Bishop Louis Couppe

01/11/2012 19:46

Louis Couppe was born on the 26-08-1850 in the town of Romorantin, France. At a young age, he found himself called to become a priest. He made sound studies in letters and theology in the seminary of de Blois Diocese. He was ordained priest on the 30-05-1874 and was name curate in Selles sur Cher where he devoted himself to the service of souls.

Thinking to be a missionary in far away countries, he asked to become an M.S.C. He went to Holland to do his Novitiate. In 1882 he was in Rome, in charge of the students of theology. Among them was Henry Verius, who wanted to go to the missions. Fr. Couppe asked to leave with him and was accepted. Their sending to mission took place at Issoudun on the 17-10-1884. Fr. Verius having fallen sick in Marseilles, Fr. Couppe left with 3 Brothers for a long and difficult trip, which brought them to Sydney. For a while he was put in charge of Botany Bay Parish. He went to Thursday Island and from there to Yule, where Fr. Verius had already arrived. Together they did some exploration on the main land to prepare for the coming of the missionaries.

1888 Fr. Louis Couppe was asked to work in New Britain. By this time evangelization had already started and was gradually progressing in the Gazelle and in the North Coast. After eight years of missionary work had been started, the Vicariate Apostolic Prefecture of New Britain was erected.

On the 22nd October, 1887 Monsignor Navarre was consecrated Bishop in France.  He was given the title of Vicar Apostolic of Melanesia and Micronesia.  Although he was to remain at Yule Island in Papua, he was to have authority over the New Britain Mission.  Two years later, in 1889, the territory was divided and Bishop Verius was appointed Bishop of New Britain. The news of this was received with great sorrow in Papua.  Bishop Verius was the one who had steered the ship from Cape York through Torres Strait without a compass and without having been in those waters before; he was the first to have set foot on Papuan soil; he was the first to penetrate inland.

The Catholic mission in Papua was not in favour that Fr. Henry Verius should leave Papua and become Bishop of New Britain. Therefore, Bishop Navarre pleaded with Rome to allow him to remain in Papua. After he was consecrated Bishop, he remained in Papua. In his place Fr. Louis Couppe was appointed as first Bishop of New Britain.

 

Bishop Couppe and His Work in New Britain

Archbishop of Hierapolis - Necrology

For 30 years he continued his work, which God blessed abundantly. When he had to leave because of his health, there were 24,000 Catholics, 40 priests, 34 brothers, 39 Europeans sisters, 36 local sisters, 150 schools had more than 4,000, 40 churches and 95 chapels had been built.

In one year, 500,000 communions had been given. The cannibals had become good Catholics and with the help of their missionaries they have replaced war and anarchy.

This was not done without the hard and continuous work of Bishop Couppe. This work on debilitating climate used his health. Many times he was on the point of death. His will to live and his strong constitution brought him back to health. But the infirmities of old age were incapacitating him. Two years ago, feeling that he could no more fulfil the duties of his charge, he resigned and retired at Douglas Park in Australia. There he had the joy to ordain a priest, an Australian M.S.C. very well known by his radio replies, F.L. Rumede.

He prepared himself in enduring calmly his infirmities and praying to the day he would meet the Lord. To the apostolic nuncio who brought him his nomination as archbishop of Hierapolis: he answered: “I was expecting you would bring me a passport for heaven”. He did not have long to wait. On the 20th July 1926, at the age of 76 the Lord called Bishop Couppe, who like him had been chosen to evangelise New Guinea.

 

His Work in New Britain

A dispute arose about the ownership of land around the present site of the Kokopo Club.  There was a court case between the Mission and Kolbe (Queen Emma’s husband).  The Government decided the question in a Solomon-like manner.   They divided the land into two.  The land north of Kokopo was to go to Kolbe and 40 hectares south was to be the Mission’s freehold.  And what about the land in Kokopo under dispute?  Well, the Government kept that for itself.

The Bishop began to make the centre at Vunapope.  He had the old house at Herberts Hohe (Kokopo) pulled down and rebuilt at Vunapope.  He enlarged the old building and made a school of it.  Vunapope is the second place in which the O.L.S.H. Sisters had a house.

