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Fr Reignier to Fr Poupinel, Napier, 4 April 1865



This is the first of three letters Reignier wrote to his superiors (LL 182, 185, 187) proposing that the property of the mission at Meeanee be offered to the Marist brothers as an inducement for them to provide teachers for the education of New Zealand Catholic youth. It appears to be a follow-up to a conversation between the two on the subject (rf. L 185 [1]).

Five years previously he had suggested that the Meeanee establishment might become the supply centre for the Marist mission (rf L 155). On his visit in February 1862, Poupinel, although impressed by the work of Reignier and his two brothers, confined himself to saying that it was “probably destined to contribute largely to the spread of religion in the province” (letter of July 1862 cited in Wilson, 248). With little encouragement and no concrete support from either the Society or his bishop, Reignier was now hoping to interest the brothers’ congregation in the project. He was doubtless encouraged in this by the example of Forest who had written to Saint-Genis-Laval as early as 1863 seeking brothers for his boys’ school at Napier.

Poupinel had remarked on his visit that Forest’s interests were all directed to the schools, and, indeed, by this time, he had already secured for his girls’ school the services of the new congregation of Our Lady of the Missions (rf L 186, Intr.). Four sisters had arrived from France in February, accompanied by the visitor general himself.

Writing to Louis-Marie on the subject the same year, Poupinel says: “You will hear about this establishment, my very Reverend and dear Brother, but above all, how the Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph wish to speak of it to you; that they deign to give you both the great willingness and the means to acquiesce to our ardent prayers! What would you have us do in these lands without the help of good schools? And who will provide good schools for the boys in our distant colonies without the help of the Brothers? Our two congregations began these missions together, the Brothers have found themselves there side by side with the Fathers. Shouldn’t they continue in a common accord this difficult but very meritorious enterprise? Societies, like individuals, must make sacrifices; a faraway mission can only merit more abundant blessings for your Institute. Moreover I know that such are your thoughts, your dispositions, and I am full of hope and already of gratitude.”[1]

This translation was made from the photocopy of a copy in the APM.

Text of the Letter

Very dear Father,
I have the honour of presenting you with a general overview of our establishment and to submit to your wisdom a project for drawing the best part possible from this vast property of the mission where I live in the country with dear Brothers Florentin and Basile, both formed at the novitiate of the Hermitage.
The property contains (1) a stretch of 376 acres, (2) another piece, a third of a league distant from the main station, consisting of 80 acres. This secondary piece, it is true, is now occupied by Maori families, but it can easily be put to the use of the mission when it is required.
All this land is in the middle of a vast plain of the greatest fertility, near the town of the Port which is the commercial centre. The distance is only five and a half milles (sic). One can easily go to town on business and return the same day. All the crops, wheat, potatoes, oats, etc. etc. flourish admirably, and what is crucial, everything is securely fenced. The whole area is covered with animals, 200 oxen, cows or calves, 500 ewes and sheep, about 20 horses. All the agricultural implements are on hand, 3 different carts, two wheeled or four, with oxen or horses to draw them or work with them, a farmyard with goats, hangars, barn, a fully equipped milking shed, a comfortable but old mission house, a beautiful chapel newly built.
Moreover, we are consolidating, at a yearly rent of 60 pounds, a good and extensive area of pasture land of more than 300 acres for running our animals. (It is enclosed by rivers, the sea, a swamp, and some palisades). The Maori who lease us this property have assured it for 13 and a half years. Although the English government has given us no legal assurance on this matter, it is probable we will be left in possession until the lease expires.
As for the produce or annual receipts:
- Milk or butter can yield 300 pounds.
- Harvest of potatoes 300.
- Wheat and oats 300.
And even more if we plant more.
- Sale of animals 400.
- Sale of wool 200.
(without counting other produce). Total is 1500.
For lack of labour on the mission we are forced to employ outside workers. The workers’ wages cost us more than 300 pounds each year. If we had more brothers we would be spared these extraordinary expenses. If we can do so much despite our isolation without the help of His Lordship, Monsignor Viard or the Society, what might a Society do, a Society of brothers, for example?
This property, as you have seen, very rev. father, is very fine and of great value, and covered with excellent pasture. The value can be estimated at from 12000 to 15000 pounds. It has cost the general mission nothing and is due to a certain good and economical management for more than 7 years and to the industry, labour, and efforts of dear Brothers Florentin and Basile, to whom we should be very grateful. May God reward them a hundredfold!
My very reverend Father, is it not just that their society, particular branch of the brother’s family of the Marist family, profit from this property, that the Reverend Brother Superior Louis Marie be given the direction of the whole enterprise?
We will work together willingly at so good a work for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
In France the Marist Brothers are very useful, it is true, among so many thousands of children, but here they would be even more useful. For in France the children, although neglected and ignorant, among a Catholic population will not lose their faith, but here among the mass of Protestants and colonial settlements, the attempts at proselytism, they abandon their faith, the true church, and are lost. Poor children, where are their saviours? I see them in the Marist brothers whom we are calling by our desires and our hopes. Once these dear children are solidly instructed in Christianity, they will persevere in the Catholic faith and they will owe to the brothers their eternal salvation. The future of Catholicism here is in the schools.
The diocese of Wellington where we are was confided by His Holiness the Sovereign Pontiff to the care of the Society of Mary. It is a Marist field. We will gladly welcome the brothers, we will receive such dear co-workers with open arms. At Napier, at Wellington we have sisters to teach and save young girls, but alas! No brothers yet in the whole diocese to instruct, form and save all the poor young boys growing and multiplying rapidly in all directions. What immense good to be done! Let us pray the Lord that he will send labourers into his harvest.
As far as resources go, let us be confident the riches of Providence are immense. We will be happy to cooperate in this great collaboration of zeal in offering, under the direction of our very reverend Father Superiors, this farm which will provide the brothers with ample means to gradually establish local schools at first, then to spread throughout the diocese, to set up orphanages and perhaps in the future a brothers’ novitiate.
As Christian instruction is the basis of everything, I am happy, my very reverend Father, to share your sentiments and to firmly believe that the greatest good fortune for the diocese of Wellington is the establishment of our dear brothers among us. I am convinced that Your Reverence would not know a better way to cooperate with our wishes which you yourself have forseen and suggested, and to give to the Rev Brother Superior General of the brothers all the details and all the information necessary to persuade him to accept the offer of this property which will help him procure the glory of God and the salvation of the neglected children of our distant countries of Oceania entrusted to the Society. May generous souls among the brothers burn with an ardent desire to come here to the ends of the earth to consecrate themselves to the apostolate of the missions!
Deign, my very reverend Father, to accept the homage of my very profound respect and entire devotion,
Your very humble and obedient servant,
E. Reignier pr. S.M.


  1. Vie du Frere Louis-Marie, par un Frere de cet Institut, Lyon, 1907, pp 225-6.

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