and brings good news from Rome. Father Cramaille also arrived this evening but without Father Navarre or the Durin brother. It seems that there's some misunderstanding about it. Good Father Cramaille edifies us very much. Father Navarre is late. O my God, and I? Will I be left? I don't dare consider such a prospect.
August 27th. They say that I'll be in the second batch. May the Sacred Heart be praised for it! I want to be as well prepared as possible. Father Navarre arrived last night at 11.00 p.m. As I was getting up this morning I felt that he had arrived last night. He's still as good and humble as ever, and edifies us very much. What modesty! How many hidden talents!
August 28th. (Sunday) This evening Father Navarre preached very well; this good Father was very moving. He spoke to us of his dear pagans and told how people could help by their prayers and donations. The sermon was quite fruitful.
August 29th. This morning, we were pleased to see Georges Durin arrive. All has happened for the best! What a lot of changes! What a lot of surprises! Georges Durin is going to New Guinea! Fernand is in America; he left with Father Ramot. No one can know what these two unfortunate young men have suffered since the expulsions.
August 30th. Father Durin has arrived at last! All our missionaries are here. Everything is falling into place and difficulties are being smoothed out. The Sacred Heart wishes to go ahead. I've been running about all day for our Fathers. This evening Father Durin is rather worn out but the news is first-rate. Two trunks left at Port-Bou will arrive tomorrow.
August 31st. What a lot of activity today! However, everything is working out for the best...and everything tells me that I'll be leaving within the next twelve months. They're already talking of a second departure. I ran around town all day with Father Durin...The v.r. Father Jouet arrived at midday, still as holy and energetic as ever.
September 1st, 1881. Thursday. A memorable morning for our Society for several reasons. A day of happiness and of great memories for me - an outstanding day, never to be forgotten. Today my beloved Society saw her first sons leave; today I received assurances which fill me with hope...Arrived back home at 7.30 a.m. (from the Mass I served for Father Marie); straight away Father Durin sent me into town with good Brother Fromm; I had to fit him out, as he left Rome without anything. He seemed a little sad and I took the opportunity to cheer him up a bit and get him some little thing in one of the cheaper stores. Everything went well and, wonder of wonders, I managed to do all my messages in an hour and a half, and get the holy oils for two of our Fathers. A minute longer, and I'd have been late for the ceremony. It struck 9 o'clock; I had a quick breakfast. The Mass (celebrated by Father Durin) began with a fervent Ave Maris Stella and with all my heart I sang these sublime words which sum up all our aspirations and all our desires. I was very moved. The congregation was large - so I'm told; hidden behind the altar, I couldn't enjoy it,174 but I was one with my Jesus, hidden and happy to be so. At the Gospel, V.R. Father Durin, Vicar Apostolic,175 turned towards the faithful, most of whom were Associates; 176 in faltering tones he spoke with emotion of his Mission, of his plans and the means to realise them, the foremost of which was prayer for one another...
After the sermon I sang with deep feeling the farewell hymn to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, but in the second line, instead of singing We will return with joy, I sang:
We are leaving you, Virgin Mary,
We leave all with joy.
Watch over us, dear Mother,
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart!
After the Mass, V.R. Father Jouet also wished to speak; this good Father did it with great feeling and with his usual vigour. I had just sung the beautiful hymn composed for the occasion by R. Father Superior (Deidier).177
The ceremony ended with the presentation of the cross - only to the three missionary priests, as Father Jouet had decided. It would take too long to record all the impressions and effusions of a Henri Verjus, but they bear witness to the yearning of the young members for the missionary apostolate.
The great absentee
In his vibrant address, Father Jouet, himself very moved, had declared: "The crosses that I am going to give you have been blessed especially for you by the Sovereign Pontiff; I give them to you in the name of
172 The Church Council of the parish of St. Cyr of Issoudun petitioned for the reopening of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, under seal since November, 1880 a step which the Archbishop judged to be untimely.
173 Brother Mesmin Fromm embarked at Civita Vecchia, Sunday, 21st August; was met at Marseilles by the sisters of Father Jouet, but finding on his arrival a boat for Barcelona, he re-emmarked immediately.