Extension

When the “Spheres of Influence” was enforced, the Bishop was to extend to the other side of Weber Harbour and so he opened up the Bainings in Vunamarita and Ramandu.  Later, in 1900, Father Rascher went to work with the Baining people. The Bishop went to the Duke of York Islands in 1900.  While in Germany he bought a large property in Rakanda, put a priest there and opened the present very large plantation.  Later he began Mission stations on the coasts of Marianu and Ulaputur, and one on the west side of Namatanai, before the turn of the century, he had bought 500 hectares at Mandres for plantation purpose and land at Vuvu also.

In 1900, in Germany, he also bought a large sawmill and equipment. The steamer dumped them all on the coast near Mandres because they could not go up the Toriu River.  The small “Gabriel” towed them up the bay to the site of the Sawmill at Toriu.  The Brothers built it up as best they could, but it was not until 1905 that the first timber was cut.

James Shekleton, Great-grand father of Br. Gervase was the first manager of the Sawmill at Toriu 1901 – 1903.

In the years, 1901 to 1903, many Missionaries arrived, Bishop Couppe wished to have a strong foot-hold in the Gunantuna area and so started many stations in that area.

A small Catechists’ school was begun at Vunapope in 1899 with Father Meier in charge.  There were in the school, 40 to 50 boys.  Stations at Kavieng, Lemakot and Lamasong were set up in 1910.

Bishop Couppe’s last wish was to open up a station at Nakanai and at Talasea.  The timber for the building did not arrive until 1920.  The Bishop was suffering from very ill-health and was recalled but did not leave until the arrival of the new Bishop.

When Father Mertens (of saintly memory) was telling me the story of the Mission he said that he remembered Bishop Couppe as a man who was an excellent leader with a mind that was clear and practical and blessed with great foresight, in short, a real pioneer.  When Father Mertens first  arrived an old priest advised him, “Never ask the Bishop anything to which he could give a definite “no” as an answer, because after he has said “no” to it, it will still be “no” in 20 years time, if you ask again”.

In August 1923, he went to Australia and lived at Douglas Park where he died in 1926. His body was disinterred (taken out of the grave) and at present rests in the cemetery at Vunapope.

Archbishop Louis Couppe

 In 1884 he left Europe to Papua New Guinea with some brothers and some OLSH sisters. On the long journey Fr. Couppe was seriously ill that he nearly lost his life. These did not discourage them but allowed them to continue till they arrived in Sydney, Australia despite the illness he ministered at Randwick parish in Sydney. While in Sydney the Superior Fr. Navarre appointed him to come to Yule Island which he accepted and served for two years.

In 1888 Fr. Navarre sent him with two other priest and two brothers to the Island of New Britain as on the Island was Fr. T. Cramille who stationed at Volavolo.

On 29th December 1888 they arrived in New Britain and Fr. Couppe station with Fr. Cramille at Volavolo.

While in New Britain Fr. Couppe was consecrated as Bishop in 1890. With the responsibility he moved to Mioko known as Vunapope. The area was given to the Church by the German Government in 1888 while the Government transferred to Kokopo and occupied the area which was sold to the three missionaries by ToKalula and their hut was burnt.

Bishop Couppe as first Bishop was challenge to help the people with the ministry. He established two boarding schools, one for the boys and one for the girls called Palairam, today known as OLSH high school, a Catechetical centre, a Technical school, a school called didiman, and a school for mix race. He also started a workshop for manufacturing things needed in the mission fields. The OLSH sisters and brother assisted Bishop Couppe with the different institutions established. He adapt himself with the people so quickly that he was able to complied a prayed and a hymn book, a Catechist handbook and a Catechism in Tolai language or Kuanua. The people loved Bishop Couppe for His peaceful personality.

The establishment allows the church to grow in faith eventually that in 1890 the Government set a law to stop the church work. The Gazelle peninsula was divided that all people from Ataliklikun Bay to Vunakokor (Verzin) to Ralum in Kokopo that missionaries of the Methodist took charge while to the South the Catholic missionaries strict orders were enforce in the south, that no Priest was to spread the good news to the North, except for the priest in Volavolo and Malagunan to continue with their pastoral boundaries and not further or beyond. The exception of the two main stations as they both was the established first in New Britain.

The Law was of no purpose however, the Government enforced it to be followed. This did not stop the priest at Volavolo, he built the fowl yard outside the boundary of the station and the Police reported to the Government. The Government officers made him aware of the law but he did not listen.

