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26 January 1841 - Father Jean-Baptiste Epalle to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Kororareka

Translated by Mary Williamson, July 2019

Based on the document sent, APM OOc 418.1.

Double sheet of paper. Father Poupinel must have made a mistake in putting the date “26th January 1842” in his note on the last page of this letter. The date of the author, “21st January 1841” would be more likely, considering that the text of the letter (§2) refers to the letter of Colin of 22nd April 1840 (summarised in CS, doc. 154) and to a date, probably recent, “the octave of the Conception of 1840”. In the same paragraph, there is also a mention of “my letters of the months of October and November” but we have not had a single letter from Epalle dated from these two months from either 1840 or 1841 (nor from 1842 either).

[on an angle, p.4] [Address]
Mr Colin Superior General / Society of Mary / Lyon.

[in Poupinel’s handwriting]
New Zealand / Kororareka 26th January 1842 / Father Epalle.

Bay of Islands, Kororareka, New Zealand 26th January 1841.

Very Reverend and very dear Father,
Yes certainly, yes the mission is suffering when you do not receive any news from it, it is suffering terribly, a hundred times more, a thousand times more than you think, it suffers so much that it will decline, because those who are waiting for such a long time to be gathered in by us, turn in the end towards those [1] who give them instruction, no matter where it comes from, for the time has come when New Zealanders can no longer wait for instruction, they must receive it. Some of them, despairing of receiving what has been promised, that is to say some priests, turn towards others. Please understand, my Very Reverend Father, that you risk nothing in sending hoards of workers to Oceania, even though you may not receive any news; from one pole to the other, it is vast, this field! Everything is ripe, everything is leavening. No matter how large our number, there is work for all. If we are persecuted in one place we will understand the order of the divine master, that there are things here to flee from. And then, they are no longer suitable, the persecutions that oblige the French missionaries to flee! Be assured, my Reverend Father, that I am informing you of the wishes of the Bishop. Please send people and funds, as this mission is frighteningly expensive. Besides, to convince oneself of this, one needs only to consult the map and the condition of these people.
My God, I am floored by your letter of 22nd April 1840, no staff, no funds! How many times have we said the octave of the Conception of 1840 will not pass without bringing us something and also the 25th January, the festival of the apostle of nations. I await the moment when the Bishop, on his arrival, sees this letter, he who wrote to me very recently from Port Nicholson ( as he is not yet back from the trip which I spoke to you about in my letters of the months of October and November). [2] To exercise economy, I have ten shillings, 8 pence, 1 quartillo, which is left from ten pounds sterling that I borrowed the other day and right now I am obliged to give back at least two shillings. When the Bishop gets back we will greatly rejoice if we are able to pay back all our debts. It is not like France here. Everything is expensive and our appetites make no allowance for that, at least as far as quantity is concerned. It is that indispensable ship that has reduced us to this state. The Bishop adds that he expects to find new colleagues when he gets back. How many promises will he have made to these impatient people?
Finding myself alone today in the Bay of Islands, you would have been scandalised at the manner in which I have been obliged to treat the poor natives who have come from far away to ask me to copy for them at least a few prayers since we are not able to go and teach them. Stunned by their insistence, which is not understanding of any reasoning, I became angry with them and shut myself inside to write down some even more urgent things. They waited at the window where they remained for part of the day, always demanding the same thing. In the end I sent them away with two plugs of tobacco.
To you, My Superior, I am overcome not with sleep but with fatigue. My hand opens up in spite of myself, it is three o’clock in the morning, without having taken a minute to write to the Vicar General or the colonial secretary in Sydney and this scribble that I cannot even re-read. The ship is leaving at any minute.
I hope that the novena that we are making to our Good Mother will have its effect, that the will of God will be done. Pray for me, please, and for all your children here. Everyone is well. I have recent news from them all.
Epalle, missionary apostolic.


  1. qu’ils: read qui
  2. These letters are no doubt lost; no letter of 1840 from Epalle to Colin is preserved at APM.