174 Brother Verjus kept the harmonium behind the altar and looked after the singing.
175 Brother Verjus gives this title to Father Durin several times, and in his Travel Journal, the nephew Georges Durin, refers to him as Prefect Apostolic. Better informed, Father Jouet does not give to the head of the Mission any of these titles, in the correspondence with Issoudun or in his account of the departure from Barcelona, published in the Annales, 1881, pp. 217-226. Propaganda had appointed Father Durin provisional ecclesiastical Superior.
176 Reference to the Associates of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, in Barcelona.
177 Ms HENRI VERJUS op. cit.
our V.R. Father General; prevented by duty from being present, the venerated Father has delegated me to represent him on this great day...If he is absent in person, he is present in spirit."
We know the reasons for this absence from Barcelona. His peculiar position in Issoudun since the dispersion of his religious necessitated extreme caution; he was not to appear as Superior General of a religious Institute. He had therefore to avoid drawing the attention of the civil authorities to the activities of Father Chevalier, beyond his official role as parish priest of Issoudun, in the diocese of Borges. Father Jouet's account of the departure of the missionaries from Barcelona, sent in the form of a letter and published in the December Annales, begins: "Very dear Father of Watertown." (!)178
178 Instead of "Issoudun" of "Superior General."
A word of warning about the need for discretion had been given to the correspondents of the main Catholic papers of France, and so La Nouvelle France, official organ of the Colony of Port-Breton, made only brief mention of Father Chevalier's absence:
The V.R. Father Superior General had greatly desired to be present at the departure of the missionaries; but he was detained by urgent duties of his office, notably his attendance at the diocesan Synod, which was held at the same time.
On August 25th, Father Chevalier had told Father Jouet: "I am leaving this morning to make my retreat at the Major Seminary of Bourges; I shall be there for seven days."
A few days later, from Bourges itself, he wrote to Father Jouet in Barcelona concerning various matters requiring attention. But his first thought was for his sons who were going "to carry the knowledge and love of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady to Oceania."
August 30th, 1881
Dear good Father,
It is impossible to be present at the departure of our dearly loved and heroic confreres who are going to carry the knowledge and love of the Sacred Heart and of Our Lady to Oceania.
Oh, how I envy them!
What a sacrifice not to be able to bless them and embrace them at this solemn moment! Please apologise to these privileged ones for me, and ask them to bless me and the Society in return. And give them a farewell embrace from me. Ah! how I suffer at not being able to be at Barcelona at this time...
If there has been any delay in their departure send me a telegram.
Affectionate greetings to all...
J. Chevalier M.S.C.
As a true apostle of the Missions, the procurator had prepared everything with his usual extraordinary initiative. Who better than he, was able to represent the Father Founder on this memorable day. He did it to perfection.
There was yet another absentee - the Marquis de Rays, whom Father Jouet could not but hail as "an eminent benefactor" since he had assumed the expense of the journey of the five missionaries. According to his representatives from Marseilles, Messrs Sumien and Roubard, he, too, was detained elsewhere by "great diplomatic and colonial interests." It was true that for some time he had been prey to grave anxieties; however, in encouraging this missionary endcavour in Oceania, he counted on regaining sympathy and credibility. The first priest attached to the Colony of Port-Breton had withdrawn in March, 1881, when on his return from a trip to Sydney, he found the station practically abandoned; since then, according to the Colony's administrators, Father Rene Lannuzel "had severed connections with the ceolony, and had become a separatist."
On his own initiative he had begun a mission on the coast of New Britain, in the territory of King Tolitoro (Tolitur) at Beridni (Nodup). But in Rome, the Congregation of Propaganda was not as yet fully informed of this initiative or of its consequent progress. Another secular priest, Marc Denis, had been engaged as chaplain aboard the Nouvelle-Bretagne, which left Barcelona on March 7th, 1881. He had been recommended by his friend, Father Charles Marie, of the community of Barcelona. In principle he was to join Father Lannuzel, for the pastoral ministry among the settlers and to begin a Catholic mission.
