From Marist Studies
Jump to: navigation, search

27 April 1840 — Father Maxime Petit to Father Jean-Claude Colin (2), Kororareka

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, March 2011

Father Colin (Claude), 4 Mt St Barthelemy Rise, Lyons, in France, Rhône

J(esus) M(ary) J(oseph)
Bay of Islands, Kororareka, 27 April 1840

Very Reverend Father Superior
An opportunity to send directly to England has turned up. I am benefiting from it to give you some details about the mission. The Bishop has not yet come back from his voyage.[1] He had told us when he left that he would be away only three or four weeks, and now almost two months have gone by and he is not yet back, and it could be that he delays several weeks more. This delay seems to me to be a good omen for his voyage, because if he did not find any great good to be achieved he would not prolong a voyage which costs the mission 1250 francs a month [₤50]. Through a dropsical young boy whom he sent to us to get treated we found that he stayed three weeks in his tribe (Tauranga), that from there he went overland to the Waikato, from where he came back to Tauranga to join the schooner and to go on further to visit several other tribes. If the rest of his journey is like this first visit, it will give him great consolations, because it seems from the report of this young boy that he found the natives at Tauranga and in the Waikato very inclined to embrace the faith. Recently in Kororareka among the Europeans we were assured that a lot of the natives among the heretics had abandoned them to receive Catholic teaching; I cannot however verify that fact which anyway would not be very surprising because the heretical missionaries are generally not loved either by the natives, who are realising that they have exchanged their lands for a book which, in truth, is very subtle and which they do not understand any more those who distribute them and explain them to them; or the Europeans, who see with distress that the simplicity of poor children is abused so as to strip them to their profit and to take over the control of commercial matters.
A few weeks ago a native among the heretical missionaries[2] gave reason to believe he had killed a European, a shepherd working for the leader of those same missionaries. He is now in prison next to our yard. Having obtained permission from the British magistrate to speak to him, Father Servant and I went to see him. When we asked him if he had received the missionaries’ training, he answered, groaning, “Yes, and that’s where my wrong deed came from. When I was in my tribe, I was good; when I left it for them, I became wicked.” Although I am a long way from admiring teaching based on lies and spread by lies and calumny, I am sure he was not told that murder is something good. This poor young man, barely 20 years old, seems to be well disposed, and we would have baptised him already if his sentencing had not been put off for some time, which will make it easier to give him more instruction. A missionary came to his prison to talk to him, but the young man turned away and said nothing to him in reply. We got this information from the gaoler.[3]
Father Baty, thinking he would find the Bishop there, came to the Bay of Islands last week to talk to him about several matters concerning the Hokianga station. He gave us no particular details about that mission, where people urgently desire to see the Bishop. Father Servant left this morning for Whangaroa to see our confrères there,[4] and that station, which he had not yet seen. That mission promises much. The natives there are generally more intelligent than at Kororareka.
From all directions people continue to ask for priests. A Protestant, whose wife is a Catholic, and who likes Catholics himself, has, in the Bishop’s absence, offered us a piece of land at the River Thames,[5] where there is a lot of land, to build a Catholic mission station there.
We are waiting for new reinforcements, but we only have at this stage vague hopes based on what our confrères told us on their arrival, that you were not thinking of delaying a new dispatch.[6]
Time is running out. The mail bag is going to be closed and sent to the ship. I commend myself to your good prayers and to those of all our beloved confrères whom I embrace and greet in the sacred hearts of Jesus and his divine mother and ours.
Receive, please, my deepest respect, with which I have the honour to be,
Very Reverend Father Superior,
Your most humble and obedient servant,
Maxime Petit, mis(sionary) apost(olic)


  1. Cf Docs 51 [1], 58 [3]
  2. un naturel des missionaires hérétiques – possibly a native catechist? - translator’s note
  3. For jollier, read géolier.
  4. Fathers Jean-Baptiste Epalle and Jean-Baptiste Petit-Jean left on 4th January 1840 to set up the mission at Whangaroa (cf Docs 45 [2]. 53 [2])
  5. On the maps of the time the name River Thames designated not only what is now called the Firth of Thames but also the whole of the Hauraki Gulf (cf Ross p 88 and the maps pp 36 and 115, and Doc 103 [1]. The land offered to the mission was somewhere in the surrounding region.
  6. The Marists of the third group, which arrived in the Bay of Islands on the 9th or 10th December 1839 were Fathers Chevron, Comte, Petit-Jean, Viard and Brother Attale (Grimaud) (Docs 47 [2], 62 [2], 91 [3]). The missionaries of the fourth group had already left Brest on 10th February 1840. They would arrive at the Bay on 11th July 1840 (Docs 64 [1], 86 [3]). They were Brothers Claude-Marie (Jean-Claude Bertrand) and Amon (Claude Duperron) and Fathers Jean Pèzant and Jean-André Tripe.

Previous Letter List of 1840 Letters Next letter