From Marist Studies
4 September 1838 — Bishop Jean-Baptiste-François Pompallier to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Hokianga
Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, May 2009
- J(esus) M(ary) J(oseph)
- Hokianga in New Zealand
- at the place called St Mary’s, 4 September 1838
- I forgot to ask you to send us some slates for teaching the islanders to write. They very much want to learn this skill, and it is very useful for the mission.
- The difficulties here are very great. I am in a state of poverty which in the natives’ minds is particularly damaging to the mission. I am indebted for about 1500 fr and if the enemies of religion who are so active against me wish to take advantage of this chance to humiliate and annoy me, they really would have the opportunity to do so. If there is as well a delay in sending me men, the mission which offers the most fortunate opportunities could fall into a very desperate situation and perhaps into ruin. How I need the money which the [Society for the] Propagation of the Faith can have given me. Right now two things prevent me from going to Wallis and Futuna: the lack of both men and money. It is impossible for me to leave New Zealand and to leave Father Servant there for several months on his own. The enemies of religion who are many and very cunning would make a fool of him like an innocent. This man can be of use only with people of good will who want to serve God with all their hearts, and then barely so. But in the innumerable harassments which accompany mission beginnings, he cannot be relied on.
- In the last letter of this sort, I gave you the address of a Mr Turner at the Bay of Islands. Be wary of giving him our messages, this gentleman has told me he was going back to Europe. Send your answers only through our missionaries or by French government ships, which will allow them to be sent to me personally. The heretics run the post office here.
- The circumstances of the mission are favourable: tribal chiefs within a thirty-league [c. 150 km] radius from my residence have come to see me to assure me of their desires to embrace the Catholic faith. More than thirty tribes are awaiting our efforts. Only ten, in the nearby districts, have begun to receive them, in about the last two months. I have a fair grasp of their language at present, and with the help of God I have been able to translate and write in their language a long summary of Catholic teaching. Several notable chiefs have already received baptism. There you have brothers in the order of salvation. The greatest chief in New Zealand totally committed himself to the Catholic faith on the feast of the Assumption. He gives his total support to the Catholic Bishop; he is doing all he can to take me into his tribe. May God be blessed in everything! May Mary our Mother triumph. I am not the one who governs the mission. I have put it entirely into the hands of this august Virgin since the beginning. But she needs to make felt all the power which God gives her for the good of the Church and for the defeat of evil spirits.
- Prayers, prayers, men, money. Let us act as if neither the good God nor the Blessed Virgin had to come and help us, and afterwards count on them entirely. Fathers Chanut, Lagniet, Suchet etc etc, aren’t they already on the seas to come and join us? Let us be certain that there is a quite special protection from God on people who do not enjoy good health. As for me, I have not yet been sick. I am in better health than ever in the most demanding ministry I have ever had. Our little medicine chest has been no use to us up till now in New Zealand.
- I am, along with all who are mine, who are all yours, Reverend Father,
- Your most humble and obedient servant
- + J(ean) B(aptis)te François, Bishop of Marones and Vicar Apostolic of Western Oceania
- To Reverend Father Colin, Superior General of the Society of Mary, Lyons
- Benjamin Turner (cf Doc 24 )
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