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The dramatics would have been wasted on Colin, but the arrival was a milestone in Pompallier’s life. Two and a half years after he left France, a year and a half since he had settled in New Zealand, he finally got reinforcements. All the time there had been just the three of them. Now, at once, they were nine. Perhaps equally important, he received a considerable amount of money to do the things he had dreamed of. Unknown to him, five more missionaries had just left France, and this time they were coming the simple and straightforward way. They would get to Oceania in half the time and at a fraction of the cost.

For the first time the bishop got news from the four missionaries he had left on Wallis and Futuna: they had managed to settle down among the Polynesians and, although there were no spectacular successes to rejoice in, they were holding their own and in good spirits. For the first time too he knew for sure that Colin had received the news of the mission having been established on the islands and in New Zealand. The first, exploratory phase of the Marist missions had come to a good end. The separate worlds had connected.

The absence of information, the lack of a perspective on the future, the hard work, and the living in cramped conditions, had taken their toll. Many months of feeling abandoned, looking with expectation at the rare ships entering the Hokianga River, only to be disappointed, again and again. No sign of life, no word of assurance, neither from France, nor from Rome. No money, just getting deeper into debt. In the middle thirties about five or six hundred Europeans had settled round the Bay of Islands and Kororareka had become a busy little town. But the bishop of New Zealand was stuck at an isolated spot called Papakawau, unable to realise his projects, unable to move to the Bay where English, American and even French whalers frequently anchored.[1]

Pompallier did not get along with his two companions. Father Servant, part-deaf, was less emotional about the hardships they all had to put up with and the resistance they ran into. He took it all in his stride, but the bishop considered him incapable of running a mission: ‘The enemies of our religion are numerous and very clever; they will play games with him as with a real innocent’.[2] For Brother Michel Colombon he only had disdain.[3]

In spite of all, Pompallier had worked hard. He had a good command of English and he had the support of many Europeans, Catholics, but also some Protestants.[4] He was able to preach, converse and give instructions in the Maori language. He had walked over large parts of the North Island. He had visited many of the tribes and built up good contacts with Maori people and their chiefs He could point to a number of catechumens and had received a few people into the Church.[5]

If the Marist superior had not managed to build the happy and supportive community that could have helped him keep up his spirits, the bishop had done well. The destitute situation Pompallier was in, and that had caused him so much pain, may in fact have been a positive factor in his missionary effort. Polynesians and Europeans met a man who had nothing to offer but his convictions and his commitment: a powerful message in any culture.


  1. Keith Sinclair, A History of New Zealand, p. 40, speaks of 150 ships a year. Cf. LRO, doc. 33[1].
  2. (…) les ennemis de la religion (…)s’en amuseront comme d’un innocent, LRO, doc. 29 [2].
  3. Servant to Colin, 26.04.1840, LRO,doc. 55 [7].
  4. Baty wrote this the very first day in Kororareka, while they were staying with the Protestant friend of Pompallier and before the bishop got there. Cf. LRO, doc. 32 [2].
  5. LRO, doc. 29 [4].

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