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30 August 1840 — Bishop Jean-Baptiste-François Pompallier to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Bay of Islands

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, April-May 2012

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

St Mary’s Mission, New Zealand, Bay of Islands

30 August 1840

To Reverend Father Colin, Superior-General of the Society of Mary, Lyons, France

Very Reverend and most beloved Father,
The peace of Christ.
Today I am sending you a lot of letters: several will enrich the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith and will be a source of great edification. I have no need to ask for the one which Father Chevron writes to one of his relatives[1] to be published, and in which he does hardly more than present the diary of his journey from the Bay of Islands to the islands in the tropics: it will be, without fear of contradiction, one of the most interesting letters which has, up till now, appeared in the Annals; it will demonstrate some of the trials we experience in our mission, and which we often don’t have the time to describe; and God’s and Our Lady’s powerful protection over us. I have hardly had the time to read this one, that of Father Bataillon and some from Father Chanel. Both of them ask you for several things for their missions which I certainly approve of. Besides, by the very fact that I am sending their letters concerning the vast flock which has been entrusted to me, and that they submit them to me before they are sent on, is a proof of my approval. Nonetheless care should be taken to send everything to the Procure house, which is now in the Bay of Islands, as you know, and that is for unity in the pastoral administration of this mission, unity being the soul of success. Here I make myself responsible for having distributed, according to each mission’s needs, what the charity of the faithful sends me. I only approve of the requests made in particular cases in this sense, that I can distribute them for the good of one station or another, according as, by being here on the spot, I see that as being more appropriate. Father Bataillon is requesting from you a little printing press: I am adding personally, in addition to what he says “and a perfect press”, because we are really poorly off in this matter, compared to the [Protestant] missionaries, or, rather, the henchmen of heresy. It is a delight to see the beauty of their printing, their pamphlets in thousands; for workmanship they leave nothing to be desired. I blush, here, at distributing my little catechisms[2] consisting of only 8 papers. When our newly-baptised compare these catechisms, or, rather, when the natives associated with the other missionaries compare their pamphlets with ours, our newly-baptised are ashamed. Alas, in many cases that has brought about bad impressions among our natives or newly-baptised. How much therefore is it to be desired that we have good printing presses; we need three of them; that is, two for New Zealand and one for the tropical region.
I have been told that in Lyons people have seen the clothes given by the faithful for the natives who are our newly-baptised as childish. That is, no doubt, the reason why, with the last two dispatches of missionaries there have been hardly any clothes for the natives. However I have noticed that clothes to be sent to our natives are written down in the notes I have sent to the congregation. The missionaries who came in the second dispatch brought us a pretty good amount of them, and they told me as well that they had left behind a lot at St Ètienne which had been given them for the mission, and having not been able to take them all, they had left them stored at St Ètienne waiting for the next dispatches of our missionaries. It has been annoying that alms given as clothes have not got to us. Has it been forgotten that on the last day Our Lord will open heaven to those who having clothed the least of his own on earth, in fact, in their persons, clothed him?[3] There are the greatest graces attached to this sort of almsgiving for the benefit of savages, both for those who give the alms and for those who receive them. I can say from experience that a good number of them who were better disposed to receive the faith and Christian virtues, were not able to resist the good effects of grace when they saw the love the Church has for its neighbours, in the persons of our newly-baptised, whom they saw being clothed, by the Bishop and his missionaries. Now these savages who were so hard to convert follow their lessons in faith with the docility of lambs. Yes, among all the means of achieving success in missions among savages, there is none more effective than showing them material charity. Besides, in this way they are taught Christian modesty, then they respond in gratitude for the least valuable thing they have been given; they take delightful pleasure in bringing you their gifts of all sorts of food, which is a great saving for the mission, and, a much more important thing, is that they warmly hold you in affection and as a result are much more ready to be open to our teaching of religion. I found that the Picpus missionaries in the Gambier Islands had so aroused the charity of the faithful in France, through the help of the confrères in Paris, that they had been able to clothe all their natives. But what I will note here, again with care, is that people take care not to embroider on clothing that is sent, pious symbols, such as crosses, hearts, things with religious meaning, so as not to bring on our newly-baptised the ridicule of Protestant Europeans. And as well, pious things should not be scattered about everywhere too much in profane situations. Apart from that, we will receive everything with real gratitude: clothing old and new, already worn, remnants of material, cloth, old blankets, in a word, everything that would be disdained in France. Everything is good for our beloved people, provided it is not too bad.
