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4 May 1840 — Bishop Jean-Baptiste-François Pompallier to Father Jean-Claude Colin (2), Bay of Islands

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, April-August 2011

To the Very Reverend Father General (only) of the Society of Mary, in Lyons, France
J(esus) M(ary) J(oseph)
Bay of Islands, 14 May 1840

Reverend and dear Father,
The peace of Christ.
I am sending you this second letter in a discreet way. I want it to have no publicity: you can share it with two or three members of your council and the congregation. Then there will be some parts that you should really explain and support to the council of the [Society of the] Propagation of the Faith. It will be easy for you to pick out these parts.
I have perhaps received all the letters you have sent me, but they have not got to me in the order of their dates. All those, and the requests you have sent me via Valparaiso have taken a long time to get to me. The route from France through London in England and from Sydney in New Holland is safer and quicker. You can send your letters in envelopes addressed to his Lordship Bishop Polding in Sydney; he will be pleased to send them to me at the Bay of Islands; opportunities for doing that are frequent and come almost every week; it would be perhaps even better to ask, from your end, Father Heptonstall,[1] who lives in London and is a correspondent with Bishop Polding, or even, again, the treasurer of the [Society of the] Propagation of the Faith in London, to concern himself with your correspondence; you will find the addresses of both of them in the enclosed note I am sending you. And if you sometimes send your letters and requests directly to Doctor Polding in Sydney, address your letter in English like this:
Right Reverend D(octor) Polding
R(oman) C(atholic) Bishop and Apostolic Vicar
of New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land at Sydney
New South Wales.
I am stating these things to you precisely so that people may not know, if possible, that it is a Frenchman who is writing these letters. British political thinking possibly takes umbrage at my links with France. I have more than one reason to think so, without saying anything more to you about them.
It’s only a few days since I received the first letters you sent me from France after my departure from Le Havre. Along with those letters I received 50 Spanish doubloons, which are half of the 8000 francs and as much as you sent me a little time after my same departure from Le Havre. The other half of that sum got to me a year ago. Connections between South America and our islands are very uncommon; so you can imagine the problems caused by sending letters and requests from France via Valparaiso to get to us on these shores. So forget about the address for that route that I provided on my departure from France.
You could also, advantageously and safely, send us your orders by naval vessels and French whalers that leave from the ports of Le Havre, Nantes or Lorient heading directly or almost directly for the Bay of Islands. These routes for whalers are not uncommon, and their way is very safe, by allowing my own address to be written on the letters in French. This way would also be very good for dispatching men to the mission.
Please, Reverend Father, could you number your letters on the inside so I can see straight away those that could be late, and which I can finally recognise if they all get to me. Kindly give this same advice to the Propagation of the Faith, whose letters also have not seemed to me to bear this precautionary measure.
But all in all, the safest means of all for our correspondence between each other, is the dispatches of missionaries that you send me. It would be good to combine the departures so as to make them every six months, and that there always be some priests and some Brothers (even if only two priests and two Brothers) leaving for the mission. In that way your end of the correspondence would be guaranteed. As for us here, we would do our best to find ways from us to you. I give thanks to God for the successful sending of our letters from Oceania to Europe; up to now I see by the letters that I receive, that they have certainly got to their destination. However I believe that this time you will not receive in order of their date many of the preceding letters that I have sent you, because I had entrusted them to whaling ships, which had to end their almost completed hunt before returning to France, but not having been very fortunate, they took ten months to finish it, and when I thought they were already in some French port, some of them came back and anchored in the Bay of Islands to get fresh supplies and then make their departure for France. But several dispatches of letters were later made through the mail from Sydney to Paris or to London, and these will get to you before others written earlier and entrusted to the same ship (La Pallas) which is going to take these present letters we are writing to you as well.
2) As for sending men, do not be anxious about finding ships: when there aren’t any in France heading for our coasts, the Bay of Islands or for Sydney, you will certainly find some in the ports of England and especially in London or Liverpool. There is no need either to worry about the choice of a ship, providing it is a three-master, that is enough; the first one leaving should be taken with the certainty that its journey will be directly or almost directly for the Bay of Islands or for Sydney. But make it very clear to the departing priests that when they arrive in Sydney, they take special care to take the first opportunity to go nowhere else in the mission but to the Bay of Islands. I am almost always there. If I was away, there would always be one or two priests replacing me to welcome them, to give them something to do, and to give them as needed all the necessary faculties. The men in the third departure who got here – to the Bay of Islands – in December 1839 stopped in Sydney too long when they could well have left earlier. While relaxing in ports during the journeys, missionaries should take care that reasons of arrival ceremonies, simple rest and pleasure, making visits out of curiosity and even spiritual works for souls, even at the desire of some Bishop, in no way delay them. Bishop Polding is so good and is so pleased to welcome my helpers that he is quite inclined to lead them to yield to staying too long with His Lordship. He would willingly get them to work for some time among his flock, if the opportunity presented itself. Father Petit-Jean, the leader of the last departing group, let himself be taken in, he was the reason for him and his confrères’ staying in Sydney for about six or seven weeks: from their disembarking in Sydney until their arrival at the Bay of Islands three or four ships arrived here from the same place, while no missionary left. That began to give me pretty serious worry about them, because I knew they were in Sydney – they had written to me from that harbour about their arrival. These delays were brought about partly because in Sydney they committed themselves completely into the hands of a Bishop who wanted to keep them a little while, and not make diligent inquiries to find ships which were preparing to leave that harbour for the Bay of Islands. It is good that our missionaries stay with the clergy of Sydney who receive them generously, but they should be responsible themselves for finding opportunities to hasten their departure and to remember those words of Jesus Christ, “Do not exchange greetings with anyone on the way” [ne salutaveritis in via]: [2] they have to get quickly to where God is calling them. I have in Sydney a very likeable and obliging correspondent; he is French, married, and has settled right in Sydney; he is a young, well educated merchant, well brought up and very competent in business matters. His name is M Joubert,[3] and he lives in Macquarie Place in the city; our men should take care to visit him and to entrust him with what they need to do in choosing one of the first ships preparing to go to the Bay of Islands; if they need to buy anything he will be pleased to do it for them or to advise them in doing so.
