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Father Petit to Father Colin, Kororareka, 8 Jan 1840

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, May 2005

APM Z208 8 January 1840

Kororareka 8 January 1840

To the Very Reverend Father Colin
Superior General of the Society of Mary in Lyons.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Very Reverend Father
I received with pleasure and gratitude the few words you were kind enough to write to me at the end of good Father Mayet’s letter. I learned with real joy that M. the Marquis of Arreat had asked you for Marist priests[1] and that you had been able to respond to his praiseworthy intentions. I am thinking of writing to him at the first opportunity, and I hope that in his reply he will inform me of the steps he will have had to take in France to get priests for his unfortunate region.[2]
I think that three months from now you will receive the letter I wrote to you 15 August 1839, through M Baxter, captain of the Orion (a whaling ship from Nantes).
It was a real delight for us to see our dear confrères arrive on 10 December, the octave day of St Francis Xavier. To really appreciate the situation, one would have to be on the spot where the urgent need of workers can be seen at first hand. From all sides people come asking His Lordship for priests, and most insistently. But how can one give what one does not have? So when will missionaries arrive in hundreds, knowing the language of the country, [p2] or almost? What gives some consolation is (the thought) that God knows the needs of the mission better than we do, that he loves our poor savages incomparably more that we can imagine, and that all means are available to Him. It is certain that He sends our poor people real ministers according to the desires he inspires in them. The growth already seen in the little Society of Mary [3] shows us already that God has great and merciful plans for the poor savages of Western Oceania which are entrusted to its care. We do not cease asking God and hoping in His infinite goodness that he will bless it[4] more and more so it may be able, if not to fill all the spaces [they are immense], at least to make Jesus and Mary known and loved by a multitude of peoples who do not know how to tell their right hand from their left.[5]
I told you, very Reverend Father, in my letter of 15 August, that I hoped to know the New Zealand language in a few weeks, and soon it will be 7 months since our arrival, and I do not yet know it well enough to be able to speak in public with some confidence. Up till now I have limited myself to reading instructions composed by His Lordship. Since we have arrived, I do not think I have, by and large, given a half day each week to studying the language, and I owe, in great part, what I know of it to its practice, which takes up the time I would like to give to its theory. I hope I will have more time for study at Kaipara where the Bishop is thinking of sending me soon for a month or six weeks. This tribe has already been visited a long time ago by His Lordship, [p3] who has put a Catholic Irishman there who acts as a catechist there until he can send some priests there. As almost everywhere else, there are heretics there[6], there also, as everywhere else they resort to the most atrocious calumnies against the Bishop, his priests and Catholic teaching; they attribute to us things so hideous that one dares not repeat them and which, if they were true, would justly bring on our heads the condemnation of the entire universe; and the natives themselves who are as credulous as children, do not believe them, and there is every reason to hope that their calumnies will turn to their confusion and to the progress of the faith in this country.
I would have liked to speak to you at greater length but time is running short. His Lordship is going at this moment to take his letters to the ship which is about to set sail.
I recommend myself urgently to your good prayers, and beg you to accept this expression of my feelings of respect and gratitude for your kindnesses to me.
I have the honour to be,
Very Reverend Father,
Your totally devoted servant in J(esus) C(hrist),
Maxime Petit, mis(sionary) ap(ostolic)
Bay of Islands, Kororareka, 8 January 1840


  1. prêtres de Marie
  2. The Marquis was one of many in authority who sought priests for particular areas/works in the early years of the Society. I can not find anything more about him. - translator’s note
  3. Haec minima congregatio – this least of congregations – is the opening phrase of the Marist Constitutions of 1872, but goes back to Father Colin’s early thought - translator’s note
  4. the Society of Mary - translator’s note
  5. cf Jonah 4:11 - translator’s note
  6. heretics was how the early Marists generally referred to Protestants - translator’s note

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