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Br Pierre-Marie to Fr Colin, Kororareka, 29 December 1845

LO 58

Clisby Letter 60. Girard doc. 444. See Quin's translation of this same letter or Peter McConnell's translation


This is the last letter Pierre-Marie wrote from New Zealand. On 3 February 1846, he left Auckland on the "Rhin" in the company of Mgr Pompallier and Fr Chouvet on his way back to France. They arrived at the naval base of Toulon at the end of August. After a short period of convalescence at the Hermitage, he was appointed once more to the Directorship of the Providence Denuziere in Lyon (cf L 22), and for the next 20 years directed various orphanages and schools (S2 425). He returned to the Hermitage in his last days and died on 25 August 1873. He is buried in the cemetery there.

Pompallier was returning to Europe to put his side of the dispute between himself and the Marists to Rome in person. In April 1847 he presented a 3-part document to Propaganda, giving a history of the mission up to 1846, statistics of the material and spiritual state of the mission, and his views of the difficulties encountered and some proposals to overcome them. One of his proposals was to divide New Zealand into two sees, and in time Rome did this, offering Pompallier the choice of either Auckland or Port Nicholson and leaving the other to Viard. For various reasons, the nominations did not become official until a year later. At the same time Pompallier's connection with the Society of Mary was officially severed and he spent the following months touring France, England, and Ireland looking for finance and personnel for his new diocese. It was one of his successors as Bishop of Auckland, John Edmund Luck OSB, who had reprinted in translation the first part of his report under the title "Early History of the Catholic Church in Oceania" on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Church in New Zealand in 1888.

Text of the Letter

Very reverend Father,
I feel ashamed for having kept you waiting so long for a letter. I have thought of it often enough but I was still expecting the arrival of some priests from France. Then the war broke out in the Bay of Islands between the English and the Maori. The English blockaded the port for a long time and allowed only warships and other vessels they were using to enter the harbour. So we do not find many opportunities at the Bay now for sending letters we wish.
I think I informed you in my last letter that I had given up the study of theology for some time for health reasons.[1] I must tell you, today, my dear Father, that I have given it up for good, because since that time I have continued in very poor health and there is no sign of if getting better. My poor health consists of rheumatic pains I experience all the time in all parts of my body. I used to get them a little even in France but they have really got worse since I have been on the mission. I think this is because of the frequent rain here, the cold breezes which blow almost all the year round - even in summer they can be very fresh - and from the pork fat we are using all the time. With all these things, rheumatism has reduced me almost to zero as far as the mission is concerned. Several people have told me that rheumatism which has had so long to root itself in the bones will not get any better. On the contrary, it will get worse the older I get. I do not know if the good God wanted me to come to the mission, but for three days before my departure from Lyon I was constantly indisposed. I nearly died on my arrival in Sydney. Since then I have been as brave as I can in the hope this trouble will go away, but now I am losing courage. I would readily return to France if His Lordship permitted and I found a suitable opportunity. I am not disgusted with the mission. On the contrary, if I could do something I would be most content. But as I see I will do no more than drag out the rest of my days, and more and more as I see from one year to the next, I would prefer returning to the Hermitage, if that were not going against God's will.
I believe I would be much better off there with respect to my spiritual welfare because I would at least be saved from isolation. Reverend Father, I would be reassured to know your wise opinion on the above, but while I am waiting, I will submit to the decisions of His Lordship and Fr Forest.
Very reverend Father,
I have the honour of being your very submissive son in Jesus and Mary,
Br P. Marie.


  1. Letter of 17 April 1844 (LO 49)

See Quin's translation of this same letter.

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