Br Pierre-Marie to Br Francois, Bay of Islands, 18 April 1844
According to an accompanying letter to Colin (LO 49), Pierre-Marie was taking advantage of the imminent departure of an English ship directly for London. This letter gives us the whereabouts of all the brothers in New Zealand at this time except for Luc, who was at Tauranga building a house for Fr Bernard. Michel had been staying at Whangaroa since at least the beginning of 1843, since Bernard reports meeting him there in a letter to Colin of 9 March 1843 (APM). Garin, who had reopened the mission on the Kaipara Harbour at Mangakahia at the beginning of 1844, records in his Journal that Michel and Forest arrived there early in January 1845 to make their retreat with him and then went back to Kororareka. Michel seems to have left the mission for good shortly after.
As Pompallier's letter (L 45) shows, it was Justin, not Elie-Regis, who was now accompanying the bishop on his pastoral voyage. Elie was at Whakatane at this time. Euloge, who had been at Tauranga since the beginning of 1842, had since moved to Rotorua. Florentin was at Hokianga but later in the year moved to Auckland, passing through Mangakahia, as Garin also reports in his journal (APM). The others were all at the Procure. As for Colomb, he was, as Forest's postscript indicates, on his way back to the Hermitage. According to the Annalist, Br Avit, a boyhood acquaintance of his, he "did in fact return, but he left us soon after and went off to seek his fortune in America" (AA 3. 27). The PFM Register gives the date of his departure from the Society as April 3 1845.
Text of the Letter
- Very Reverend Brother,
- If my friendship for you were to be judged by the letters I have written you since I set out from France, I have to admit it would appear very superficial. Still, even if I do not write often, I can assure you I have not forgotten you. I do not let a day pass without asking especially of the Lord, through the intercession of our good Mother, the graces you need to meet the demands of your difficult office. As I do not leave the Procure I cannot give you details about the mission as much as you want at the Hermitage. That is the main reason I don't write more frequently. And, in addition, you know better what is happening in the missions from reading the Annals than we Brothers at the Bay of Islands who get no letters. Although I know how much people at the Hermitage desire to receive details about the mission, I cannot supply them, because I don't know how things are exactly myself.
- I left the Hermitage without expectation of seeing it again, but that doesn't prevent me from frequently going there in spirit to witness the virtues practised there and to join my feeble prayers to the fervent ones so many Brothers are offering for the conversion of sinners and especially for the prosperity of our mission. Those prayers are having their effect, for we have the joyful consolation of seeing our New Zealanders, once they turn to the Catholic faith, normally stand firm against the infernal efforts made by the ministers of heresy. Without grace from God, these poor people would, without a doubt, be unable to resist the seductions these unhappy sectarians place before them. We already have a good number who live out their Christian vocation faithfully, go to Confession, Communion, and who travel many leagues by land or sea in hollowed out tree trunks to attend the services on Sundays and feastdays. We sometimes see frail women coming from very far away laden down with baskets of potatoes for food and with wood to cook them. They come thus on Saturdays or the day before a feast to assist at the services and they stay near the chapel as long as their food lasts. We already have New Zealanders who will one day sit in judgment on our lax former Christians of France. It is very edifying to see them make the sign of the cross before taking their food. In the course of the day they make the sign of the cross before drinking, before lighting their pipe, some before putting out to sea. I swear to you, to my shame, there are some who make it more often than I do. It is also very edifying to hear them saying their prayers. However many there are, they are in complete accord in pronouncing the words all together without making a single mistake. There are crosses in the missions but there are also consolations.
- It appears that Br Michel has returned to the mission. He is at present on station with Fr Roset (sic) who was curate at St Martin; he is very happy there. Let us pray that the good God will grant him perseverance. I saw him once, some time before he returned, and he told me he was being eaten up by remorse. Brothers Justin and Euloge are at stations in the south of New Zealand but they have not been to the Bay of Islands since their departure a month after our arrival. Br Florentin is with Fr Petit at Hokianga. Br Elie-Regis has gone with His Lordship who left two months ago to visit the south of the island. We think his voyage will take 4 or 5 months. Fr Baty is provicar, he is taking Monsignor's place at the Procure. Fr Forest is the Visitor; at the moment he is at the Bay of Islands. Fr Seon has been in charge of the Procure for the last two months. Brothers Emery, Basile, Claude-Marie and I are at the Procure. All the Fathers and Brothers are well. As for myself, I have been a little indisposed for three weeks. I think it is partly exhaustion from too much study and partly rheumatic pains. I recall you told me once at the Hermitage when I first felt these pains that they would not be the death of me, but God's will be done.
- Our little vineyard has given us more than 120 bottles of white wine this year. A new chapel of wood has just been completed at the Bay of Islands. It is 45 feet long and 24 wide. Monsignor will bless it when he returns.
- Please pass on news of me to my brother and tell him I have been waiting a long time for a letter from him. Regards to all the Brothers of my acquaintance. I wish for them all perseverance in their beautiful vocation and the grace of dying one day in the arms of Mary, our good Mother. All the Brothers with me at the Procure present their grateful respects. They do not intend to write again until they have received replies to the letters they sent to France.
- We are all very happy. We have been waiting impatiently for a long time for new companions to arrive, but they don't seem to be in any hurry. My occupations are still the same, that is study, care of the chapel, the sacristy, washing and changing the linen used in the cult. I also have care of Monsignor's room when he is here and serve his Mass. I am in charge of all the objects for the services and other things. I do my best to make the chapel look nice on feastdays but I can't do much - I would like to have even a part of what is available to good Br Stanislaus. I also prepare medicinal drinks for the natives and dress sores; almost everyone has some. So you see, one has to put one's hand to everything on the mission.
- I commend myself to the prayers of the Society, for I don't need to tell you that one is not exempt from human weaknesses even on the foreign missions, and that one carries everywhere the clay from which we are formed.
- My very reverend Brother, I have the honour of being
- your very devoted
- Br Pierre M.
- your very devoted
- A little note from Fr Forest to dear Br Francois.
- On the 15th of last month, Monsignor Pompallier was obliged to send away poor Br Colomb on a French warship, the "Bucephale". For a long time he has been causing us great embarrassment because of his imprudent behaviour with the natives and his rather unedifying conduct. If, however, he turns up at the Hermitage, please receive him with kindness, He is a poor strayed sheep who must be gathered in. Try to examine vocations carefully before letting them set out for such distant lands. Very solid virtues are needed as they are certainly put to the test.
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