He was to deliver personally to Lannuzel the powers granted by Cardinal Simeoni, and dated September 19th, 1880. The NouvelleBretagne was to arrive at its destination in early August, 1881, but on 1st September, no news had yet reached Europe. As from this date, the official head of the whole Mission of Melanesia and Micronesia was Father Joseph Durin. The paper La Nouvelle France, was exultant and their joy was shared by the Superior General of the missionaries. He wrote to the editor:
I believe that this work of the Marquis de Rays, a work so admirable and so Christian, has finally taken root. Let us pray for its twofold success!
In the absence of the Marquis, his representatives had carefully supervised the settling on board of the five missionaries. The steamer Barcelona did not belong to the company, Nouvelle-France; it was a magnificent ship of the company Vapores correos del Marques de Campo, which provided the service between Barcelona and Manila. The missionaries were set up in two large first class cabins with communicating doors; they had all that was needed for a small community, being able to attend to their religious exercises and to celebrate Mass. It was all so comfortable that young Verjus was somewhate scandalised:
I speak without knowing what I'm saying as I've never travelled by boat, but what I know is that if I were in this position, I'd surrender my place to someone else, for the poor missionary must be distinguished only by his love of hardship. I feel sorry for the missionaries! Yes, they're to be admired but look at these poor people who are going as far away as they, and for less noble reasons – and they're going third class! 179
Among the passengers of the Barcelona, were some French and Belgian emigrants, including three French families whom our Fathers in Barcelona had helped, and fourteen young Augustinians with their superior - all Spanish and destined for the Philippines.
Before embarking, the five were surprised to receive from two agents of the Marquis, Dr. Febrer, an American, and the Consul of Liberia, Mr. Senmarti, "provisional passports", not Spanish, but Italian, with assumed names and professions! Their protests were silenced - it was a question of security! Later at Manila, when the list of those disembarking was published, the so-called Italians were required to explain themselves to the head of chancellery of the Italian Embassy, who had come to welcome them! Thanks to the kindly understanding of Mr. Campron, French Consul in Manila, the affair was eventually set in order; they would need correct passports to leave Manila; Father Durin could present the official papers from Rome and explain quite frankly their position in relation to the already too incriminating Colony of Port-Breton etc. The French passports were put into proper form, and even without any uneasiness on the part of the Alsatian Fromm, whose parents had opted for French citizenship, or of Georges Durin who had not yet done his military service. And it would be said that "the Consul was so willing to help us because he viewed with displeasure the involvement of priests in this troublesome business of Port-Breton, which could fall to him any day..."
But let us return to Barcelona. At the last minute, Mr. Sumien, editor of La Nouvelle Fance, presented the group with a large, well-framed portraitof the Marquis de rays, “the eminent benefactor” of the moment.
There was also the mail: a letter from Holland with a joint message from the MSC novices, expressing their joy and pride in the departure of the first missionary team for Oceania, and their longing to go one day; from Rome, a personal card from Cardinal Simeoni, for Archbishop Pedro Payo O.P., of Manila, recommending to him "Father Durin, Superior of the Mission of Melanesia and Micronesia."
Finally a telegram:
Rome, September Ist
Father Victor Jouet, Procurator Missionaries Sacred Heart, Barcelona.
His Holiness Leo XIII cordially blessed Father Durin, his companions, his benefactors, and all Melanesia and Micronesia consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
G. Card. Simeoni
But where are we going?
The Procurator, Father Jouet, perceiving that the historic significance of this departure was generally recognised, could say in his address:
Venerated confreres, you will be leaving then in the name of the little Society of the Sacred Heart, and in the name of the Holy Catholic Church. The cross to be given you as a souvenir and legacy is given by our very reverend Father Superior who has chosen you. It is blessed by Our Holy Father, the Pope, who has accepted you and entrusted to you the mission of evangelising the poor people of Oceania.
The field of this apostolate was certainly vast; the telegram of the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda defined it as all Melanesia and Micronesia. According to official directions, however, the initial and prime objective remained that of selecting a site on the Papuan coast of New Guinea.
But an important factor in attaining this end was the generosity of the founder of the free Colony of Port-Breton, or of New France, which seemingly was to be established in another sector of the immense Mission. And so, on September 1st, the Barcelona left for Manila, where another ship, belonging to the Colony of Port-Breton - very likely the Nouvelle-Bretagne - was to meet some missionaries and new emigrants. In this, as Father Jouet said, we can discern an "arrangement which bears the seal of Providence and which says to you.' God wills it!"