Wait no longer for letters from me asking you to send me men for my mission; you will never be able to provide me as many as the urgent needs here require. Send as many of them as you can, a hundred at once, if you have them, and let there always be as many Brothers as priests; among the trades to be chosen from; let the number of joiners, carpenters and weavers be more than the rest, then tailors etc etc etc, one or two doctors, one or two architects would be really needed. We suffer very greatly in the mission from a shortage of Brothers, and Brothers who are really suitable and well trained for the missions. At the beginnings of missions the temporal and industrial aspect has unimaginable results among the savages in terms of salvation. And all the men, until further notice, should go to the mission directly to the Bay of Islands, without stopping or working anywhere else.
Send me, very dear Father, men with a solid vocation, and trained in their manners, that is to say, with a good education. In these regions we are surrounded by Europeans, who are more difficult than is the case in France. There are not too many here, apart from Father Viard, who do well in this respect, and he wins for himself esteem, affection and trust from everyone and from all the natives; he has all the qualities of a fine priest, he does very well and I am very happy with him. God blesses what he does in a wonderful way. May religious life increase, or at least preserve well, the virtues, the spirit and all the clerical qualities. A priest who is well formed in his character, in his manners and his modesty, careful in his speech, who has a judicious goodness, considerate and easy-going ways, who is always ready to enlighten his neighbour, who opens up to him his problems, his difficulties, his sufferings, will do well in the missions. On the other hand, people who are self-important, cold, narrow in view, taciturn, sad, ill at ease, abrupt, too much given to a piety which strains the spirit, which causes annoyance, is hostile to mixing with people of polite society, or at least to the rules of etiquette which fairly often require of us behaviour showing a good education, all these sorts of people, I say, will have little success in the missions. Those who are too sensitive, too readily carried away by imagination, too readily upset amidst the host of opportunities of being so, by the faults and vices of the local people, can sometimes see everything in the wrong way, or at least on the dark side, whereas success would be quite close with more patience and constancy. Indeed, you have to keep truly united with God to understand people’s minds and to see what he is asking of them with his grace, in order not to get interiorly frustrated because things aren’t going as quickly as you would like, and that the fruits of faith do not sometimes correspond, in certain souls, with the trouble you have taken over them. Yes, very much loved Father, may all the men you send us be truly dead to themselves, be victims truly sacrificed to God; men of mediocre virtue would resist only with difficulty the multitude of temptations presented by vice or nature which can be met in the mission, in the difficulties, the crosses, in the distractions arising from the work, which overwhelm one, in all sorts of mortifications of the will, which God himself, without Superiors having anything to do with it, does not fail to send them often; there are no sorts of work like the missions for demanding more universal and more indifferent obedience and a love of neighbour which is more patient, more indulgent, more zealous, more mortifying, so as to make yourself all things to all men,[4] in spite of all differences in character, all the faults, customs and usages of so many peoples in different nations. Alas! well respected and beloved Father, among all the consolations and all the good news you receive from it, there are crosses and many heavy crosses, there are dangers of many sorts; I have the consolation of enduring them for the sacred cause of Jesus Christ, our good Master; all those crosses and dangers that St Paul talks about, can be met here in Oceania. But alas, the danger which is hardest to bear is the one from false brethren.[5] As you feel no less sensibly than myself the crosses which I have in this mission, today you are going to experience for the first time a very bitter one of them which happened to me this year, in New Zealand; here it is: may the Lord lighten it for you through his peace and kindness: the so-called Brother Amon, surnamed Dupéron,[6] an active young man, with a great deal of ability in his trade as a baker, disembarked here in the Bay of Islands with his heart filled with bitterness against the two priests, and especially against Father Pèzant, with whom he had come from France on the corvette L’Aube.