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30 May 1841 — Father Catherin Servant to his parents, Hokianga

Translated by Mary Williamson, January 2020

Based on the document sent, APM dossier Servant.

Sheet of paper forming four pages, three of which are written on, the fourth having only the address.

[p.4] [Address]
Mr Jean Antoine Servant / in the town of Grézieu le Marché / Canton of Saint Symphorien le Chateau / department of Rhône in France.

[Post Marks]
— LYON 17 APRIL 1842 (68) — ST SIMPHORIEN-S-COISE 17 APRIL 42 (68)

Hokianga New Zealand 30 May 1841.

My dear parents,
How are you both? Have you any infirmities? Have you any ill health problems? If you do have, think that in submitting ourselves to God’s will, tribulations are an excellent way of expiating our past faults and acquiring a storehouse of merit for heaven. Bless the Lord, as no matter what, when his hand strikes, it is friendly, it is that of a father who seeks the best for his children. Let us love him, this heavenly master and let us not be troubled by the miseries of this life; this life is short, it is only a path to eternal life in the company of the fortunate, where, if it pleases God, we will be reunited one day, to enjoy everlasting bliss forever.
My very dear parents, have you forgotten me? Oh! No, though it is not perhaps every day that you think of me and pray to God for me. As for me, where I am concerned, I do not forget you. I often think of you during the holy sacrifice of mass.
But when thinking of me you perhaps have in mind someone who is dying of hunger, thirst and cold, who is emaciated and frightening to see. Not at all, my dear parents, I am still very energetic and in good health. It will soon be the fourth year that I have been in New Zealand. I have not yet suffered any ill health. If you could see me again, you would still find me much as I was when I left France. The only change that you would see in me, is one which the natives have remarked on with their very observant eye: they tell me that my hair is beginning to whiten. Do not think either that I am dying of hunger and thirst: When I am with our good natives, they almost never fail to question me about these matters and to offer me whatever they have. As for the cold, it is of little interest in this country; the only thing that is disagreeable in winter is the amount of rain, which brings humidity.
Since I wrote to you last time, that is to say about ten months ago, I have been almost continually out amongst the tribes, teaching the natives. This work is lengthy here because the natives are spread out in a thousand different places and at fairly long distances from our establishment. Two hundred and twenty-six natives have been baptised and soon, if it pleases God, an even larger number of them will have the good fortune to join them. At the moment I am resting in our home. Here is a short description of our establishment: Picture a small hill on the edge of a large river; almost all around there is bush. We have been obliged to fell some trees which were in front of the house to get a view over the river; at the top of the hill is an area covered with tall bracken which is difficult to stop growing; in the middle of this small hill one finds a wooden house, as it is difficult, at least in Hokianga, to build stone houses as there are not a lot of stones. In front of the house there is a small terrace where we can walk. Not far from the house some tribes have built huts to withdraw to when they come to Sunday mass. The area where we live is called, in the native’s language, pu rakau, which means the place that is all made of wood. Beautiful birds come to visit us from time to time, but their song is not as lovely as in France. The trees never lose their leaves. We do have here, in fact, some animals, a dog, two cats, some pigs and chickens, but that is all. The good brother here is beginning to establish a garden.
So, my dear parents, providence has taken care of he who you love so much and no doubt will never abandon those who are hers. You know that this same providence feeds the birds in heaven, [1] All the more reason for her to take care of the missionaries who are totally committed to God’s service and to the saving of souls.
Before finishing, a quick word to each one of you.
My dear father, I think that during the past winter, you have had to suffer some ill health. You have not failed to offer these problems up to God and to endure them with patience and resignation. I imagine that you have not been able to work much; no doubt your life is peaceful. I pray that you will carry your cross with good heart.
My gentle mother! Do you still visit the sick? Perhaps you have been visited yourself. In all things love God with all your heart. I think that God will bless you abundantly because of the great sacrifice that you have made to God in separating yourself from me. I hope that the tears have been wiped away long ago. I always love you more than ever in the Lord. I do not doubt that you do the same.
Dear Françoise, you are always so caring of our mother and father and no doubt you do for them what I would do in your place, you console them, you help them, you love them with all your heart. I hope that in observing the fourth commandment, you might be heaped with heavenly blessings and thrive in your virtuous living.
Dear Jeanette, does not your heart tell you to sometimes go to visit our family home? Do you not feel very anxious in this new situation where providence has led you? Do you still love God with all your heart? Ah! How happy I would be if you should become a saint! I never stop loving you and thinking of you before God.
My dear brother Seon, you have no doubt shared our feelings of tenderness and mine in particular, concerning my father and mother. Although I have never seen you, I love you even though I do not know you. The recognition of your good qualities has reached me here. I hope that God will bless you in this life and also that he will receive you into eternal joy. Some news of you would always give me great pleasure.
[12] [in the margin]
+ Please give Mr Buffard my expression of respects and affection.
[13] [in the margin]
Warmest greetings to Mr Fayolle and my other friends.
A thousand greetings to my uncles, aunts and cousins; my wish before God is that they might all become fervent christians.
I am, in Jesus and Mary, your very affectionate Servant,
missionary apostolic.


  1. Cf. Mt 6.26: Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow and reap and store in barns, yet your heavenly father feeds them! Are you not worth more than the birds?

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