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18 June 1839 - Extract from a letter from Claude-André Baty to Claude-Pierre Nyd, parish priest of St-Jean-sur-Reyssouze (Ain)[1]

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, July 2009

A(d) M(ajorem) D(ei) G(loriam)
Bay of Islands
18 June 1839
In Tahiti[2] the natives who have embraced Protestant teaching are held on a short leash; sins are punished either by blows, or forcing the culprits to clear a certain amount of land, or by forcing them to make tapa cloth. After 15 days’ sailing we anchored at Wallis where we found our confrère, Father Bataillon, in good health; he had been persecuted and had experienced a lot of resistance to preaching religion. In spite of these difficulties originating from the King, he had an important chief[3] and many other people as catechumens. A storm which had occurred on 2nd February had done tremendous damage on Wallis and Futuna, the missionaries’ houses were knocked down, Father Bataillon’s was still being used, Father Chanel’s on Futuna was completely destroyed. We got to Futuna on the morning of 8th May, the vigil of the Ascension, accompanied by eight natives from Wallis with Father Bataillon.[4] After three hours of very difficult walking, we at last found our dear confrère, Father Chanel, living in a little shack alongside the ruins of his house. We had the happiness of staying with the good Father until Pentecost.[5] He is very much loved on this island, although his mission has not made much progress. One reason is that his island having been in a state of war for a long time, he has not been able to communicate with the islanders to learn the language. Then it seems that the rumour of the blows with a rope which the Methodists give their converts has spread throughout Oceania. Time is needed to destroy and uproot before being able to build and plant.[6] Our journey through the islands has achieved an excellent result for the missions, and now all the problems will be pretty well removed if the Bishop can get there. The sight of the Bishop will make a big impression on these people who need to be appealed to through the senses.
We left Futuna on Pentecost day after having celebrated holy Mass as solemnly as we could. On 13th June[7] we entered the Bay of Islands and anchored at eight in the evening. We were to get instructions and just as we got to land we found Brother Michel, recovering from sickness, who took us to the house of a ship’s captain, a friend of Bishop Pompallier. [8] This house has become our base, we live there as if it were our home. We have truly found a father and mother in these people who receive us, although they are Protestants. The following day we sent an urgent letter to Bishop Pompallier to tell him of our arrival: we are expecting him today. Blessed be Jesus and Mary who guide by hand those who leave everything to make them known and loved. His reverence the Bishop is known everywhere in New Zealand; he is very much loved. The spite that the Protestant ministers have poured out against him has rebounded on them, because truth wins out sooner or later. He has already baptised many people. He is helpful to the natives and to the whites, he speaks English with ease, he even preaches in that language. But he was overwhelmed by weight of work – I hope we can ease the burden and match his zeal.
I am appointed to Hokianga where I will be with Father Servant; the Bishop and one of my confrères will visit several harbours in New Zealand.


  1. Claude-Pierre Nyd (1802-1878) parish priest of St-Jean-sur Reyssouze from 1834 until his death.
  2. After a stopover in Valparaiso from 12th December 1838 until 27th January 1939, Baty and the other missionaries in the second group, Frs Epalle and Petit, and Brothers Marie-Augustin, Florentin and Élie-Regis, continued their voyage on the schooner Reine de la Paix (Queen of Peace), a ship paid for equally by the Marists and the Picpusians of Eastern Oceania. They were at the island of Aukena in the Gambier group from 15th March until 2nd April, then at Tahiti from 13th April for about four days. See an unedited letter from Baty to Colin 15th April 1839, pp 1-2, see Rozier Ecrits Chanel, Doc 45 [1] p 222, and Pompallier Doc 34 [13].
  3. Young Tauugahala, chief of Nukuatea islet, where there were some catechumens (Doc 28 [19])
  4. Cf doc 38 [3]
  5. In 1839, Pentecost was on 18th May.
  6. Ecclesiastes 3:2-3. “A time for planting and a time for pulling up the plants… a time for undermining and a time for building.”
  7. In fact, the second missionary group arrived on 14th June 1839 (Doc 33 [11]). Baty had failed to allow for losing a day in sailing across the dateline from east to west.
  8. No doubt the man that Pompallier called “an English Protestant merchant who is devoted to me” (Doc 33 [1])

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