[7] The first thing he asked me for on arriving, was some clothes from his belongings so he could find a job in the new colony of this country. That very greatly distressed me – I wanted to know the whole story, and I found that although Father Pèzant had been somewhat unwise on the ship in the penances he had given him for his failings, and in his way of directing religious on the sea voyage, the subject nevertheless was very weak in virtue appropriate to religious life, and seemed to me very bumptious, stubborn, full of himself, and very doubtful in his vocation from the time of his entry into religious life. If I can find the letter he wrote to me, I will send it to you enclosed in this one. However, so as not to act too hastily in the matter concerning this poor young man, although he deserved to be dismissed on the spot, I tried to reason with him. He listened to my advice quite well, then I got him to agree to live with me for a month, so that everything could be maturely considered and not to withdraw from the mission and the congregation after a rush of blood to the head. He agreed and I put him to doing the cooking for the station at the Bay of Islands, where I live; he did his work well and was devoted to me personally, but that was all; I saw with regret that he was not carrying out his religious obligation, he had accepted my advice at the beginning only because of deference, and not really to change his feelings towards the congregation. After a month’s stay in the house, he came and asked me the same thing as at the beginning. He completely opened himself up to me in a letter he wrote to me and particularly in a long conversation that I had with him. Seeing that in some way he did not fail in his vocation, because he had never had a true one, I allowed him to leave, and go and look for a job in the district. I exhorted him to at least not endanger his own salvation, I blessed for him a cross and a rosary which he promised me to always keep, and he got a situation as a cook with a caterer in Kororareka, a Protestant in religion, but Dupéron firmly promised me to carry out there his essential duties of religion. So there is one less child of the Society of Mary! Alas! May he become and remain a living member of holy Church, our mother! I have been really distressed over all that. Poor Father Pèzant was too inexperienced to direct the Brothers on the sea voyage. Our missionaries must show a lot of condescension and fatherly affection for our dear Brothers, who are on ways of humility and manual work, often concerned solely with the service of the Fathers. I sincerely ask Father Champagnat to select good subjects among the Brothers for me; it isn’t even in the younger group, that is, those who are mediocre and beginners in virtue and skills, but those among the elite who should be sent to me. I say the same regarding the priests. Why do I no longer see well-established members of the Society coming? Those who are coming have hardly finished their novitiate in the Society. Allow me, beloved Father, to speak to you frankly and with an open heart, as I would like to be spoken to myself in similar situations; for the good of the works of the mission, which are, properly understood, the good of the congregation itself. I think it would be very beneficial to have a missionary from here, whom I would send you so as to be, among your administration, solely concerned with the mission, to help you choose all the subjects you would send me, to correspond with me here, without in any way lessening your concern for us, your care, and especially your dear and helpful letters. For my part, I would ask you for one of our old confrères, with plenty of experience of religious life, to direct all our missionaries and catechists in their holy state. This would be his main and pretty well exclusive responsibility in the mission; he would have a fair amount to do, and even, as I hope, with subjects becoming many later on, there would need to be two or three Fathers to act as spiritual visitors or Provincials, to maintain throughout all the little legion of Mary in Oceania, which is the safest way of assuring successes and victory in our works and our struggles. As for me, a wretched Vicar-Apostolic, who, after having abandoned everything in the world to win savages for Jesus Christ and his holy Church, I will never be able to forget the collaborators and confrères of the same Society; their perfection and their calling being considered as I consider them, and as, according to the faith, they should be considered, that is to say, concerning the subjects and their works, I can only have the greatest zeal preserving and increasing these two precious things. But alas, very dear Father, it is not possible for me to give you, who are so far away, an idea of the works overwhelming me, finding myself still alone in being able to use both English and the New Zealand language in preaching, hearing confessions and attending to all the many and continual dealings that the mission demands, in