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14 May 1840 — Bishop Jean-Baptiste-François Pompallier to Father Jean-Claude Colin (1), Bay of Islands

J(esus) M(ary) J(oseph)

St Mary’s Mission, New Zealand Bay of Islands
14 May 1840
To the Reverend Father Colin, Superior-General of the Society of Mary, in Lyons, France

Reverend and very dear Father
Struggles on behalf of the Lord are, for me, continuous here; I have no rest. I have many replies to make without yet being able to complete any of them. I will try to do it soon, if God is kind enough to allow me to do so. I could not forget the people who write to me and who show an interest in this mission; may the Lord pour out on them his abundant graces which I ask for on their behalf. I do not forget either, in his presence, numerous people whom I have come to know in my journeys in France and in other places; may God bless them as well!
Today, Reverend Father, and every day, my situation in writing is a bit like that of a combatant who withdraws a little from the ranks to hurriedly write a few lines and in that way provide for the welfare of his troops, and then straight away gets back into action.
I have just got back from a journey of more than two months that I made by sea to the south of New Zealand,[1] and about a hundred leagues [500 km] from the Bay of Islands where I mainly live. I had the ship call in at many places; in this way I could go through new tribes whose chiefs had asked me to visit many months earlier. These tribes are located on the east coast and one or two days’ walk into the interior. I took along with me a catechist[2] and Father Viard, who is beginning to lead the natives in prayer in the New Zealand language pretty well; he is writing in this language already, he lacks only a little practice in that, which he will soon acquire. About forty tribes have just turned more to the Catholic faith as a result of the journey I have made along these eastern coasts. I have not been able to write down all the names of these good natives – I have more than three thousand on my list, but I estimate the number to be more than fifteen thousand. The names of the areas in which they are located are: Hauraki, Rotorua, Matata, Whakatane, Ohiwa, Opotiki.[3] Each of these areas contains several tribes, but they are numerous in some of them. The longest I could stay in each one was two, three and up to six days to teach them the truths necessary for salvation and straight away to refute the many lies and calumnies which heresy spreads against me and against the holy Catholic church, our mother.
Everywhere I have been, people say I am the Antichrist; I am given this name without any good understanding of its meaning; several chiefs gave me this name in speaking to me and thought they were speaking correctly; people went on to say that I had come to New Zealand to take land, to kill the inhabitants and to seize the country with my homeland’s naval vessels; that after having taken the wives of the New Zealanders, I would have their husbands’ throats cut, and would have them thrown into fire, etc etc. People make up all sorts of things as well which tend to arouse fears and mistrust in minds concerning me, to prevent people from turning to the true faith, if they haven’t already turned to it, or to get them to abandon it if they have embraced it. Hardly have I gone through the tribes to affirm them in or convince them of the truth, when in my absence Protestant European missionaries of various sects, with their swarms of native supporters, come and assail my newly-baptised and catechumens with myriads of errors and lies, whose effect on minds is at least, at the time, to disturb their peace and their trust, to make them impatient to speak to me again, or to discuss the matter with one of my people. Then, having heard our explanations and having seen error, lies and malice in their true colours, they become, as a result, stronger in the way of the holy Church. Thanks to the Lord and the protection of Mary, calumny up till now has done harm only to those responsible for it. The Europeans and the natives scorn them, and few people trust them. It is quite a special act of heavenly Providence that the work of Jesus Christ in this island has had such great success amidst difficulties which by their nature should have not only completely stopped it but even on a thousand occasions endangered the lives of legitimate ministers of the Church.
Right now, most of the tribes, most of New Zealand, has heard its voice and have turned to its holy and infallible teaching. Here are the names of the territories where the tribes are who have so turned, apart from those I named above: Tokerau (Bay of Islands, the coast of the north-eastern part of the first island of the North),[4] Paroa pe (where in former times the French commander named Marion was massacred about sixty years ago),[5] Whangaroa (thirty leagues to the north-east of Tokerau, and where 15 or 16 years ago all of the crew of a large British ship were massacred),[6] Mangonui (still further north on the same coast), in the same latitude and on the west coast, Kaipara, Whangape in the same latitude as Tokerau but on the west, Hokianga (where the first work of the mission began, about thirty-five leagues [180 km] from there going south-west – Kaipara. Such are the main territories of the mission.
It is hard to know the number of the people who have turned to the Catholic faith, it could be up to 25 to 27,000 souls. Here is what turning to the Catholic church means here: it is to recognise through the use of reason that it is the true one, the preferable one, the ancient one, the mother, the trunk that Jesus Christ himself formed (and usually it means understanding as well that it is the one and true; and that outside it one cannot have God for a father), it involves knowing as well that the successor of St Peter is the holy Father the Pope, known here under the title of Kawana tapu nui of Hehu Kerito, which means great holy governor of Jesus Christ, the only supreme ruler of the Church, and that the bishops are the other successors of the apostles, united to the ruler and the visible governor who rules the Church in his holy name until the end of time when he will return to the earth to judge all peoples and render to each one according to his works; to turn is to recognise the oneness of God, the trinity of persons, the creation of the universe and of man, his fall, the redemption, the virginity and the divine motherhood of the most Blessed Virgin, mother of Jesus Christ the Saviour; it is having an idea of the chronological tree of the Church, reciting evening and morning the Our Father (a to matou matua), the Hail Mary (tena paiupa ki a koe e Maria), the Creed (e wakapono ano ahau); then it is singing the hymn about God, his perfections and wonderful deeds. But to turn does not mean that baptism has been received, but that it is being prepared for or hoped for. Finally to turn means knowing that God must be loved above all else, and neighbours as oneself, not to kill, nor rob, nor lie, nor be impure, and to observe the holy day of Sunday.