Two men were sent and destroyed the yard while father watched them without saying a word. When finished father invited both and gave the tea. Father’s approached made them to feel ashamed of his positive attitude towards them.    (Taken from 100 Yrs. Sentenary)

In the written record of that time was need that in the year, 1890, four missionaries from Germany arrived in New Britain – two Priests and two brothers. Some of these first German missionaries had gone to France for their training as missionaries of the Sacred Heart. One Father Bernard Bley, who wrote a German – Tolai dictionary and other useful books especially for new comers on the mission field, lived more than fifty years in Papua New Guinea. He ended his days in a Japanese internment in the year, 1943.

He made his appointed by Pope Leo Xlll, facing the challenges of establishing the Church in this mission land.

Bishop Couppe hoped that the faith would take deep root amongst his people. His experience and much reflection led him to feel this would not happen until some of them responded to the call to religious life. Committing themselves to Christ by the religious vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, they would be sacrificing themselves so that God’s kingdom may reign truly amongst their people.

There were many difficulty and frustrations. Louis was aware of the law status of women in the traditional society. In his desire to start a group of local sisters at this rime, he had no support from his fellow missionaries. However, in looking to the future needs of the Church, he showed great foresight, recognizing that economic situation would not allow him to keep bringing in missionaries from overseas.

Encouraged by the Holy Father, he decided to establish a religious congregation of women under the patronage of Mary Immaculate.

For almost two years Bishop Louis struggles to get his little congregation started. Finally, in response to repeated appeals, the daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart came to the rescue. The official foundation day is recorded as 27- October 1912.

The Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart contributed greatly to the foundation and development of the congregation especially in the areas of formation, our early constitutions and leadership. The Daughters of Mary Immaculate recognized with gratitude the value of their assistance for a period of seventy years (1912 – 1982).

Our Founder and the Church today challenge us to be witnesses of God’s love for his people. As the history of our congregation shows, our live are built on faith, trust in the Providence of God in the face of difficulties.

Our early Sisters suffered illness, mistrust, and challenges to their cultural background. They faced the evils of war, including unjust punishments and torture. Bishop Leo Scharmach MSC anxious to protect the sisters, invited them to put aside their religious commitment and return to their villages until after the war.                                             The sisters courageously refused to abandon their missionaries or their commitment.  They continued to follow the path of fidelity to Christ after the example of Mary Immaculate

The Daughters of Mary Immaculate respond to the need of the Church. Encouraged by the Founder, and following the example of our pioneer sisters, we enter wholeheartedly into any apostolic work that will draw our people to God.

Originally we were founded for ministry in the diocese of Rabaul. Today we answered the call of the Church in the spirit and intention of Louis Couppe. He included ‘all humankind’ in his mandate to us. When accepting invitation to ministry, we respect the priority of our Founder, giving first place to the education and instruction of women and children.

The sisters seek the will of God in all things. We see the Congregation as being instituted for God’s glory and the sanctification of its members ‘so that their prayers and works may increase the love of the Heart of Jesus’. (Louis Couppe)

For us Daughters of Mary Immaculate, God’s speaks through His Words, the law of the Church and the Constitutions of our Congregation. The following constitutions are the outcome of much individual, community n and congregation research and reflection. The General Chapter of the Congregation adopted them and approved them as our rule of life.

13. Bishop Louis Couppe and the German New Guinea Administration

At that time of German influence in New Britain there was a policy made to restrict the mission work that has been progressing. The policy has been known as the sphere of Influence. One can see that this was one of those attempts to cripple Bishop Louis Couppe’s vision on the mission Church. The policy has not posed any treat to this holy and zealous man who was eager to fulfil the mission assigned to the congregation by His Holiness Pope Leo XIII. Despite all attempt to restrict his work, he took every chances that which proved a success for this mission. Though the transportation system was difficult in those days Bishop Louis had to travel by foot, on hose back, by small mission boat or by his three wheeled car to visit his people station or establish relations with the people. Hi was also instrumental in acquiring land for the mission stations on New Britain and other surrounding Island. He had travelled extensively to New Ireland and Manus. It is a living proved of his enthusiasm on the mission Church that today this three Islands have had well established mission stations. Today of course these tow Islands have establish their own diocese and have their own Bishop, it was really a flourishing moment of the Catholic Church foundations in the New Guinea Islands.

