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2 January 1841 - Bishop Jean-Baptiste-François Pompallier to his mother, Madame Françoise Solichon, Wellington

Translated by Mary Williamson, May 2019

Based on the document, APM dossier Pompallier to his family.

Two sheets of paper forming eight written pages.

Jesus Mary Joseph

New Zealand, Cook’s Strait, Port Nicholson,
2nd January, 1841.

To my very dear Mother, Françoise Solichon, widow Pompalier, at Vourles, near Lyon, France.

Very dear Mother,
During the three years up till now that I have been in New Zealand, I have written you several letters and it gives me pleasure to think that you have received them. Nevertheless, when I think of the distance between here and France and the uncertainty of communications, I fear that my letters might go astray in transit: a fear that grows when the people who write to me do not mention having received them. You are more fortunate than me, dear Mother, as are the relatives and friends who write to me; you have secure ways to write to me. It is via the departure of the missionaries of the Society of Mary, who are coming to join me in these countries on the Lord’s battlefield. As well, you do have the time to write, to pray in peace in your homes and in the house of the Lord; but as for me the time for one or the other is much too short.
I am always battling with infidelity and heresy and am almost continually travelling on the sea and in amongst populations of islanders and savages. Providence, up till now, has always had me being the first to mingle with the tribes, to try and have them embrace our blessed faith and God has showered me with consolations in the midst of the perils and works that I undertake; it pleases Him to make use of His weakest instruments to achieve the salvation of these people; his powerful blessings and his divine assistance have had me cover almost all of the two main islands of New Zealand, one called te ika ................ [1] (the water of the golden stone); more than forty thousand savages have listened calmly to my voice or rather the voice of God and he has charged me with having the numerous peoples of Oceania listen too. Oh! how I love these dear savages who have embraced the faith of the church of our blessed Mother! Many have become her children through holy baptism and consequently are also the children of God himself who only recognises as such those who are truly children of his legitimate and unique spouse, the Roman Catholic church! What enthusiasm these people have, to model all their actions, all their thoughts and all their feelings on the teachings of the faith! I forget all the dangers and all my sufferings when thinking of them before the Lord. But, alas! The idea that they face the risk of dangers to their salvation because of heresy, which troubles them, pierces my soul with anxieties.
Always provide support, dear Mother and all you dear relatives who genuinely cherish our Father and our Mother the church; always support my work with your fervent prayers, with holy communions and with a truly christian lifestyle! By this means you will share a large part of the great recompenses of the ministry! I have with me, working for the mission, 12 priests and 7 catechists; 9 priests work in New Zealand and 3 are with the mission in the tropical islands. But, how small this number is for such a large harvest to be gathered in! May the Lord send many workers to his fields! May Mary, our patron and our mother, have us triumph over the enemies of salvation and the holy church!
I have told you nothing, my dear mother, of my health; yet this is what interests a mother as loving as you. But all that I tell you in this letter will suggest a passably robust health. I would not know how to make you understand here all the wonders that God works, in favour of the true faith for the people and in favour of the missionaries who are fortunate enough to be called by Him to bring them this precious gift, whilst sacrificing all that is dearest in the world to them and at the risk of their own lives. How many perils, dear mother, from which the arms of God have rescued me in a surprising manner! How visible the protection of the very blessed Virgin has been for the least deserving of her children. How many times death has been presented before me and at the moment when I had the ineffable consolation and the great confidence that I was going to receive the crown from the hands of our Lord in heaven, then it pleased God to leave me still with these earthly battles! May God’s will be done! I ask nothing of Him other than to remain in His holy grace and to always grow in his love, for him and his souls.
I have never been ill from the time that I left France. My health is better now than it has ever been. The frequent sea voyages are not difficult for me and I am free of the indisposition that is called sea sickness. I have become a sailor. God, through the association of the Propagation of the Faith, has given me a ship with which I can transport myself to all the regions of my mission. It is a brig-schooner which is big enough to service my works, in so many islands in these seas; one would even be able, in such a small ship, to make a tour of the world, if that was necessary. I have given her the name of the Santa Maria. A pictureof the very holy Virgin is hung inside the main cabin; I have solemnly blessed the ship and given her a special flag for the mission. The background of this flag is white; in the middle there is a blue cross with a fiery sun shining out; beneath the cross the monogram of Mary is written, and right at the bottom is a crescent moon. It is a great pleasure for me to travel on this ship. But this indispensable means of transport for a mission, that covers many islands, is very expensive; on board there are always eight or nine crew to sail it, a captain, an officer and seven sailors. I rely on divine providence; the Propagation of the Faith gives me a lot of help; and the souls to be saved are well worth all the expenditure that one can make over here; after having cost our Lord the price of his blessed blood, let us value our souls and our salvation more than all the riches, more than the whole world, more than our own lives, this life so short, so miserable that has only been given to us so we can acquire the riches of Heaven. Oh! When will we see ourselves in the gathering of the chosen! In the true family of the Lord!