During the journey I have just completed, I had the consolation of baptising a little boy and a little girl, both sick. Sickness was the reason why I hastened baptism. I promised these people to send them some of my missionaries to instruct them and to properly prepare them for receiving holy baptism. They are waiting for them right now like dry ground awaits the dew from on high. It is impossible to describe the pain and suffering that I experience at not being able to satisfy them all immediately. There is my greatest cross on this mission; I bear it with greater difficulty than all the tasks that overwhelm me. It is hard to get an idea of the good dispositions of these people; to come to some idea of the situation it is enough to say that after two or three days staying in a tribe for the first time, all those who can speak, that is, from the child in its mother’s arms to old me, all have learnt and recite at the same time the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Creed, and sing the hymn about God, and that in one single voice and in so moving a way that it is impossible to restrain tears and not to have your heart flooded with consolations. But as great as these consolations are, even more bitter is my heartbreak when I am obliged to wrench myself from the midst of these peoples to take the good news to other places, preventing heresy from ravaging other tribes. Those which I have just visited have given me receptions such as have never been seen given to any European in this country, and it would be impossible to show in them more signs of respect, affection and warmth than those that they shared.
Oh, you ancient nations of the Church, who have been inheritors for so many centuries of the faith of the apostles and martyrs, pray for the success of our works, which are the same works that God blessed among you in former times and for such a long posterity; pray for new flocks which are hastening to the sheepfold of the good shepherd, and eagerly seek something of the divine pastures with which your people are so abundantly provided in France and elsewhere; alas! how far the New Zealanders are from being filled as you are! And yet, however, they are besieged from all sides by enemies of the Church! In the cradle of their spiritual infancy, they are being offered the cup of heresy, and, if so young yet in the faith they drink this cup of perdition in spite of themselves, they soon perceive its harm and push it away with repugnance. But so many ways and appeals are used to deceive them! Already booklets are circulating everywhere in their forests, bringing them an imaginary picture of Christianity and hatred for the sole Church commissioned by God and alone capable of bringing it into men's hearts. I have with me here only seven priests for these large islands of New Zealand which are more than three hundred leagues in length [1500 km]. A Roman Catholic priest is as much desired by these people as food can be in a time of famine. I cannot keep my people around me, I don’t have the time to give them great knowledge in their own language; people come and snatch them from me before they have enough of it. My savages assure me that they will improve them in that, and God blesses their good will and the zeal of my missionaries. Sometimes after three or four months the latter are able to give them instructions on the saving truths. But, in any case, these people are in danger as their faith is coming to birth; a priest is needed in each sizeable tribe to be the spokesman against the calumnies of error and to dissipate immediately the harmful impressions that its speeches make on minds.
Oh you, the clergy of France and the Catholic nations of Europe, numerous, pious, educated and zealous, how many souls would cherish you in these countries, and how they would bless you in eternity if you carried on an apostolate among them. If only each diocese provided one priest, what a flourishing part of the Church would Western Oceania become! Our beloved Society of Mary, become fertile in apostles, deploy all your forces here. Our glorious and powerful Mother will only have and cannot but have victories to offer he divine Son. Lord, send workers into your vineyard.[7]
Reverend Father, send me priests in great numbers and Brothers in even greater numbers, and soon Sisters as well. I would need 50 priests for New Zealand, 20 for the island groups of Fiji, and the Friendly Islands [Tonga], and 20 more for the neighbouring groups, money for a ship to be bought and three good printing presses.
I have received, I think, most of your letters; all the money mentioned has got to me. Father Baty and Father Comte are in the Hokianga[8] with Brother Florentin. At Wangaroa are Father Epalle (who is doing very well), Father Petit-Jean and Brother Élie. Father Viard is leaving for Tauranga, at Kaipara are Father Petit and Brother Michel; I live at the Bay of Islands and Father Servant helps me to make little booklets to be circulated among the natives and for preaching to the people; Brother Augustin is here; in Wallis and Futuna are Fathers Chanel, Bataillon and Chevron with Brothers Marie-Nizier, Joseph and Attale; all those in New Zealand are in good health and are working zealously in the vineyard of the Lord; with the money I received [in the margin and crosswise] through the last two dispatches you sent me, a procure house has been set up in the Bay of Islands, which has cost me about 10,000 francs, an establishment has been renovated in the Hokianga, and three others are being built aw Wangaroa, Tauranga and Kaipara. I have been able to send a priest and a Brother[9] for the missions in Wallis and Futuna, and I have personally undertaken sea voyages which have brought many souls to Jesus Christ;[10] now I am taking steps to get myself a ship while impatiently waiting for other and many priests and Brothers whom you give me reason to hope for in your most recent letters; then I am counting on new funds to face up to so many expenses. Let us go forward with courage and confidence in Jesus and Mary; I am in their holy hands, very dear Father,
+ J(ean)-B(aptiste) François, Bishop,
Vicar-Ap(ostolic) of Western Oceania


