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Vicariate Apostolic of New Hebrides



Vicariate Apostolic of New Hebrides; in Oceania, comprises the New Hebrides, with Banks and Torres, islands situated between 13° and 21° S. lat. And between 166° and 170° E long. The total area is about 580 sq. miles. The indigenous population, which has decreased considerably, amounts to about 75,000; they are for the most part of an olive or brown complexion, varying in darkness. Their languages, which are very numerous, belong to the Malay stock and their religious worship has for its object the souls of the dead, but they also recognize a higher Being who is good. The white population is about 1000, nearly 650 of whom are French and Great Britain under what is known as the "Condominium of the New Hebrides". They were discovered in 1606 by the Spaniards under Quiros, and were named Tierra Austral del S. Espiritu. In 1768 the French navigator, Bougainville, in sailing round the globe, came upon the same group and named them the Grandes Cyclades. Six years later, Cook discovered the island and gave them their present name. According to the account of Quiros, the Franciscans, who acted as chaplains to his ships, celebrated Mass several times in a chapel built on the shore, and even held a procession of the Blessed Sacrament. Nevertheless, the islands had to wait long for the preaching of Catholic missionaries. Not until January, 1887, did four Marist priests, sent by Mgr. Fraysse, Vicar Apostolic of New Caledonia, definitively establish here the first missions, and they did it amid great difficulties. The missions, however, developed rapidly and in 1900, at the petition of Mgr. Fraysse, the New Hebrides were separated from his jurisdiction and made a prefecture Apostolic, under Père Douceré, of the Society of Mary. In 1904 this mission became a vicariate Apostolic, and Père Douceré, vicar Apostolic, was consecrated titular Bishop of Terenuthis. His residence is at Port-Vila. The staff of the mission now comprises 26 priests and 3 lay brothers of the Lyons Society of Mary. Their labours are seconded by 16 religious women of the regular Third Order of Mary, and a certain number of native catechists. There are 20 missionary residences, besides numerous annexes. Each mission as its schools. Near the episcopal residence is established a training-school for native catechists. Religious instruction and education for white children are secured by two schools at Port-Vila: a school for boys, conducted by the Little Brothes of Mary; one for girls, under the sisters of the mission who also serve the hospital at Port-Vila and conduct at Mallicolo a crèche for the little orphans. Conversions from paganism progress slowly, but continuously. The native Catholics, now numbering rather more than one thousand, are well instructed and faithful to their religious duties. There are about 600 white Catholics, and this number is increasing rapidly, both by births and by immigration.

P. DOUCERÉ








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