A very important thing, and which is becoming still more and more so as New Zealand grows in its English population: let all the priests you send me apply themselves zealously to studying English.
3) Reverend Father, I not only need regular dispatches of men for the mission, but also and even more regularly, dispatches of funds, whether those that the Propagation of the Faith allocates us, or those that charitable people give us. The way of doing this through banks in England and Sydney is the one that seems to me to be the quickest and safest. The gentlemen of the last dispatch deposited their money in an English bank; the one directed by Mr Wright whose address is in the notes enclosed with this, then, from that they withdrew some drafts on the Bank of Australia in Sydney, where I left the money to gain in value for the mission, while withdrawing from it as occasion demanded. This way of transferring funds and disposing of them has two advantages: 1) not losing them in the case of the ship being wrecked without the passengers perishing, or even, alas, if they did perish, and 2) the bank at Sydney gives ten per cent per year for the funds it keeps, and from which you can withdraw the whole amount of parts of it when you desire. So, Reverend Father, as soon as the allocations of the Propagation of the Faith for our mission are delivered to you, keep from them the amount you think appropriate for purchasing the things needed by the missionaries and Brothers you are thinking of sending, and then arrange with those gentlemen of the Council of the Propagation of the Faith to have sent to me, at the Bank of Australia in Sydney, through Mr Wright in London, the rest of the funds that those leaving do not need, then write to me by duplicate a letter informing me of the transfer of money which you have made.
4) Tell those gentlemen of the Council of the Propagation of the Faith that I think I have received all that they have sent me in the way of letters and funds, up to the last dispatch of missionaries in December 1839. The Mass that was requested for the dead members of the beloved Association for the Propagation of the Faith was offered last year and will be offered each year in line with their praiseworthy and pious desire. More than two months ago I began a fairly long letter to that worthy Council, but I will send it soon. It will be written so as to give a lot of understanding of this mission and to arouse the interest of the whole association; it is a little piece of work that contains details about this country and these peoples, the details of which will be very interesting but edifying at the same time.
5) A thing of the greatest importance: as the letters that we write from this mission are published in French by the Association for the Propagation of the Faith’s press, and that they are sent out through the whole world, they are sometimes extracted from the Annals and translated into English in the Sydney newspapers, then published in this way in New Zealand. In what concerns me personally, I have read in the newspapers with my own eyes here, at the Bay of Islands, two long letters that I had written to you a year before, and the faithful English translation of which I have right now in my room; they can be seen in the Sydney Catholic newspaper: Australasian Chronicle. So it is very important to be prudent in publishing these letters through the Annals. But do not worry, up till now I have taken care either personally or by way of one of the priests belonging to the mission, to examine the letters in terms of the content and form in which we send them to Europe. All the same, it can happen that we overlook something. I was very happy to find out that you have checks made at your end. But you cannot always know, from outward appearances what would be harmful in being known in our countries, that is why I take care over it. Generally news should not be printed, nor sections of the letters which inform the reader of the plans we have, the mission stations I intend to set up here, the aims of the works to be undertaken that I inform you of; excessively caustic expressions which we sometimes make against heresy and its ministers should be struck out or changed. These things do not usually correct the heretic, but annoy him and incite him even more to persecution; nevertheless truth must be told, their schemes reveal ed, and their malice and their calumnies made known.
5) A great event occurred last January;[4] a British warship came to the Bay of Islands; it brought a lieutenant governor, a vassal of the main British governor in Sydney; he is called Captain Hobson. He has been sent by the Queen of England to protect British subjects who are already very many in New Zealand; you cannot come across a native tribe without one, or two or three Europeans from Ireland or Scotland or England; then in the main harbours, their numbers already make up the population of little towns. The governor, or lieutenant-governor rather, has travelled to or had others travel to the main tribes to ask the natives to sign a treaty he proposed to them in the name of the Queen of England, and by which they would submit to her as subjects and in this way be protected; which is nothing else than a clear attempt by England to take possession of New Zealand. The natives have had divided opinions on this matter; some have signed the treaty while others have refused, but few have properly understood what they were doing by signing; they were won over by gifts and their ignorance. Our position in this country was very critical for some weeks. The natives came and asked me what they should do, whether to sign or not to sign; in this situation I explained to the chiefs what it implied for them and then left them to decide for themselves, keeping neutral and aside from politics, telling them that I was here in this country with my men to work for the salvation of both those who would not sign and those who would sign. When it was suggested to them that they sell lands, and they consulted me as to whether they ought to sell or not, I told them that that was a matter for them to decide. Now they are asking me whether it is good to give up or not give up their independence; they are the masters of that, this was again a matter for them to decide. Besides, I was confidently assured that the request for signatures was only a pretext, the taking of possession was already decided.