its relations with so many people, so many temporal authorities, so many organisations of every sort. However, I am truly helped by our confrères who, except for, certainly, the most recently arrived, have a fairly good grasp of the New Zealand language, but not, well enough, English. But the more we continue, the further goes the mission as well, and the interior and spiritual direction of the subjects becomes morally impossible for me. I can only promise you to see that the Rule is carried out, through exterior observation and through a great devotion to the dear Society of Mary. Right now I am going on as before, since the subjects are not very many and there is, with me here, a priest whom I make specially responsible for the maintenance of the Rule: Father Epalle. But alas! As the subjects in general have not enough knowledge and experience, in actual fact, of the religious state. The older ones who came with me on the first despatch had not made a novitiate, and then those who came later mostly hadn’t completed it. Anyway, Reverend Father, I am pleased to see that the religious spirit is maintained on the mission. But be sure that here is not the place where it is possible to easily do a religious novitiate; everything that is part of it must have been done before coming, so as to start on the way of apostolic work in full flight.
But, very dear Father, I haven’t yet described the whole of the cross I have had to carry this year; it has been made much more obvious to me through the loss of Dupéron. Alas, Brother Michel,[8] a young man who is too sensitive, too affectionate, too feminine in his character, has fallen into particular friendships here which have drawn suspicions on himself even outside the house, and then, into the theft of many things from the mission, and into hypocrisy. For more than two years he was a cross for me, because I could certainly see that the subject was morally in decline. I caught him out several times, giving little presents, signs of affection, to neighbours, and, in particular, to a young married woman. After having caught him out again and reprimanded him and many, many times severely punished him, then finally having threatened to expel him if he lapsed again, I kept my word on his next fall from grace, which involved receiving from a stranger a little jar of hair cream having sent it behind my back, with a letter, to a family he liked, that is to say, to a little girl and her mother, [(Added by the writer in the margin) it was this little jar of hair cream which revealed everything] then for having haggled over a shawl in order to buy it and send it, probably to the same person. Finally, he had hidden among his possessions, some neckerchiefs, some items of hardware, pieces of material etc etc, a sort of little glory box quite suitable for a wedding celebration, and this conduct happened while misleading the poor Fathers to whom he went to confession, since he approached the sacraments in a state violating his vows and even justice as well. I dismissed him without remission, since it was the third time he had fallen in such a pitiful manner. He has gone to working at his trade as a tailor five or six leagues [25-30 km] from the mission station and so is mixing with a number of the many Europeans who are arriving every day to colonise this country. The mission has not suffered in any way by this dismissal: God’s works do not get hurt by the elimination of members who make themselves unworthy of them. May the Lord have mercy on him: that is all I desire. I think that Father Champagnat will make a real effort to get a tailor to replace him, and to repair, by his exemplary conduct, the little injury done to the body of the Brothers.
I believe I informed you in an earlier letter that I bought a ship here for the mission, which cost me about 28,000 fr [c. £1120], including the cost of alterations. I really need sizeable and regular allocations from the Propagation of the Faith to support such great expenses, however a ship belonging exclusively to the mission is really something indispensable: without it, it is impossible to overcome heresy which is spreading with astonishing activity in all the islands of any jurisdiction. I wrote to you in the past, to order one from a M Le Normand[9] of Le Havre de Grace in France; and if you have done that, you can now have it sold at the port. You will no doubt get for it the same price as it will have cost you, and you could send me the funds; or, even better, if the ship is well and strongly built, put it to use for a dispatch of missionaries and things for the mission to the Bay of Islands, where, after having seen it, I will keep it if it is better than the one I have, and I will sell the last-mentioned one, or indeed, if this one is worth more than the one you send me, I will sell that and keep mine. It’s a real saving in shipping to buy ships, use them and sell them when you no longer need them.
