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12 December 1840 — Father Jean-Baptiste Épalle to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Kororareka

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, October 2012

[Crosswise on p4]
France, Father Colin, Superior-General of the Society of Mary, in Lyons
4 St Barthelémy Rise.

[In Poupinel’s writing]
New Zealand, Kororareka
12 December 1840 Fr Epalle

Very Reverend and beloved Father,
Without the opportunity given by the holy Bishop of Sydney who today is leaving the Bay of Islands for Europe,[1] I certainly would not be writing to you; I am too overcome with work, in the absence of Bishop Pompallier, who has been three months on a journey. It will however be a great consolation for me to be able to expose to your fatherly understanding our desperate needs, extreme needs of men – priests and Brothers, extreme needs of money. Without those two resources God’s work can only languish, and in the areas we are in, letting it languish is almost to destroy it. The character of the natives of New Zealand is such that it would have been necessary to take them all in one throw of the net, as the New Zealander does not embrace a religion quite new to him without having reflected a great deal, (and) he does not abandon it any more easily without being really convinced that he is mistaken in his choice. Because of that, he must be instructed. Quomodo autem audients sine predicante?[2] (I have been told the ship is leaving.) But we do not have only savages, Reverend Father. You know what has become of New Zealand, and if it is true that the Protestant Church is a danger, as the ministers themselves say, if it is true that our separated brethren are disposed to come back to the mother so as to make henceforth only one flock led by one sole shepherd,[3] will we not do anything to hasten that happy moment. For these last mentioned we would need priests with enough education and with excellent tact, in a word, who are gentlemen: the dignity of the family is a primary concern for English people. A perceptive gentleman can achieve a great deal among them.. And Brothers with the same qualities according to their trades. I haven’t the time to explain my reasons.
The former Brother Duperron,[4] having gone hunting on the feastday of the [Immaculate] Conception, took a rest with his arms crossed over the mouth of the barrel of his gun, and the gun went off. His left arm and right hand were pierced, and he lost so much blood that after 28 (hours),[5] he died, reconciled with the Lord, I hope. How important it is to choose Brothers well. If I can say it quietly, Reverend Father, how hard I found it to get that young man to go to confession, but I must add however that he died with clear signs of contrition and fortified with the last sacraments.[6]
I am sending you the duplicate of Reverend Father Chanel’s will and power of attorney. At any moment we expect the arrival of our helpers. If they arrived today, the money they bring would see me out of great difficulties. I have nothing, absolutely nothing, and the Bishop’s arrival will hardly enrich us.
The Bishop of Sydney is accompanied by his vicar-general and his secretary .[7] They will go to Lyons. I wish our Society has the good fortune to receive them during their stay in Lyons. I saw that holy Bishop almost continually busy for a fortnight, dressing the revolting sores of our neophytes and catechumens. If only someone with some knowledge of medicine could come!
The time for leaving has come. Please pray for me, Father. Everyone is well.
Epalle mis(sionary) apost(olic)
Bay of Islands 12 December 1840


  1. Cf below [4, f/n 7]
  2. Romans 10:14. “and how would they hear it, with anyone to proclaim it?”
  3. Cf John 10:16. “I have other sheep which are not of this fold, and I must lead them as well; they will listen to my voice and there will be one flock and only one shepherd.”
  4. The former Brother Amon (Claude Duperron) (Cf Doc 72 [5])
  5. 28 hours, no doubt. The accident took place, therefore, on 8th December, and the letter was written on the 12th December, so it can’t be 28 days after. Seon, in his account of the event (Doc 102 [1]) says that Brother Amon died “36 hours after the accident”.
  6. A more detailed account of Father Amon’s death will be given by Epalle in 1843 during his stay in France (Cf Mayet, Mémoires, +4, pp 364-369)
  7. On 16 November 1840 Bishop John Bede Polding, then Vicar-Apostolic of Australia, left Sydney for Europe by way of New Zealand (Cf O’Donoghue p 55), see above [1]), the Benedictine priests William Bernard Ullathorne and Henry Gregory were with him (Cf Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 2, p[342). Ullathorne was Polding’s vicar-general from the latter’s arrival in Australia in 1835 until the time of this journey, but he went and stayed in England where he was made bishop in 1846 (Cf Hosie, “Challenge”, p 38 Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 2, pp545-546). Henry Gregory was to become Polding’s vicar-general in 1844, so after this voyage (Cf Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 1, p 473) it was he, it seems, who would be Polding’s secretary at the time they went to the Bay of Islands.

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