One of the threatening issues they involve the German Administration was about the land which Kokopo township is established today. The dispute between the famous Queen Emma, a pioneer business merchant and early missionaries. The German Administration was quick to intervene and made a wise decision to separate the tow disputing parties. Queen Emma was given land to the north side of Kokopo. Until today the only way to her palace are the cement steps which one could see near the road between Kokopo and the road to Rabaul. The missionaries were given land to the southern side of Kokopo, to what is known today as Vunapope. The Mission Church than established its Headquarter and began major works.

One can presume that the early missionaries had much difficulty, with some harsh decisions that were given by the German Administration. However, with Bishop Louis Couppe’s influence he might have protested against policies that tried to restrict the evangelizing work done by the missionaries. Nontheless, the German governor was impressed with a lot of development that were being done by the missionaries. This was evident in the permission given to Bishop Louis to establish’ mission stations’ on land acquired from the local people with axes, knives etc. (Fr. Paul Kote)

14. Bishop Louis Couppe’s Fundamental Philosophies on self – Projects and Institutions

                                                          

                                VUNAPOPE                                                     

The Bishop had foreseen what was happening today as financial crises. In his letter of the 21st of October, 1912.

“The following are the reasons which prompted me to undertake the foundation of this community of Native Sisters

In order that I might know the Will of God I prayed fervently, considered the matter carefully and asked the advise of others as well as begging many to assist me with their prayers in this important matter. After all this I feel that it is the will of God that I found a Congregation of Sisters in this Vicariate of New Pomeronia (New Britain was formerly known as Congregation of Religious they will labour streniously for their advancement in perfection

The first end of this Congregation will be the sanctification of the members. As in all Congregations of Religious they will labour strenuously for their advancement in perfection.

The second end for which this Congregation is founded is that they may labour in works of charity amongst their own people especially in teaching the young native girls and training them to be true Catholics,

Likewise the Sisters will carry out any works of charity assigned to them by the Bishop.

The following are the reasons which prompted me to undertake the foundation of this community of native Sisters.                                                                                 

In August 1923, he went to Australia and lived at Douglas Park where he died in 1926. His body was disinterred and at present rests in the cemetery at Vunapope.

Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Couppe: Apostolic Vicar of New Britain {Titular Bishop of Lero 1890}

On the holy rosary Sunday at the Apostolic school of Antwerp, recently opened by the M.S.C. Fr. Couppe, superior of the New Britain mission was ordained bishop. The mission has been separated from the vicariate of New Guinea, to form a new apostolic vicariate Fr. Couppe was born in France in Romarantin, town of the Blois diocese. He is 40 years old. After a few years ministry in his diocese, he became a religious M.S.C. and asked to go as a missionary to Oceania despite the difficulties and dangers of such an apostolate. He first started to work in Papua, in the Yule Island area. With Fr. Verius he found and explored the Angabunga River that they called St. Joseph’s River. After a while, Bishop Navarre sent him to New Britain.

New Britain is a terrible country. Like in New Guinea heat is oppressive but there is less malaria. The indigenous people are far more distant from civilised life: family is nearly in-existence and they practice cannibalism. Of the two boys brought to Europe by Father Couppe, one has eaten human flesh. But on the other hand, these people are remarkably intelligent and when they will be converted, we can expect much of them.

Bishop Couppe seems to be especially well prepared for this work. His face excudes at the same time strength of character and kindness. The high forehead commands respect, the smile of the lips is particularly attractive.

His hair is black and thick and even if the life of privations he endured has weakened his constitution, we can hope that his apostolate will be long and fruitful.

On this Sunday 5th October, the apostolic school had a festive air for the occasion. The white walls of his gothic chapel were decorated with banners made in honour of Our Lady of the S.H. for her basilica in Issoudun, now close to the cult and divested of all.

Dear bishop Couppe, may God give you many years at his service. May the Sacred Heart of Jesus listen to the prayers of his mother Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, reward your love and the one of your faithful people. May he give you a long and fruitful life at his service. May this be a consolation for the heart of Leo XIII our Pope and the founder of the missions of Melanesia and Micronesia. May your work among your people bring them peace and prosperity. We have to thank specially the Netherlands, which welcomed us and helped us. May we all together with the new bishop, who has been just consecrated, work together with a brotherly zeal to the extension of the reign of Christ.

Bishop Keppers and Fisher one after the other spoke in French. The first even after having just protested that he was not eloquent, offered to Bishop Couppe his best wishes, even a martyr crown. Could anything better have been vowed from a bishop to the other?