Because even before the natives or at least the chiefs of each tribe had been invited to sign the treaty offered by the governor, the British flag was flying at the Bay of Islands, and cannon-shots had been fired as a sign of taking possession. Many people here think and say that the success of this taking possession by the governor in the name of the Queen of England is very doubtful, that there is something mysterious in all this, that France and America will not agree to let New Zealand cease to be a neutral and independent country. The fact is that American and French frigates which have come and anchored in the Bay of Islands since the taking of possession have in no way recognised what the governor did. And now no one knows whether these new circumstances in this country will not be the cause of some war between the great powers of Europe. What the Lord allows to happen will happen, and nothing more; no one will take heaven from those who want to take it by force. Leave political matters to politics, leave to me, in these western reaches of Oceania, matters concerning salvation. God be praised, the new British authorities seem to me to be impartial: his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor and the captains and officers of the British vessels have shown me special respect and attention; the former has made it known to the natives that I would still be able to carry out my ministry throughout all New Zealand; he has assured me that his protection would be the same for the Catholic religion as for the Protestant sects from England; as well, indeed, he is about to order that the future ship for the mission’s use will have no obligation to pay for anchoring in the harbours and for bringing in supplies and goods destined for the mission. His good will has seemed to me to be cordial and real; I have returned it with courtesy and civilities showing gratitude and respect.
God who turns everything to the good of his Church when he has special intentions for the salvation of a people, has, up to now, made this taking of possession work to the detriment of the Protestant missions in the minds of the natives; they now say everywhere, “The English missionaries had a real need to din in our ears their continual repetitions that the Bishop would take away our country. It is them! It is their Queen who is doing it instead.” Let us keep on praying fervently to the Lord, and to his august mother as well, that his holy reign establishes itself and becomes strong in these main islands of New Zealand. This taking of possession is still more advantageous for us in that the Europeans here who before that were in a type of anarchy are now no longer so, and the mission proceeds with more protection than beforehand. It is true to say as well, even before England officially took possession of this country, New Zealand had been largely taken in possession in a hidden and real way by the great number of English who had bought great stretches of land from the natives in every part of the country, and who lived there independently of the tribal chiefs, but as subordinate to the sovereign of their own nation. For many years New Zealand has been only a state or, rather, an assemblage of little states, independent of each other, for the natives, and this assembly of little states was, as well, broken up and divided by a European population which, although also scattered over all parts of the country, formed in one sense a state united with the English nation. So it would have been pointless if the tribal chiefs had wanted to resist the proposals of the English lieutenant-governor. It would have added a further misfortune to their situation: that of bringing on themselves the lack of concern and dislike of a nation, instead of receiving at this time its protection and affection. It is noteworthy that in general the Protestant missionaries greatly co-operated in this taking of possession and that it promised beforehand a triumph for their cause. But up till now things have turned out differently. It is worth noting as well that they have been careful, in the course of their claimed apostolic work, to surpass the Europeans who have come to settle here, in purchasing immense amounts of the best lands. It can be truly said that their mission stations are more works of speculation than works of religion. To put it briefly, they have brought here the kingdom of the earth for themselves and not the kingdom of heaven for the nations: there you have the fruits of heresy. All of that now seems obvious to all minds, to both the Europeans and the natives; they are generally looked on with scorn, biting criticism hounds them in the conversations and the newspapers of the Protestants themselves, and the natives hate them in most places: no one can put up with the intolerant actions and calumnies they have used against the Catholic mission and its ministers.
Now in all the political conflicts, over speculation and business, all the missionaries must really be seen to be what they always ought to be, truly Catholic men, embracing all the peoples of the earth in their love, and weighing every nation in the same balance without any regard to their flags or customs; the Cross is our only flag, and the blood of our Saviour the only weight in our scales for souls. For successful work in our missions in Oceania we need men who are prudent, quite judicious and really Catholic at heart. They must as well be truly disinterested.
6) Allow me to speak to you, very dear Father, with a certain freedom, in the interests of the Church of Jesus Christ, our all, and even for the glory of our congregation itself. Be sure that on my side I receive with respect the counsels and the saving advice that your paternal concern gives me in your letters.
Do not think that in our mission countries there is no need for men who are well trained in terms of knowledge, clerical virtues and in outward appearance. They need a religious and truly clerical manner here more than in France. The English are more demanding in these matters than we are in France. Let us get the men, priests and Brothers, used to being clean and tidy in their persons and in their dwellings. Anyone who conducts himself like this in these countries is a man who immediately gains esteem and consideration, and if he adds to that a judicious way of acting, with friendly and manly conduct towards his neighbour, he immediately secures great confidence and affection, all of which are very useful for winning souls to Jesus Christ, our good master.
Now most of the Brothers who are sent to us here are very much lacking in all these respects: they are also deficient in knowledge and practice of the various trades they carry out. The work they do is very inferior to that done by the English in these countries. Brother Augustin and Brother Marie-Nizier do well, they are active, hardworking and the latter especially is notable for politeness and cleanliness.
Several of the Fathers are short on clerical manners: Fathers Servant, Petit and Baty. Father Servant is doing fairly well with languages; he is always ready to make quite worthwhile remarks to the English and New Zealand faithful. I employ him in helping me to produce extracts of Catholic doctrine and hymns for our beloved catechumens and neophytes; He is a bit overweight, this dear confrère, but his partial deafness and his lack of manners prevent me from involving him in the beginnings of the missions. Soon, I hope, I will send him on a journey to the tribes.