I am writing to you from Port Nicholson, but it is not there that my residence is established. I have come here to spend twelve days working on the salvation of numerous tribes of infidels who have not yet ever seen a Catholic priest. It is very close to here that an all too famous chief of warlike and cannibalistic tribes lives, who is feared everywhere and who has been a true Attila, the scourge of God for the tribe. Above all, for the island of Te wai pounamu. [2] He has ravaged almost all of them and wiped them out. During the nine days that I have been here, two of the highest chiefs have turned to the Catholic faith and their tribes will do the same. All the others are in quite good frames of mind. As soon as I have more priests with me, I will send them some and I do not doubt that they will all become Catholics. Attila is absent at the moment. I do not expect to see him again this time, but I certainly hope to see him during a later visit, with all his tribes embracing the true faith, the grace, so powerful on new peoples, will also be able to make the conquest of this warrior, as it has done for so many others in New Zealand.
I have found a large number of Europeans in Port Nicholson, of whom most are Protestants; but there are also about 80 Catholics. These Europeans are almost all English or Irish and are established there to found a colony. I have been very well received by all. The Catholics have hastened to come to confession and receive our Lord on the blessed day of Christmas and on the festival of the Circumcision. I confirmed about a dozen, carried out four or five marriages and six baptisms. All these good faithful keenly beg me to stay amongst them. But the Lord wishes me to go and seek other flock who are not yet in his shelter. I am going to return from Port Nicholson fully consoled for having come to work for such a short time there.
Here we must make use, every day, of four languages: Latin to speak to the good Lord, French for those who accompany me (aboard my schooner where I have with me a new priest, recently arrived from France, a catechist, a captain and some French sailors) some New Zealanders to teach the savage tribes and some English people for the European Catholics who are almost all English. The Good Lord has blessed me with the ability to promptly manage the usage of foreign languages so as to exercise the holy ministry of salvation. May His holy name be praised!
You can see, dear Mother, from all the news that I am sending you in this letter, how great is the protection that the Lord, in his mercy, deigns to accord me, for the sublime vocation that he has been pleased to place me in. Never be pained to see me so far from you. Remember that here your son is in the place that God wishes him and that he occupies himself with the affairs of the celestial and infinitely good Father. Remember that I am very happy amongst my overwhelming works, with all sorts of tribulations and many perils that the paternal hand of God stretches out before me, because he knows that it is not to tempt him that I expose myself thus, but to satisfy the duties of my vocation for the saving of the people he has put in my charge and for the glory of his holy name. Yes, console yourself, my dear Mother, console yourself regarding my stay in these regions that are so far away; let us always rest in the friendship of God who is at the centre of our hearts and we will find ourselves always in the most agreeable of company, and as if in a family. Every day I think of you and of my dear relatives; I pray that He comforts you and that He blesses you wherever His goodness leads you. It is my habit to everyday offer him my life and all that I have in the way strength and means to unite him with the sacrifice of his divine son in exchange for the salvation of souls and of yours, dear parents and of yours especially, dearest mother; how precious it is to me that they to go to heaven! O beautiful heaven! Dwelling place of God and the Saints, just the thought of you drives away all sadness! You change, with gentleness and consolation, all the bitterness and afflictions of this short life!
Well here is a new year, very dear mother, which began yesterday and tomorrow a ship leaves from here for Sydney, where a regular postal service for Europe is established. I am profiting from these excellent circumstances to send you this letter and my best wishes for the New Year or better still, happy and long years with the Lord for you, for my dear stepfather, your husband, for my brothers and sisters, my uncles and aunts and all my relatives. May the holy name of God be sanctified in us all; may the kingdom of his blessings and love be in our hearts. May his very blessed and ever loving will be perfectly carried out by us in every moment of our lives; this will is that of the very best of fathers, who is pleased, what is more, to give whatever is useful in life for the salvation of his children. I wish for all of you the gifts of this good master and the special protection of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ and of all the good and true children of the church.
Please send me your news often, dear Mother and dear relatives. Although I cannot write to you all because of my heavy workload, I do not fail to think of you before the Good Lord. I write to you, dear Mother, as head of all the family, so that you might have the goodness to represent me with the other members, reminding them of the affection and devotion that I hold for each one. I am sure that I have received all the letters that you and several of my relatives have sent me, that is to say those of Laurent, Toni, Auguste, Phany, the wife of Toni, the husband of our sister-in-law Françoise; all express Christian sentiments, thoughtfulness and consideration for me, for which I am very grateful. I do not know whether I will be able to find a moment to reply to them, even though they all find time themselves. To write to you, dear mother, I was obliged to pass part of the night, my days never having any time for myself. It will always give me much pleasure and interest to receive news about you and the family. My respects to my stepfather, to the parish priest Querbes and to Miss Comte. Tell her that I forget neither her nor her pious sisters, who I believe are in Heaven, my respects to Mr and Mrs Magand, to Miss Rave, to the priest Favre and his good parents. Please give my good wishes and pass on my news to my uncle and aunt in Saint Héand [3] as well as my cousins and also all my relatives in Lyon, to Laurent and his parents and friends.
Your affectionate son,
Jean Baptiste François bishop of Maronée and vicar apostolic of Western Oceania.


  1. here, a large space is left blank, no doubt to fill in the Maori names of the two islands later.
  2. Maori name of the South Island of New Zealand.
  3. Saint-Héand, commune of the department of the Loire.