Let us leave the last word to the young Verjus, the future Apostle of Papua:
How lucky they are! They are going to suffer, but then the Sacred Heart is going to reign!!!
By about six o'clock, everyone (at Barcelona) had returned home in pensive mood. Silence reigned where but a few hours before all had been astir. In the evening, everything returned to normal and we said: This is a great occasion for our Society; it is a great step. Yes, it is a great occasion. It will be our salvation and the means God will use for us to grow in numbers:
Sanguis Martyrum, semen vocationum!!!
And the future?
There will be a long future. It is already more than a hundred years. But this future may have begun on September 2nd, 1881, when in Sydney at Villa Maria, the Procure of the Marist Fathers, a 35 year old priest felt the need to communicate with Cardinal Simeoni in Rome. He had arrived in Sydney at the end of August aboard a German ship, the Pacific, which had given him the opportunity to leave New Britain and stop at Port-Breton from the 8th to the 9th. It was not that Rene Lannuzel was pining for this illusory paradise of New France. He simply intended to meet the second chaplain of the Colony, Father J.-Marc Denis, who was to be his companion in the apostolate. On his arrival at Port-Breton, Father Denis was to deliver to Father Lannuzel the documents, conferring the ecclesiastical powers granted by Propaganda on September 19th, 1880, at the request of Dr. De Groote, Consul of New France in Brussels. In a recent letter to Father Denis, Lannuzel had maligned the Colony in every way180 and it was a bitter disappointment for the new arrival to see his intended companion set off again almost immediately.
Before landing in Sydney, Lannuzel scribbled a few lines for Denis, to say that he was notifying Rome of all that had taken place to date, and that he was having nothing more to do with the Colony. Such then was the object of the letter of September 2nd which would take some weeks to reach Rome. Moreover, it would to some extent affect the immediate future of the missionaries, only just left Barcelona. Here is the full letter:
September 2nd, 1881
To His Eminence Cardinal Simeoni
Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda
Most eminent and reverent Cardinal,
On my return to Port-Breton on 1st February, 1881, I found the colony abandoned. Unwilling to leave the mission you entrusted to me by a decree of September 19th, 1880, and eager for the salvation of souls, I established the mission on the coast of New Britain, 40 kilometres from Port-Breton.
New Britain is a very healthy and densely populated island, with a population of about 90.000. The king received me very well and had a temporary house built for me by the people. Knowing a little English, the king and I have been able to understand each other very well. I have been given vast lands for the Mission.
I was obliged to leave the Genil, the boat belonging to the Colony, because of the depravity of the captain. The greatest immorality has marred the.colony for some time and that is what decided me to choose New Britain as headquarters for the Mission. I took possession on 5th June and stayed until August 10th. 181 During my stay a great number of indigenous people gathered around me to hear the teaching of the true religion. After fifteen days they understood that they had a soul; that there is one God and a hell to punish the wicked and a paradise for the good. They asked me what they had to do to be saved. After six weeks with the tribe of Tolitoro, almost all pleaded for baptism, declaring that they no longer wanted to be separated from me either on earth or in heaven. They sent their children begging me to baptise them, and giving me leave to do whatever I thought was helpful for their salvation.
On July 12th and 13th, seeing them more and more anxious to be saved, I yielded and baptised 76 children under the age of four years. The king himself gave me two of his children. I have more than 600 catechumens, the king Tolltoro being at their head, and so I believe that the time has come to evangelise these poor people. My greatest desire is to consecrate the rest of my life to this beautiful Mission.
Father Denis of the diocese of Sens has joined me and other French priests are asking to come to this Mission. I have advised them to send their credentials to the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda.
Father Denis stayed at the mission during my visit to Sydney. Some more settlers have arrived at Port-Breton, but they will not remain there more than two months and, as a result, we will be left alone with the indigenous people without any hope of getting necessary supplies. The Archbishop of Sydney has been very encouraging and advised me to lay before you the results already achieved, and the needs of the Mission; that is what I am doing now. I await a reply and some help to return as quickly as possible. Your Eminence can well understand that we must not neglect this newly-found Mission.
I have just received the powers granted me in September, 1880; it took a year for them to reach me. Fortunately I knew the contents, through a telegram received in Sydney in January, 1881.
