Fr Jean-Claude Colin, the founder of the Society of Mary, was strongly convinced that the Society was called “to do great things” and to work “in any corner of the world”.
When, in 1836, the Society of Mary received from the Holy See the responsibility of evangelising Oceania, Jean-Claude Colin, freshly elected Superior General, started sending missionaries. Between 1836 and 1849, 15 groups left France to go to the missions in Oceania: New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinee, Fiji islands, Wallis et Futuna, Tonga, Vanuatu, Samoa and New Zealand.
The mission was undertaken with great spiritual conviction and human courage. Many of the Marist Missionaries recorded what they observed, they kept their logbooks, they said how they were received, they stated the difficulties they met and they recorded the works they undertook. Their vast collection of letters and logbooks are conserved in the Society’s General Archives in Rome. They have been and still are an important source for historians and anthropologists studying the cultures on the Islands in the South Pacific.
In 2009 the Society published “Lettres reçues d’Océanie”: a critical edition with annotations – 10 volumes – containing 1365 letters written by the Marist missionaries to the General Administration of the Society of Mary between 1836 and 1854.