  1. The voyage began on 2nd March 1840 (cf Doc 51 [1], and went south of the Bay of Islands but not to the South Island (see f/n 3 below).
  2. Brother Michel (Antoine Colombon) (cf Doc 57 [1])
  3. The areas named here are in the North Island in the Bay of Plenty or in the interior. Hauraki is not the gulf of this name but a plain whose southern part is called the Matamata plain, where the pā of Matamata was. Tauranga is the coast of the harbour of this name (the modern city of Tauranga dates from 1873 only.) Waikato is the fairly large valley of that river and, more to the south, tributary rivers. Maketu, Matata, Whakatane, Ohiwa and Opotiki are posts on the Bay of Plenty. ‘Rotorua’, a lake south of Maketu and Tauranga, designates settlements on the edge of this lake.
  4. Tai Tokerau is the name given to the whole of the tribes in the far north of the North Island, it also applies to their territory.
  5. Paroa pe is no doubt Parua Bay (Paroa) – 19th century spelling) near Whangarei to the south of the Bay of Islands. According to Peter Dillon (but this is only one theory among others), Marc-Joseph Marion, M du Fresne, commander of the Mascarin and the Marquis de Castries was massacred there with 24 other Frenchmen on the 12/13 June 1772 by some natives of the Whangaroa tribe (cf Dunmore, Vol 1, p 188; Sherrin and Wallace p 64; Ollivier, pp 1, 11-12, 28-29, 176-187, 295-599)
  6. In fact, it was in November or December 1809 that cannibals massacred 70 sailors and passengers on the British ship Boyd, captained by John Thompson, at Whangaroa. Only four passengers escaped; a woman, two little girls and a fifteen-year-old boy. In 1823 the Wesleyan mission set up a mission in the neighbourhood on the Kaeo River, but it was closed a few years later because of Maori hostility. The first permanent foundations by Europeans did not occur until 1840, and it was during that year that the Catholic mission was established at Waitaruke on Whangaroa Harbour. (Encyclopaedia of NZ, Vol 3, pp 146-154; cf infra [11], also Docs 45 [2], 51 [1, 7], 53 [2], 57 [3])
  7. ‘So pray to the Lord of the harvest, that he may send workers into his harvest – Mt 9:38; Luke 10:2
  8. No doubt at Whirinaki on the south side of Hokianga Harbour (cf Doc 45 [2])
  9. Joseph-Andre Chevron and Brother Attale (Jean-Baptiste Grimaud) (cf Docs 47 [3], 51 [1], 62 [2])
  10. Cf Docs 51 [1], 52 [18], 57 [1] and the present document [3]

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