Father Petit is great-hearted, but has not much ability for languages, however he is beginning to make himself understood in English and in the New Zealand language. As he had more time in religious life than the others and was familiar with a few manual trades, I entrusted the mission procure house to him and the responsibility for ensuring the observance of the religious rule of the Society in the mission, but in one respect or another he seems to me to be so lacking that I am thinking of sending him amongst the Kaipara tribes to work there for the salvation of the natives; it’s what he has been wanting too zealously to do for a long time. Father Epalle will come and replace him at the Bay of Islands, where we need representation, cleanliness, good order, and with those things compel recognition of ourselves a little by preaching and especially by good manners towards the prominent people who live here. So Father Epalle will be responsible, at the Bay of Islands, for setting up the mission, the procure house and the rule for all the religious. As for me, alas, of whom perfection is required and who is worth as much as the least of your novices, I have no particular mission to direct, I am responsible for all of them, I show myself in each; I go afar to get the tribes to turn to the faith and afterwards I send some of our men there. Fear not, dear Father, on account of your children; I have had the consolation up to now of going before them everywhere and of having spent the first few days there where your men are working at present. Everywhere, on their arrival, they find people who know the main ideas of religion, who have little books from which they read their morning and evening prayers and sing the great hymn about God [the Te Deum]. Now we have translated the litanies of the Blessed Virgin into the New Zealand language, which is as well fitted to plainchant as Latin, and the people sing them in such a way as makes me weep very gentle tears.
To get back to telling you about your children, I thought I detected in several, on their arrival here, signs of wanting to have a Superior in matters concerning the rule, an idea which seemed especially taken on by those who went through the mission of those Picpus priests or elsewhere. Remarks were made to me that gave me the idea that I was seen as someone outside the Congregation. I was sensitive to that before the Lord only, I pretended not to pay attention to what was being said to me; I was a bit surprised nonetheless that it was new men whom I had not formerly known in the Congregation. I wouldn’t know how to defend myself over that matter, I believe intimately that my love for Our Lord and his divine Mother is not only imagined, and that I am not only unworthy of the Cross, the heavy Cross of the episcopacy, but also of the priesthood and of religion itself. With these thoughts I soon acted to put the rule of the Congregation in the hands of one of my confrères with the responsibility of getting it observed. I leave to the good God and to Mary the task of deciding whether I had been a member of the Congregation and whether I was still. None of these difficulties troubles me, if they were added up, they would have been such as to remove that intimate union of hearts and affection which must bind a clergy to the Bishop who leads them, but none of my confrères was able to perceive that my decision had for its motives the thoughts that I discovered; I suggested to them that there were others not less real and more just, arising from the burden of my work in the mission. They are at present generally strongly united, strongly attached and strongly devoted to their Bishop. All these difficulties added to those which the enemies of God and the Church arouse against me here in a country in which all Hell seemed to be rising up against such a poor servant of Jesus Christ as I am, and so far from the Holy See, the light, the pillar and support of the children of the Church, all these difficulties, I say, far from repressing my spirit, have become through the work of my God’s grace, a source of consolations such that I have never ever known but here, so far away. I enjoy myself as much in my mission journeys in New Zealand, and in all the dangers I experience there, almost as if I were in heaven. I do not know of, nor can I imagine any pleasure greater than that of suffering for Jesus Christ and the cause of his holy Church. I have the happiness in my heart that everything I have done in the way of plans and work for this mission and for the Congregation in my time here, has not been driven by ambition, but to please God, and for the good of souls. But whatever happens and whatever may become of it, I will always cherish the Society of Mary, for whose good I first accepted this very mission in which I have had more happiness in the Lord than I have had in my whole life. We are no longer in the time when minds remained faithful to the authorities that the Lord gave them; religious and civil Protestantism is the principal vice of our unfortunate times; under the charms of liberty people go to their destruction both in the future life and in the present life; for spiritual sicknesses as for bodily ones, opposites are needed; so we have to reunite minds and hearts to the source of their life which is God, in himself and in authority. People resist the powers, we have to join them and draw them along with us. Nations, individuals and corporations are inclined to separate themselves entirely from obedience to the authority of the Church, or even to make of it something according to their own desire. Let us prefer to sin to an opposite excess, if I can put it like that; so, in my opinion, in the meeting of the interests of the authority of the Holy See, and of that of the episcopacy and of religious orders, we need not balance them; we need to sacrifice those of the latter for those of the former; these are life-giving sacrifices drawing down from above blessings of prosperity and salvation. Thinking like this, Reverend Father, I prefer for the foreign mission the rule of the Order of St Francis of Assisi to that of the dear Society of Jesus. St Francis of Assist wanted the men of the order who wanted to consecrate themselves to the foreign mission to be so free to follow their call from God that the Superior-General himself could not prevent them, and in apostolic work the religious are almost completely in the hands of the episcopacy, whether the bishops of their own order or others, although they are exempt from bishops who are not members of religious orders. Do not think, dear Father, that I am speaking like this because I am a Bishop, but because I am considering the matter in principle and in the context of the times in which we live. I do not see here that God is blessing very much the work of some people who have ideas opposed to this, and have brought with them rules of the Congregation neighbouring this mission.[5] Each body has its spirit, just as each tree has its fruit: the fruit trees are all good, but one is not destined to bear the fruit of the other. Once we are in the hands of the Holy Father, the governor of the Church, let us do what he prefers and in the way he prefers in the circumstances of our time. In the greatest good of the whole flock of Jesus Christ is found the greatest good of the Society itself, that is, quite special blessings of the invisible, supreme and good Pastor. I think I am pleasing you during this long evening during which I am writing, telling you my thoughts; whether they are those that God wants carried out or whether they are not, counts little for me; it is for him that I voice them and find them in my soul; I have everything to gain and nothing to lose. I only beg this good master that not only the good of our Society be brought about, but its greatest good; because it is the same for religious bodies, as it is for a soul and a body, or what is called a moral person; God often has in store several spiritual blessings for souls, and sometimes, alas, instead of acquiring the greatest, they only obtain from his goodness one of a lower order.