Bishop Fisher remarked that some of the territories in the care of the M.S.C. are German protectorate and added that the zeal of Bishop Couppe and of his confreres would be a blessing for the country and his people. Bishop Couppe could not but speak in his turn. First he thanked Fr. Piperon his master of novices, who was present for the occasion.

In spite of an emotion, so natural in these circumstances the new Bishop was at ease speaking. This was due to his simplicity and his indifferences to the human judgement.

*This same comportment was the fact of archbishop Navarre. He and bishop Couppe, after years spent among primitive people, were after their consecration, speaking to people as if it was entirely natural.

In the evening of this memorable day the new pontiff presided the benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, where the Apostolic School students sang with all their heart. Louis, the little Melanesian, standing up in the loft, did see and admire all these happenings. Back in Volavolo, he will be able to tell all to his people.

May God keep him in his guard with his companion August, who had to stay in Issoudun because of a little illness. I am sure that they will be able to tell their people that from the same countries from where come traders who exploit them, soldiers who they are afraid of, come also people entirely devoted at their service, who want them to be happy and for this are sending them missionaries.

*Delaporte

Bishop Couppe Arrived in New Britain

In 1888 Fr. Navarre sent him with two other priest and two brothers to the Island of New Britain where Fr. T. Cramille was stationed at Volavolo. On 29th December 1888 they arrived in New Britain and Fr. Couppe stationed with Fr. Cramille at Volavolo.

While in New Britain Fr. Couppe was consecrated as Bishop in 1890. With the responsibility he moved to Mioko known as Vunapope. The area was given to the Church by the German Government in 1888 while the Government transferred to Kokopo and occupied the area which has sold to the three missionaries by ToKalula and their hut was burnt.

Bishop Couppe as first Bishop was challenged to help the people with the ministry. He established two boarding schools, one for the boys and one for the girls called Palairam, today known as OLSH high school, a Catechetical centre, a Technical school, a school called Didiman, and a school for mix race children. He also started a workshop for manufacturing things needed in the mission fields. The OLSH sisters and brothers assisted Bishop Couppe with the different institutions established. He adapted himself with the people so quickly that he was able to compile a prayer book and a hymn book, a Catechist handbook and a Catechism in Tolai language or Kuanua. The people loved Bishop Couppe for His peaceful personality.

The establishment allows the church to grow in faith eventually that in 1890 the Government set a law to stop the church work. The Gazelle peninsula was divided that all people from Ataliklikun Bay to Vunakokor (Varzin) to Ralum in Kokopo that missionaries of the Methodist took charge while to the South the Catholic missionaries strict orders were enforce in the south, that no Priest was to spread the good news to the North, except for the priest in Volavolo and Malagunan to continue with their pastoral boundaries and not further or beyond. The exception of the two main stations as they both was the established first in New Britain.

The Law was of no purpose however, the Government enforced it to be followed. This did not stop the priest at Volavolo, he built the fowl yard outside the boundary of the station and the Police reported to the Government. The Government officers made him aware of the law but he did not listen.

Two men were sent and destroyed the yard while father watched them without saying a word. When finished father invited both and gave the tea. Father’s approached made them to feel ashamed of his positive attitude towards them.

 

Bishop L. Couppe

When in the year 1890 Bishop Couppe became Bishop of New Britain, the new life of that Vicariate really began. With a mere handful of co-workers labouring under many hardships he set to work.

About this time a dispute arose about the ownership of land around the present site of Kokopo club. There was a court case between the Catholic Mission and Kolbe. (Queen Emma had married a man of that name.) The German judge decided the dispute in a Solomon like manner.

The land north of Kokopo was to go to Kolbe and forty hectares south was to be mission freehold. The land under dispute was to go to the Government.

The mission had already built a house near Kokopo to replace the one that has been burnt down. This was transferred to the new site, rebuilt, enlarged and used as a school. It was the beginning of the great educational endeavour which has continued ever since at Vunapope…the place that owes its origin to Pope Leo Xlll…….VUN …POPE.

In the written record of that time was need that in the year, 1890, four missionaries from Germany arrived in New Britain – two Priests and two brothers. Some of these first German missionaries had gone to France for their training as missionaries of the Sacred Heart. One Father Bernard Bley, who wrote a German – Tolai dictionary and other useful books especially for new comers on the mission field, lived more than fifty years in Papua New Guinea. He ended his days in a Japanese internment in the year, 1943.