Br Claude-Marie to the Brothers of the Hermitage, Hokianga, 6 June 1849
1849 was the last year the Marists spent in the upper half of the North Island of New Zealand. The year before, Rome had formally erected the two new dioceses of Auckland and Port Nicholson (or Wellington), giving Pompallier the former and Viard the latter. The Marists were to join Viard while Pompallier had been recruiting his own clergy in Europe. Claude-Marie gives a brief survey of what had been achieved in the north by this date. In Auckland there was the fine St Patrick’s church, the later cathedral, consecrated in March 1848, and the new St Mary’s College on the North Shore (to be opened in October). Florentin had been engaged in the building of both church and college, with Elie-Regis assisting with the latter. There was a school in the town and chapel and schools in the fencible settlements established at Howick, Panmure, Onehunga, and Otahuhu. Viard had made a visitation of the first three in April and May; these are the “three other towns” referred to at the beginning of this letter (rf Simmons p 104). There was still a station at Kororareka, but the events of 1845 had almost destroyed its effectiveness for the mission, and Auckland was to become the bishop’s permanent residence from 1850. There were about 600 baptised Catholics in the Hokianga and a substantial establishment which Petit continued to direct until his departure for Port Nicholson at the end of 1851. Whangaroa, with about half that number, was the site of a training school for teachers whose graduates were destined for the Auckland college and schools, though some were to accompany Viard to Wellington. On the whole, the Maori missions of the north were on the decline whereas in the south, especially in the Waikato and Rotorua areas they were going from strength to strength. (rf L 77).
In terms of social and political acceptability, too, the Marists were better off. Pompallier and the French missionaries had been identified with the Maori cause in the northern wars. Under pressure from various groups, including some Protestant churches, Governor Robert Fitzroy wanted the Bishop to leave the country (rf Introduction to L 57). Pompallier defended himself against the allegations and the new Governor, Captain George Grey, gave him a full exoneration. Viard had established cordial relations with Grey who was keenly interested in the work of the mission schools. Claude-Marie compares the political climate in New Zealand with regard to the Church with that in France, where an anticlerical government had been installed following the revolution of 1848 (see L 82).
This letter is found in the AFM in copy only (Cahier 48 lettres, pages 231-3). The rather abrupt opening and closing may indicate an edited copy prepared for publication, eg in the Circulars, but not actually published.
Text of the Letter
- My very dear and well-loved Brothers,
- Auckland is now a town of growing importance, since 3 other towns are beginning not far from the capital. At Auckland we have a beautiful big church of stone. On the other side of the harbour a big college called St Marys, also built of stone, on a property of 400 acres of very good farmland. Fr Petit-Jean and Br Florentin are living there. The Bay of Islands is only very slowly rising from its ruins. 200 soldiers remain at Wahapu to protect it, but now we have perfect peace and everyone is happy, white and black. There are only a few Europeans at Hokianga but on the other hand this station has developed considerably, thanks to the zeal of Fr Petit. There are a dozen cows or cattle, a water-wheel, and they are beginning a large schoolhouse capable of taking 100 to 150 children. He says the produce of the mill will provide ample food and clothing for them, The vines are also thriving
- In 1848 there were about 200 bottles of wine and a lot of fruit; at Wangaroa 500 bottles, and at Hokianga more that 1000. But all that is going to be lost to us, for, as you know, we are going as soon as Mgr Pompallier returns. It has been decided in Rome that we are to stay at Port Nicholson and in the south island.. For the rest, it can only be better for us, at least I hope so, for Mgr Viard is full of goodwill towards us. We will have only a few establishments but they will be double the size i.e. there will be at least 2 priests everywhere and, in the main, 2 Brothers. What a lot of expense for all these new foundations, for the voyages, the furniture, etc, etc. But Providence does not lack resources and will come to our help.
- I am sure the other Brothers also write to you from time to time. However, if they haven’t done so for a long time, I can assure you they are all in good health, behaving themselves, and showing everywhere they are true children of our good and common Mother. All are happy. They would not exchange their situation for a kingdom.
- Br Elie-Regis is still at Wakatane with Fr Lampila, Br Euloge at Opotiki with Fr Moreau, dear Brother Basile at Rotorua with Fr Reigner, the good and saintly Br Emery is at Auckland, the sub-procure, and with him are Frs Forest, Seon, and Petit-Jean, and dear Br Florentin. Dear Brothers Justin and Luc are at Kororareka with Fr Baty. M. Yvert is still at the school at Wangaroa with Fr Rozet and your humble servant is still at Hokianga with Fr Petit.
- We live quietly here; no one seeks to disturb us. We have a very good Governor who loves the Catholic religion and who does much good. He has given a big sum for the college, which he does every year, and favours the other schools, etc. The Protestants are no longer as hostile as they were before, on the surface, at least. The rascals made very malicious reports to the old Governor against the Catholic priests and in the end almost succeeded in getting them expelled from the island. Providence came to our aid, and the new Governor, given orders to expel us, wanted nothing to do with them. He wrote a testimony for us to the Court in England saying there were no better subjects than we in the island. He said it was the ones spreading calumnies who should be expelled, because they were the cause of all the misfortunes people had had to endure during the past wars.
- Would to God the French government would do as much.
- Believe me to be, always and forever,
- Your very humble and unworthy confrere,
- Br Claude-Marie.
- Your very humble and unworthy confrere,
- A place name appears to be missing here. It is probably the Bay of Islands.
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