Father Servant and Father Baty would be the two who showed a little prejudice against me in respect of my position in relation to the Congregation, but I believe they have now pretty much resiled from that. However it would be unfortunate for the mission and for the good of heartfelt union in Our Lord, that men were so disposed, because even if they were strong subjects and obtained success in their own work, which God does not usually grant in that situation, their Vicar-Apostolic cannot make them men able to share his intimate trust, and as a result does not give them serious responsibilities which they would be able to fulfil fruitfully (if they were of another mind) for the good of the flock and so the pastor prefers someone among his helpers who is less talented, but more blessed by God in clerical solidarity. May religious life, which of its nature is inferior to priesthood, but an excellent way of perfecting oneself in this sublime calling, make priests more clerical, if possible, and, as a result, more respectful, more devoted, more united in submission and love for the bishops, the first pastors in the Church of God, than the good secular priests in dioceses. Right now I am planning to appoint a prefect-apostolic for New Zealand, whom I will choose from the priests in charge of the five stations set up there. With that in mind I am waiting until I know the men well in terms of their work, their skills and their clerical dispositions. I am also waiting for many reinforcements, Reverend Father, so that once this prefect has been appointed, I can devote my time and my resources to the mission and another prefecture-apostolic in some of the island groups in the tropical zone. Up till now I have been carrying out the tasks of a prefect-apostolic of New Zealand myself.
I have sent Father Chevron and Brother Attale to Father Chanel, so he can do with them what he decides is good in that situation, for Wallis and Futuna. I thought I would see Father Bataillon and Brother Marie-Nizier, here at the Bay of Islands. I had asked for them, for some time, but the ship has not yet returned.[6] You must have received news about these dear confrères by long letters from them and from me. These two missions, I have reason to think, are developing and the missionaries are doing well under the protection of Mary our lovable mother. In your dear and precious letters you tell me, Reverend Father, that you are very concerned about your children in Wallis and Futuna, and that you neither approve nor disapprove of the division I have made of my confrères in several places in my jurisdiction. Alas! Just put my feat of strength down to active intolerance of heresy which, once it has forestalled us, bars us from entering places it has moved into. Put down the reason for it as well, dear Father, not to my faith in the success of the Society of Mary in France which, when we left, was, as it were, in its cradle, because that could not be an object of faith, but to my great confidence that God would bless it and that it would send me many men whom I awaited here within six or seven months of our arrival on the battlefield. As I had asked you for them by letters that I had written you more than three months earlier from Valparaiso, I was confident to see them get here in the time I have just spoken of. But alas! the good God allowed seventeen months to pass by here, so far away, without any sign of life from Europe, we being out of money, and in the midst of all sorts of harassment and attacks from hell. Alas! dear Father, God alone knows all we have had to endure. If only it pleased him to give me wings to fly to Lyons and bring to a halt all counsels for delay and excessive prudence which you have been fraternally given, even by our bishops of Lyons and Belley, according to what I have been told. Please, Reverend, excuse my way of speaking; I am not wanting to admonish you, rather I want to talk to you frankly and tell you what I believe to be the mind of God for the good of the mission and for the glory and wellbeing of our Congregation. See in my unworthiness in my pastoral responsibilities, the ministry of the Holy Father himself; in my requests, his requests; in my comments about my flock, his comments in my voice, not his formal declarations of the truth, but advice which is hard to contradict, because I am on the spot or near the spot where Jesus Christ has sent me, and for which by the sole fact of my lawfully being sent he has given me special graces which other bishops or even less, respectable men, old in the priesthood, cannot have for this mission; in the same way as they have them in a much greater way than I for their dioceses and their parishes. If I had been at Lyons, very dear Father, at the time you received my letters from Valparaiso, straight away I would have begged you to grant me prompt allocations for dispatching more men, whom I would have sent after the others to find them living or dead, and to start, if necessary, at another place in the mission territory than the one where the first comers had experienced the triumph of failure or being sacrificed. You were told: wait for news of the first group, but from such a distance letters take a long time to arrive; they can get lost on the way, and, as well, in countries not often visited communications are rare. So what would the first men do if their work developed without its being noticed or if they were short of resources amongst harassment and persecution? So nothing is more appropriate than sending men as soon as possible following the requests made by the Vicar-Apostolic; and besides, as the places are far distant, many months pass between requests, the departures of new men, and their arrival in the mission.
