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14 September 1838 — Bishop Jean-Baptiste-François Pompallier to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Hokianga

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, May 2009

To Father Colin, Superior General of the Society of Mary, Lyons
New Zealand, Hokianga, St Mary’s
14 September 1838
Reverend Father
How painful my situation is becoming in the midst of an abundant harvest. If you do not make haste to send me men and the allocations from the Propagation of the Faith, really bad consequences will soon make themselves felt on the mission which offers the most fortunate opportunities right now. It will soon be two years since I left Le Havre and still no sign of life, no help. The things I have in the mission cannot appropriately be sold; that would have a bad effect which the heretics would take advantage of, and then these things would not be sold at what they cost me, even only for the cost of the transport. And finally that would give us the appearance of being businessmen, which is quite inappropriate for Bishops, and priests as well, in missions. I have no chapel. The wood for building it has been donated, but the labour I have to pay for; it is very dear in this country and I do not have a franc.[1] I have got into debt and I do not dare indebt myself more. Besides it is impossible for me to get further into debt because everyone is poor and no one can lend to me. My situation is becoming humiliating for the episcopacy in the sigh of strangers and natives. It is harmful to an esteem which a happy influence over the greatest tribal chiefs had given me. I am afraid, with some justification, that it is being lost to the detriment of souls; because our group’s extreme difficulty in surviving, and no chapel for them and no one being able to pay for the labour which can only be provided by carpenters who are foreign to the country; all these difficulties, which without money cannot be overcome, inspire dislike among the tribal chiefs and hesitation among several to follow their pastor.
If several months were to go by, still without receiving either funds or men, I would need, to the great detriment of the New Zealand mission, to leave by the first frigate that comes to these shores, to go and speak to the Holy See about the complete state of neglect I have been left in. It is particularly in the first stages of missions that communications and assistance should be most frequent. I lament, before the Lord, the causes which create obstacles to them and which make my three missions already begun, suffer. How bitter it is for me that I cannot come to the help of the Fathers and Brothers of Wallis and Futuna who are in as much need as I am. I am relying on your goodness and on your zeal to come to the help of your children, your members, sacrificed to the glory of Jesus and Mary and for the salvation of souls. After I have done everything I can for this divine and lovable goal, I will be left only to adore the Lord’s designs. May his holy will be known, loved and carried out for ever!
Your most loving and obedient servant
J(ean) B(aptis)te François, Bishop of Maronea and Vic(ar) Ap(ostolic) of Western Oceania

To R(everend) F(ather) Colin, Sup(erior) Gen(eral) of the Society of Mary, Lyons
PS. I ask you, please, to seal my letters to the Reverend parish priest of Vourles[2] and my mother, which seem to be sealed but are not.
+ F(rançois)


  1. je n’ai pas le sol. The word ‘sol’ in a modern dictionary gave no meaning that seemed to fit. I think the ‘sol’, still a unit of currency in Peru, was a coin in common use in the Pacific area in the 1800s - translator’s note
  2. Louis Querbes (cf Doc 16 [6]

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