Bishop Pompallier to Brother Francois, Akaroa, 16 April 1844
In February 1844 Pompallier set out on a hired schooner to make a visitation of his southern stations. According to the summary of the state of the mission he left with Captain Lafevriere of the "Bucephale", he had two new projects in mind, to establish a new station at Whakatane, and to place a Marist at Port Nicholson to help the Irish Capuchin Fr Joseph O'Reily (in residence since 1843) look after the Maoris of the area and visit the French Catholics at Akaroa. For this reason he took with him Frs Lampila and Comte and, as an afterthought, it would seem, Br Elie-Regis whom he had noted on his list of assignments as schoolmaster for the Maoris at Kororareka. He visited Auckland and Tauranga, and walked overland to Maketu, Matata, and Whakatane where he left Lampila and Elie-Regis. At Opotiki he picked up Br Justin and rejoined the schooner to sail for Port Nicholson.
Justin (Etienne Perret 1814-1871) entered the Hermitage at the end of 1837. He was on the point of leaving, when the example of the dying Brother Justin made such an impression on him that he approached Fr Champagnat and begged of him the three favours of taking the habit, adopting the name of the deceased Brother, and being sent to the missions of Oceania (Br Jean-Baptiste's "Life" p 336). He received the habit and the name on the feast of the Assumption in 1838, and set out for the Pacific at the end of 1840. His first posting was to Maketu with Borjon in August 1841 (the only letter of his we have is a note he wrote Epalle from Maketu cf LO 26) and he moved to Opotiki the following year.
Pompallier left Comte at Port Nicholson and continued on with Justin to visit Akaroa, Port Cooper, Nelson, and Kapiti Island. Then they sailed north again, calling in at the Mahia Peninsular and the bays of the East Cape before leaving the schooner at Whakatane. Justin remained there and Pompallier set off overland to Auckland where he caught a ship for the Bay of Islands. The whole trip took about three months (Pomp. 81-2).
It would appear from this letter that Pompallier did not take very seriously Colin's threat to refuse to send him any more Marists unless he conceded them more control over their lives as religious and more reasonable living conditions. In August the same year he visited Australia and discussed his problems with the like-minded Archbishop of Sydney, the Benedictine John Bede Polding. He took the opportunity there to write a great number of letters to Europe asking for men (cf Hosie 45).
There are two copies of this letter in the AFM, one in the Cahier of 48 letters and the other in a similar Cahier containing copies of letters sent mainly after 1846. The copy carries a PS which is the same as that appended to Servant's letter of 15 October 1836 (LO 1 - rf L 4B). This, plus the spelling "Assarva" for Akaroa in the heading, is certainly a copyist's error.
Text of the Letter
- My very dear Brother,
- What a long time it is I have been wanting to write to you and all your community! But alas! The work is so demanding in these isles of Oceania and brings such consolations that I cannot even keep up with the correspondence required to deal with the bare essentials for the salvation of the peoples of the mission. What beautiful crowns are reserved for the dear Brothers who come to help us and whose services are so valuable for the apostolate! Devotion to Mary, the religious spirit, proven and solid virtue, an aptitude for hard work, a good, manly character, equable and happy, reasonably good health - these are the qualities which will render the Brothers of Mary always truly useful in deserving missions such as these. Let us not forget the love of order and cleanliness in all things in the poor dwellings of the Fathers, the chapels, and schools. Such are some ideas, very dear Brother, which can add force to your own in choosing subjects for the missions. Where is the venerable Fr Champagnat now? He has his crown in heaven, without a doubt, he is praying for us all on earth, and he will be waiting for us on the day God has set aside in his adorable mystery. Let us always be ready; we know not the day nor the hour. Pray hard for us in these oceans where we are frequently between heaven and the abyss in journeying to gather in the souls Our Lord calls into his sheepfold.
- Dear Br Justin is accompanying me on a pastoral visit I am currently making to the people in the southern bays of New Zealand. We are often at sea in a little schooner and often ashore exercising our holy ministry.
- May God bless us all, my good friends in Jesus and Mary! May the Son and the Mother help you grow in numbers and in abundant fruits of salvation in Europe and especially in Oceania! That is the little blessing I am sending you.
- All yours in the Lord.
- + J. Bapt. Francois Pompallier
- Bp of Mar. Vic. ap. of Western Oceania.
- L.G. Keys: The Life and Times of Bishop Pompallier. 1957. 211-212.
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