People could say as well: if the first men have perished in a shipwreck, we have to wait for news about it. It is enough to have sacrificed these men, we must aim at not sacrificing new men. To all of that I would say: the Holy Father has allocated the vineyard, it is Jesus Christ who gave it, but it is rare that this so loving a master calls all the vinedressers to heaven so soon, and allows the sea to swallow them all up, rather than bringing them to the places he is sending them. Besides, dare I say, if by some remote chance he allowed all the first group to be drowned and the second comers suffered the same fate, the Society would be happy; it exists only to offer God victims and chosen ones in Heaven; the more sacrifices of men it makes, the more God will enrich with it with new children! Ah, can anyone lose out, in dying for Jesus Christ and for his beloved friends? Isn’t that the happiest fate? How precious is dying in the Lord’s combats! When will he find us worthy of this? Mihi mori lucrum[7] [for me to die is gain]. Ah, may a child of Mary never fear death, nor the foreign missions, where so often it seems to threaten you and grant you the beautiful crown of the apostolate! May our common motto be that of the heart of Jesus, which has brought about our redemption. Ego ponam animam meam pro ovibus meis[8] [I will lay down my life for my sheep]. I am sure, Reverend Father, that your heart has suffered a great deal at not having received sooner news from the places of our trials, but it has suffered even more from being constrained by advice of too great a sensitivity so as not to send support and help which only heaven alone with me in particular saw to be necessary.
I can tell you, dear Father, that the mission is still affected by the first delay in sending men to New Zealand. That delay has been followed by another unavoidable effect, which is not being able to employ in the sacred ministry, for four or five months after their arrival, the men who needed to learn the languages beforehand, with the result that I have found myself pretty much alone for two years in developing the work of the mission in this island which is so huge; Father Servant helped me to the best of his ability in looking after the station’s house, where the natives, full of good will, came also to receive instructions from him. Now, thanks be to Our Lord, all of our men are beginning to work in an area about 140 leagues [c. 700 km] long and 30 [c 150 km] wide which I was able to travel through up till now; that is to say from Mangonui[9] in the north to Opotiki in the south, and from the east coast to the west. To give some inkling of my situation, here is how it has been: when I arrived in New Zealand I found hundreds of heretical ministers everywhere in the island I was starting on; we did not know how to say anything at the start, they had had a mastery of the New Zealand tongue for a long time; they had fine printing presses, at least two in this North Island; I was surrounded, only a short distance away, by five or six establishments of their many stations; their books and leaflets were circulating everywhere, they were burning with new zeal to travel through the tribes on all sides to preach to their few faithful sheep and to warn against me even those who without earlier having wanted to follow their teaching, were still in idolatry; their host of calumnies and lies against the Church and against the Bishop in particular tended to arouse the people and to get our throats cut at any moment. England’s non-Catholic policies had taken umbrage at a dumb Bishop and priest who could not speak a word of the country’s language. The English Catholics themselves advised me to go away, and to leave this mission to the English Catholic bishop in Sydney. It was hard to be able with good reasons, but only with difficulty expressed in English, to convince them of their weakness of spirit – they could understand my English but only a little of my reasoning, in which I showed that I could very well have myself represented in the places under my jurisdiction, but not to give myself superiors there, that I would still have responsibility for them whatever I did, that it was only the Pope who had the power to extend the jurisdiction of a neighbouring Vicar-Apostolic over his confrère’s territory; every day there echoed in our ears the sounds of persecution, annoying misinformation, calculated to disgust one about the country, or to make one leave it, or cause one to die there from weariness. As well, fear was created among the tribes which wanted to hear my teaching, that they would be subjected to a war of extermination by other tribes that were more numerous and stronger, to the point that the chiefs of the former tribes in their apprehension asked me for up to 400 soldiers from my country to defend them if they were attacked. During all this time of three or four months, while throwing ourselves into the arms of the Lord under Mary’s protection, we were desperately learning English and the New Zealand languages, and hardly having grasped this latter enough to make myself understood, I began the attack or, rather, warded off the blows while going through the close by and distant tribes to get them to turn to the Catholic faith, to nourish them with the hope of soon receiving other legitimate priests who would teach them in great numbers at the same time, and finally to disperse their fears about war brought from other tribes on account of their faith, so that when they found many [people] turned to the Catholic Church, they began to silence all those rumours of intended wars. But meanwhile, what is to be done? With funds exhausted, surrounded by the hatred of some, the dislike of others among the Europeans, and the extreme poverty of the natives, alas, God knows! So what am I doing talking about all these things? Where am I getting to? You will see, Reverend Father, my conclusions, whether they are just, and whether today I do not make you again take pity on our mission and all our missionaries.
Right now in the area of this mission outlined above, there are about 150 tribes and 25,000 to 27,000 souls who have turned to the Catholic faith; there are some to whom I have been promising a priest for about 20 months since I left them; the little instruction that I have given them has excited their desires for the holy word; the hopes that I have aroused in them are weakening, while leaving them in a sort of frustration with me, which does not satisfy their desires; I have only seven priests for all that work, and I am the eighth. The tribes are widely separated from each other, heresy is harassing them; several of the natives, though few in number up till now, have already given in because of my delays, and for this reason too, that it is preferable to have English missionaries than none at all. The savages are not at all like those people, cultured in knowledge and arts, that the Apostles evangelised; soon, in their footsteps, priests and bishops came into existence, because the knowledge of salvation found minds with enough ability; but the savages are great children whose judgment is quite sound in many matters but whose morals are weak, whose understanding is slow for lack of exercise on anything purely spiritual. Memory is not well served when reasoning is difficult; it is not possible for me here to make priests among them as did the apostles, not even perhaps within 20 years from now; definitely in this huge mission, we need a numerous clergy taken from the ancient Catholic nations.
