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1 November 1840 - Father Louis-Maxime Petit to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Kororareka

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, July 2012

[Notes on this letter]
Its date is that which Father Poupinel gives it in the copy in his handwriting. However there are some signs allowing us to think that the letter was at least begun near the end of June 1839. Reasons for this idea: (1) It mentions the presence of Brother Michel at the Bay of Islands at the time the second group of missionaries arrives there and the observation that he was looking for “an opportunity to get back to the Bishop’s favour” [2], while it is known that in July or August 1840 Brother Michel was destitute and dismissed by Pompallier (Cf Docs 71 [5], 72 [3]. (2) The record of the details of the arrival (14 June 1839) lends to the belief that that part of the letter was written come time after the event. As well, apart from the mention of his arrival in this letter, the author does not speak about it in his letters of August 1839 and between January and April 1840 (Cf Docs 36, 48, 49, 51, 56, 57). (3) The mission stations allocated to the new missionaries ([2] at the end and [3] are precisely those decided by Pompallier “a few days after the arrival of our missionaries” (Doc 33 [7-8]); it is very noticeable that in June 1839 Fathers Epalle and Petit are at the Bay of Islands [3] but in March 1840 Father Epalle will be already settled in Whangaroa(Cf Doc 51 [7]). (4) Parallels can be found with the description of the arrival by Baty in his letter of June 1839 (Doc 32 [2-3]). So it seems that Petit could have begun this letter soon after his arrival at the Bay of Islands.

New Zealand, Bay of Islands, Kororareka
1st November 1840

Letter from Father Maxime Petit, missionary apostolic of the Society of Mary to the Very Reverend Father Colin, Superior-General
Bishop Pompallier’s letters, which you must have received, will have informed you of our happy arrival at the longed for goal of our journey. It was on the 13th June according to our calendar and the 14th according to the New Zealand calendar,[1] that the ship carrying us dropped anchor at the Bay of Islands. It was there that the circumstances that Bishop Pompallier had taken care to warn us about at Tahiti indicated that we should land, so as to avoid the bar which made the entrance to the Hokianga river very dangerous.
At the sight of that land which we had been looking for, for nine months through waves and storms, and that we came, under the protection of the Queen of Heaven, to conquer for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, we were moved to our very depths, we recited the hymn of thanksgiving and the Salve Regina. Our eyes were filled with tears of joy; as soon as we could set foot on land, we went down on our knees, and through the most tender of mothers, the noble Mary, we offered ourselves, weak as we are, to the good and divine Pastor to be the instrument of his great mercies in favour of these poor people so long plunged in the darkness of death, and to whom we were overwhelmingly happy to bring the light and the blessings of the gospel. Hardly had we got to our feet when good Brother Michel rushed into our arms; he had been four weeks at the Bay of Islands where circumstances had called him, and where he had become so ill from jaundice. A Protestant family which lacked only the faith of Peter had lavished every care on him.[2] May that touching charity merit it the grace of knowing the truth! We found him in good health and looking for an opportunity to get back to the Bishop, who was 20 or 25 leagues (100 or 125 km) from the Bay of Islands. Very soon a native [is going to inform the Bishop] of the hours of the arrival of his new helpers. Four days later we were embraced by him and he was blessing us. You can imagine what we said: our tears spoke more eloquently than our words. We blessed the Society of Mary, we congratulated ourselves at being in several respects quite unworthy of what we were, the children of her whose immense love for men and power with God are proclaimed by heaven and earth. We spent a few days together with feelings of gratitude, after which Father Baty and one of our catechists left us to rejoin Father Servant in the Hokianga. That was the place which heaven had designated, for the time being, as the site for their apostolic work.
Regarding Father Epalle and myself, we have been sent to the Bay of Islands, to the place commonly called Kororareka. The Bishop has stayed with us for a long time.
(No signature)


  1. In fact, the second group of missionaries arrived on the 14th June 1839 (Cf Doc 33 [1]). The error in “our calendar” arose from the fact that Petit and his companions had not marked on their calendars the discrepancy of a day in crossing the date line.
  2. A letter from Baty (Doc 32 [2]) confirms that Brother Michel was “convalescing”, that he had taken those newly arrived “to the house of a captain, a friend of Bishop Pompallier” and that this captain and his wife were Protestants.

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