I am sending you a copy of the spiritual rule (the one belonging to good Father Bret, who is now in heaven) which I had made for the mission at the beginning and in a provisional way until the congregation had decided something about this. I cannot recall whether I had sent it to you earlier. Whatever be the case, as you haven’t acknowledged receiving it in your letters, I am sending it to you; you will see how we are carrying on here, and after that you will decide what is appropriate to do in response to the information I give you.
Farewell, Very Reverend and very dear Father. Pray a great deal and get others to pray a lot for us and our work: with many subjects and a lot of material help, Oceania will soon belong to the Lord, and to Mary the Queen of the Church. I haven’t time to read over my letter, it is being awaited by a ship preparing to leave, it is fairly scribbled and done after 100 different re-starts. My greetings in Jesus and Mary to all the Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, who have never shown us any sign of life or any remembrance. I have neither the time nor the paper to mention anyone by name.
Your most humble and obedient servant
+J(ean) B(aptiste) François, Bishop of Maronea and Vic(ar) Ap(ostolic) of Western Oceania
PS (1) Even before I had received the letter you sent me, to pass on to me the stance of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda towards the buying of land in the mission area, I had bought some to provide for the stations which have been set up, without thinking that that could cause the least problem for the Holy See, because the Church always has earthly resources needed for the clergy. In other letters, and particularly in one I am going to write to his Eminence the Cardinal Prefect, I will mention everything the mission owns. You will be made aware of everything.
+ J B F
PS (2) So do not fail to send me M Perret, the architect. May there be work for him here! I am sending a note to guide the purchase of characters to be used in printing.
PS (3) I am sending you a note about the characters to be used in printing which are to be bought for us. You will find it included in this. Then a little account so as to insure in France the ship I have just bought.


  1. See doc 62
  2. According to the register drawn up by Herbert W Williams (A Bibliography of Printed Maori to 1900, p22), the complete title was “Ko, nga tahi Pono Nui o te Hahi Katorike Romana” . The copy listed comprises 8 papers and measures 140mm x 110mm. This “little catechism” comprises Catholic instructions, the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father, a little prayer service, a hymn, and, on the eighth page, syllables and figures (a way of teaching people to read). It no doubt dates from 1839.
  3. Matt 25:36-40
  4. Cf 1 Corinthians 9:22 (quoted Doc 62, [47] f/n 16)
  5. Cf 2 Corinthians 11:26 Journeys on foot often, dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from brothers of my own race, dangers from pagans, dangers in towns, dangers in deserts, dangers on the sea, dangers from false brethren!
  6. Brother Amon (Claude Duperron) (Cf doc 72 [5]). He would be mortally wounded in a hunting accident in December 1840 (Cf Docs 82 [2], 102 [1],; see also Docs 122 [17] f/n 5, 142 [1].
  7. With Brother Amon in the fourth group of missionaries were Fathers Jean-André Tripe and Jean Pèzant and Brother Claude Marie (Jean-Claude) Bertrand.
  8. This is the first mention of the problems of Brother Michel (Antoine Colombon), who had been among the first group of missionaries who had left Le Havre on 24 December 1836 (Cf Docs 1 [3,5], 24 [3,13], 27 [1,3], 28 [17]. In September 1838 Father Servant called him “good Brother Michel” (Doc 31 [2]). In June 1839, according to Father Baty, Brother Michel was convalescing at the Bay of Islands (Docs 32 [2] and 76 [2]. In August 1839 Pompallier said that Brother Michel was at Hokianga with Fathers Servant and Baty, and Brother Elie-Régis (Etienne Marin) (Doc 33 [7]). On 3 March 1840 the Brother accompanied Father Viard and the Bishop on a voyage along the coast of the North Island (Doc 51 [1])
  9. Cf Doc 36 [1, f/n 1]

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