Do not fear, Reverend Father, that the unity of this mission can be harmed by admitting other priests than those of the Society. The rule for our interior perfection is one thing, the pastoral ministry for the salvation of my flock is another. In this respect there is always unity between the Bishop and whoever works within the limits of his jurisdiction. Reverend Father, find for me, or have found for me all devoted priestly and lay subjects who have, along with good will, a calling to the apostolate or to share in it, and then send them all to me. I would need two or three English priests, and then all the Marist priests I asked you for in my first letter, and if you cannot bring about this dispatch all at once, may it at least be organised within two years. As organiser in France for this mission, try to get a priest of Mary with strong mind, experienced and holy as the deacon Poupinel with whom I can reason as with yourself. We need veterans in the first men responsible for the missions. Forgive me, Reverend Father, for my freedom of expression, excuse me as well for a few lines of an earlier letter which could have saddened you,[10] although I was only trying to get you to share my feelings, martyred by consideration of my sheep, prey at any moment to heresy and lacking priests and help to save them from danger and to rebuff its efforts and blows. How many times did I say at that time, complaining bitterly to the Lord; what is going on in France? What has become of the Society of Mary? Does it exist? How can it be that I am getting neither help nor men, nor any sign of life? If delay continues, our successors will find nothing but our bones and they will have to resurrect an aborted work which however right now gives such reasons for hope! Alas! Forgive me, Reverend Father, I had something of a bad attitude against you and against the whole Society.
Now you see clearly what we need: to bring in the harvest as we should, I would need a priest and a Brother to make use of, almost every week. Here are the skills that the Brothers need to have: joinery, carpentry, architecture; secondly weavers, cloth-makers, tailors, a few farmers, and some shoemakers as well; but large numbers of carpenters and joiners; schoolteachers similarly; the industrial sector of this mission is in real difficulty. Our Brothers are not even numerous enough for the service of the priests in the stations. I have very much of a grudge against Reverend Father Champagnat because in the last dispatch there was only one Brother for four priests; I will forgive him for that only if on the next dispatch he sends at least two of them for each priest.[11] Oh, beloved Fathers of the Society of Mary, have pity on me and on my sheep, who are hardly more strangers to you than to me. From afar, along with me here, gather numerous children for the Catholic Church, our common mother, and new servants for Mary.
How impatiently am I awaiting this dispatch which a letter from Father Poupinel informed me was to leave last October. For two months I have been waiting for them here at the Bay, and they have not yet come.
Please make very clear our need for allocations to the Propagation of the Faith: here there is no money to be got from the Europeans who are largely Protestant, and nothing either from the natives who are poor and half naked; I have to provide for everything; if there is a delay of two or three months more, I, with my men, will be in the situation we are already beginning to be in, in a position of compulsory sale; that is, that we would be forced to sell some of the station’s land. Here is what can help form an estimate of the needs of this expensive and very difficult mission: each priest needs (and it is pretty much the same for the Brothers, with the exception of this first one) 1) for his equipment on departure from France 1800f [c. ₤72], 2) for his fare on ship 1700f [c. ₤68], 3) for his housing in the mission, that is, for the station’s house up to a total of 3000f [c. ₤120], a third supposing another priest and a Brother, 1000f [c. lb40]; 4) for bed and board 1000f [c. ₤40]. All this is a minimum, which for each priest for the first year from his departure amounts to 5900f [c. ₤256];[12] then the later years, when the property is in place and there is no voyage from Europe to be made nor house to erect, would demand no more than 1000f [c. ₤40]. Here everything is very expensive, at least twice or three times the prices in France. Let us now add, for the use of the whole mission, the expenses of sailing a supposed vessel belonging to the same mission – it will demand between 15,000 and 18,000 francs per year [c. ₤600 - ₤720] – I mean for sailing only within the mission, to sail to the islands and visit all the stations which are going to be created; the vessel will always be in use.
During the second dispatch of priests there was bought – the cost shared equally with Bishop Rouchouze and me – by Father Baty who on going through the Gambier Islands arranged the matter with Father Maigret, the pro-vicar; there was bought a schooner[13] which having arrived in my mission could not be used, both because if it wasn’t well managed it was at risk of capsizing at sea, as almost happened twice during the journey made by Father Baty’s group, and because the captain and the crew having frequently got drunk I was forced to dismiss them all, and so found myself without a captain. Then I sold it for 15,000f [c. ₤600], which is what it cost. But as I have no opportunity here to send half of this sum to Bishop Rouchouze, could you, Reverend Father, please send to the Reverend Father Superior-General of the Picpus Congregation in Paris,[14] for the mission of Eastern Oceania, the sum of 7500f [c. ₤300] which you would deduct from the funds allocated to our mission.
To get a ship solely for the use of this same mission will involve a cost of 20,000 to 22,000f [c. ₤800 - ₤880]. I am awaiting funds for that really keenly, because without those, we cannot develop our strength and our watchfulness and be able to communicate. The money you have sent me up till now has been used up by building the first stations, where I have had to provide everything: cost of land, house, chapel. That has crushed me. One ship cannot be used for two missions in Oceania.
