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Monseigneur Boismenu's Episcopal Jubilee at Yule Island

Date: c 1898
Overall: 88 x 136 mm
Medium: Cardboard
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Posters and postcards
Object Name: Postcard
Object No: 00046935

User Terms

    This black and white postcard features a group photograph of the Catholic Missionaries of the Sacred Heart at Yule Island, Papua New Guinea. Three bishops are seated in the centre of the photograph, one of whom is Alain de Boismenu. Several Papuan men and children are sitting in the foreground. The image is believed to depict Boismenu's Episcopal Jubilee.
    SignificanceThis postcard is a historical snapshot of the Christian missionary activity in the Pacific Islands in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although most missionaries were well intentioned, by teaching Pacific Islanders European languages such as English and French, the work of the missionaries paved the way for merchants and traders who exploited the region for sandalwood, pearl, beche de mer, whale products and later, forced labour.
    HistoryAlthough Catholic Jesuit missionaries had been operating in the Pacific Ocean since 1668 their activities tended to be centred on the Spanish colonies in the Ladrone Islands (later the Marianas), the Philippines and Guam. Attempts to establish missionary stations further south, such as in Tahiti by the Franciscan Friars in 1774, failed due to problems with supply routes and the hostility and / or indifference of the Pacific Islanders.

    Heavily influenced by the Pacific voyages of Cook and other European explorers and the published accounts of sailors, scientists and gentlemen explorers such as Joseph Banks, European missionary activity began to steadily increase in the closing years of the 18th century with the arrival of Protestant missionaries from the London Missionary Society (LMS) in Tahiti on board the Missionary vessel DUFF in March 1797. Although the first contacts - aided by King Pomare I - were hopeful, the Tahitians quickly disregarded these new arrivals, whose behaviour was so different from that of the Europeans sailors and traders they had met before and in the early years of the missions the LMS struggled to gain converts.

    The origins of the London Missionary Society (LMS) and other missionary societies such as The American Board for the Commissioners of Foreign Missions (ABCFM), the Wesleyan Missionary Society and other lesser known missionary societies lie in the late 18th century revival of Protestant Evangelism and the development of the Congregationalist movement in England and the United States of America.

    The London Missionary Society was formally established in September 1795 and although broadly interdenominational in scope, the Society was very much Congregationalist in both outlook and membership. The Missionary Society was renamed the London Missionary Society in 1818. London Missionary Society work expanded into North America, South Africa, eastern and southern Europe including Russia, Greece and Malta. However during the 19th century, the main fields of mission activity for the LMS were China, South East Asia, India, the Pacific, Madagascar, Central Africa, Southern Africa, Australia and the Caribbean.

    During the course of their work the LMS, like other missionary societies, established the first printing presses in the Pacific Islands and subsequently translated the King James Bible along with numerous religious tracts, prayer books and hymnals into the various languages and dialects of the Pacific Islands.

    From its inception the Society had close links with Port Jackson, New South Wales and a number of its most prominent citizens including Robert Campbell of Campbell and Clark. The Society's missionary activities in the Pacific were on a number of occasions blended with speculative trading hence the close links with Sydney's merchants and traders - with all five John Williams's vessels and the LMS's other ships MESSENGER OF PEACE and HAWEIS being involved in trading ventures throughout the Pacific.

    Like the London Missionary Society, The American Board for the Commissioners of Foreign Missions (ABCFM), began informally with the 1806 Haystack Prayer Meeting of a group of Congregational ministers and students at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts. As stated in its original Constitution, the Board's purpose was to "devise, adopt, and prosecute, ways and means for propagating the gospel among those who are destitute of the knowledge of Christianity."

    The first missionaries of the American Board sailed for Calcutta in 1812. Missions opened in Sri Lanka in 1816, in Madura in 1834, and in Madras in 1836. The Board's first missions in Turkey were established in 1819, in Greece and China in 1830, and in Africa in 1834. Hiram Bingham Snr (1789-1869) and his wife and fellow missionary Sybil Moseley (1792 - 1848) were sent by the American Board of Missions to found the first Protestant mission in the Hawaiian and Gilbert Islands. Bingham (1789 - 1869) adapted the Hawaiian language to written form, published Elementary Lessons in Hawaiian (1822) and with his associates translated the Bible into Hawaiian.

    The American Board for the Commissioners of Foreign Missions was an ardent and strident believer in God's work. It firmly believed that 'missions are instituted for the spread of scriptural self-propagating Christianity' and that all religious work, including translating the Bible, building schools and hospitals, and establishing the press should be directed to building a mature local church which then evangelized and sent out other missionaries to convert the non-believers. In contrast to other missionaries at the time it believed that 'civilisation was not a legitimate aim of the missionary but would only come as an impact of the gospel'.

    Concerned at the growing number of protestant religious groups operating in the Pacific the Roman Catholic's expanded their missionary activities in the Pacific establishing a Picpus Fathers mission at Ponape in 1837, a Capuchin Fathers mission in the Caroline Island in 1886 and at Palua in 1891, a Sacred Heart Mission in the Marshall Islands also in 1891, at Mortlock (Nomoi) Islands in 1911 and at Truk Atoll a few years later.

    Although acting under the loose umbrella of the Roman Catholic Church the Catholic missions in the Pacific were a fractured affair representing the teachings and opinions of a diverse range of Catholic religious orders including the Marists, Jesuits, Capuchins, Sacred Heart and Picpus Fathers. These religious orders were further divided by the territorial aspirations and political and social differences associated with their countries of origin, Spain, France, Germany and later Italy.

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Postcard featuring a black and white photograph of Monseigneur Boismenu's Episcopal Jubilee, Yule Island, Papua New Guinea, and Sacred Heart Fathers

    Web title: Monseigneur Boismenu's Episcopal Jubilee at Yule Island

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