Given the great difficulty in communication, I think it prudent to ask you for new powers. In drawing up my papers, there was an error - I have not the privilege of being a Franciscan; I am quite simply a secular priest.
During my stay in New Britain, I was forced to eat nothing but native food but for all that my health is very good; God is blessing me.
Your Eminence, knowing no one in Rome, I am obliged to write to you directly. On behalf of the missionaries and the first 76 Catholics of New Britain, may I ask, through your intermediary, the blessing of His Holiness Leo XIII, to whom we submit and will submit till our dying breath.
Your grateful and humble servant,
Rene Lannuzel, apostolic missionary of Port-Breton, apostolic Vicariate of Melanesia and Micronesia (Oceania). Sydney, House of the Marist Fathers
September 2nd, 1881
P.S. I forget to tell you that, apart from the Marquis, all the officials of the Colony of Port-Breton are Freemasons - he has been deceived.182
On November 11th, 1881, Cardinal Simeoni sent a letter in Latin to Father Lannuzel, acknowledging the above. He mentioned a previous letter of July 14th, sent to Lannuzel through the Consul de Groote of Brussels, a letter which Lannuzel does not seem to have received.
Regarding the renewal of faculties granted for two years, the Cardinal pointed out that it was no longer necessary to apply to him, as these faculties could henceforth be subdelegated by Rev. Father Joseph Fernand Durin, Superior of the Missions of Melanesia and Micronesia, and therefore of Lannuzel, and all other priests whom this Superior would admit to the apostolate in the above Missions. It would also be necessary to deal with him in obtaining other faculties and in all matters concerning the Mission.
The Prefect congratulated and thanked Father Lannuzel for what he had done in New Britain, assuring him of his prayers for the continuation of his apostolate, exercised in an effective co-operation with the Superior, and wishing him continuing good health and a long life spent for the glory of God, etc.
He made no reference to Lannuzel's postscript or to the Colony of New France!
As Father Durin had a procurator in Rome, the Secretary of Propaganda, Ig. Masotti, entrusted this letter to Father Jouet on the same day, November 11 th, asking him to take note of it and see that it reached Rene Lannuzel, who was to return to New Britain from Sydney. To do this, the Secretary suggested sending it through Father Durin or by any other suitable means. He concluded on an optimistic note:
Propaganda hopes to receive good news of the Missions of Melanesia and Micronesia from Father Durin himself who has, it is hoped, arrived safe and well, together with the other Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
On this same day, our missionaries were still in Manila, where they had disembarked on Tuesday, October 11th, after three days of quarantine in the harbor. And as they were to sail again in a week, Rev. Father Font, Prior of the Augustians, wishing to provide his guests with a memento of their stay, chose this day to be photographed with them. We will leave Georges Durin to tell us about it:
The photographer is sent for and sets up his camera on the terrace of the convent. Rev. Fathers Durin, Navarre and Cramaille put on their white soutane and red cord which they will wear from now on, and the group is arranged as follows: In the middle R. Father Font, hands joined on his knees, and on his right R. Father Durin, holding the map of Oceania; on his left Father Navarre with the crucifix in his hand. Behind these three stand Father Cramaille, with G. Durin on his right and Brother Fromm on his left. The group is snapped, but it turns out badly because of a nervous movement of Brother Fromm. We are then arranged differently. Brother Fromm and G. Durin are seated on two big water jugs and Father Cramaille acts as background to Father Font. This arrangement is not as good as the first and the photo is even worse as the photographer ruffled Father Font by wanting to arrange his hands - his displeasure comes out in the photograph.183
179 MS HENRI VERJUS Op. Cit.
180 Letter addressed to Denis, dated 28th August, 1881.
181 Lannuzel must have left his station in Beridni, a little before 8th August, the date of his arrival at Port-Breton on the Pacific.
182Lannuzel to Card. Simeoni, Sydney, September 2nd, 1881: copy Pierre Barral, Rome, 1881. GAmsc VI/A/3.
183GEORGES DURIN, Travel Journal (September 1881-February, 1882): copy made at Rome by scholastic Verjus in note book n. VIII of Pierre Barral (March-April), 1882. GAmsc.