In their tribes the natives have made little chapels for themselves out of reeds, but for the main stations something better is needed which involves at least 5000f [c. ₤200]. We have perhaps about thirty native chapels. There are only about two hundred baptised[15] but to be able to spend a month in each tribe would be enough to find an appropriate number of catechumens to receive baptism; the mission has lost in strength what it has gained in extent. I am pretty well the only one who can give you this opinion without proving it to you: it would take too long,[16] perhaps, and you could[17] come to that conclusion yourself from all I have just written in the two nights I have spent [in writing]. New Zealand is an island which must be overcome all at once or at least very quickly – or not touched at all: if new men do not come, heresy will perhaps finally take it over and be the ruin of it. All our hard work would be like a sword-stroke in the water. May God wish the contrary, given the supposition that not enough men would come [Dieu veuille le contraire, posée la supposition qu’il ne viendroit pas assez de sujets]… O Jesus, O lovable and good shepherd, have pity on my poor souls who are so much loved by you. O Mary, O most powerful mistress, send workers into your vineyard![18]
Farewell, Reverend and beloved Father.
Your most humble and obedient servant,
J(ean) B(aptiste) François, Bishop Vic(ar) Ap(ostolic) of Western Oceania
(in the margin and across the page)
PS As I did not know when I began this long letter that I could write all I have told you, you can use this letter no longer subject to the reservations which I put at the beginning, but according to your discretion publicise the sections which may interest the associates of the Propagation of the Faith and the Society of Mary. But be silent about anything involving politics and concerning the watchfulness of the Church. How I regret not being able to write at this time to dear Father Cholleton and to His Lordship the Archbishop and to many other dear and numerous people. I do not forget them: I am waiting for M Perret.[19] My best wishes to all those women who know me and who ask for news of me. I am asking M Viennot and his friends[20] for a fine organ for my church in the Bay of Islands or elsewhere. The blessing God on everyone and on the Fathers and on the Sisters who often tell me nothing, and on the Brothers and on other Sisters etc etc
+ J(ean) B(aptiste) F(ranç)ois


  1. Thomas Paulinus Heptonstall, a Benedictine monk (cf Doc 184 [21]), also see CS Doc 89 [3]
  2. Cf Luke 10:4: et neminem per viam salutaveritis
  3. Didier Numa Joubert, a French merchant, went through Sydney in 1837, came back and settled there in 1839. During his stay in New Zealand, he married Louise (Lise), the daughter of Charles Bonnefin, at Kororareka. From 1841 to 1843, and again after 1846, he was associated with Jeremiah Murphy in business in Sydney. In 1846 he bought a 120-acre block of land at Hunter’s Hill in the suburbs of Sydney; with his brother Jules he had it developed. (Cf Australian Dictionary of Biography Vol 4; A D Bio-on-line edition 2006)
  4. On the proclamation of British sovereignty in New Zealand, see Doc 52 [14] and the account of the event by Servant, Doc 52 [14-16]
  5. The Congregation of the Sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary (Picpus), responsible for the mission of Eastern Oceania.
  6. Concerning the Brother, Chanel explains the situation in his letter of 16 May 1840 to Colin: “The Bishop is asking me to send him Brother Marie-Nizier. God knows I want to do nothing against his orders. But the difficulty of the tracks on this island, and my feet which are injured right now, seem enough to allow me to keep him here.” (Rozier: Ecrits Chanel, p 284, Doc 59 [1])
  7. Cf Philippians 1:21. Mihi enim vivere Christus est, et mori lucrum (for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain)
  8. Cf John 10:15: et anhimana pono pro ovibus meis (and I will lay down my life for my sheep)
  9. Mangonui – east of Kaitaia
  10. See Pompallier’s rather bitter criticisms (Dos 29 [2], 30 [2], 37 [3, 6]
  11. Brother Attale (Jean-Baptiste Grimaud) was the only Brother in the 3rd group which included Fathers Chevron, Comte, Petit-Jean and Viard as well. The 4th group, already en route at this time, didn’t arrive until 11th July 1840 at the Bay of Islands (cf Docs 64 [1], 86 [3]) and included Brothers Claude-Marie (Jean Claude Bertand) and Amon (Claude Duperron) with Father Jean Pèzant and Jean-Anaré Tripe. Personal note by the translator: at the very time Pompallier was expressing his unhappiness with Father Champagnat, the latter was in his final illness, dying only 23 days after – on 6 June 1840)
  12. All the figures in this list (except the first – 1800f – seem to have been changed, but it is impossible to read what the author wrote first. The total of 5900 could represent the result of adding up the originally-written figures. The true sum of 5500 is indicated in the summary of this letter (Doc 60 [45])
  13. Cf Doc 32 [1]
  14. Pierre-Raphael-Marcellin Bonamie, a Picpus missionary, Archbishop of Smyrna from 1835-1837, resigned in 1837, then appointed Bishop of Chalcedon, after having been elected Superior-General of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts (of Picpus), a post he occupied until his retirement in 1853.
  15. (Note at foot of page) Four retractions by Protestants and four professions religions [perhaps ‘professions of faith’ ? - translator’s note]
  16. Au long should be read as trop long, according to the editor.
  17. ‘come to that conclusion yourself’ – omitted but implied (editor)
  18. Adaptation of Luke 10:2: Rogate Dominum messis ut mittat operarios in messem suam (Pray to the Lord of the harvest that he send workers into his harvest)
  19. Louis Perret, lay missionary, tertiary Brother of Mary, arrived at the Bay of Islands 13th September 1841 (cf Doc 163 [1]); believing that he was of no use on the mission and discouraged, he left New Zealand 3rd June 1842 to return to France via Valparaiso (cf Doc 184 [42])
  20. No doubt the tertiary Brothers of Mary. Jean-François Viennot was one of them before becoming a Marist priest (cf Doc 163 [5]); Pompallier had been their director in Lyons up to the spring of 1836.

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