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8 July 1841 - Father Antoine Séon to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Kororareka

Translated by Mary Williamson, July 2020


Based on the document sent, APM Z 208.


Sheet of paper forming four pages, the first three of which are written on.


[p.4] [Address]; Mr Colin junior / Saint Barthélemi Rise, no.4 / Lyon.
[Post mark]
Lyon 20 [ - - - ] [- - - ] 1


[in Poupinel’s handwriting]
New Zealand / Kororareka 8 July 1841. Father Séon — his voyage.


[p.1]
Bay of Islands, Kororareka, 8 July 1841.
My Very Reverend Father,
[1]
All twelve of us have arrived here in Bishop Pompallier’s domain. We are all in good health and feeling courageous and enthusiastic. The varied professions of the Brothers have been found useful. The Bishop has chosen Brother Pierre Marie for his attendant and steward. Brother Justin is in the kitchen; he is not happy there as he cannot manage the intense heat because of his health. Perhaps he will not be there for long as I think that someone will relieve him. Being on land seems to have made everyone forget the upsets and constraints of shipboard life. Today we have received our 8 trunks, so that, when we are leaving here, each person will be able to take his own belongings with him. That pleases everyone, Fr Rozet most of all, as he had almost nothing with him. The Bishop had already noticed that he was not as well-adjusted as he could have been, but that was not serious and has not continued and he is now ready to leave. Fr Rouleaux is happy. All is well. In one week, the Bishop has raised him to the priesthood, which he received on 2 July, feast of the Visitation. He must stay in Kororareka to brush up on his theology, learn the rituals etc. As you would expect, the Bishop had been kept up to date with our entire journey, but in relying on your account and that of his bishop, and in making allowances for the difficulties of the sea journey, he believed he could ordain him right away. I hope that he will cope. This ordination will give the Bishop one more priest. With his need for evangelical workers, you can imagine how pleased he was to welcome us, having waited for us for such a long time and we will make it possible for him to carry out his promises of priests, made to so many tribes. Also, after the opening and distribution of the contents of all the trunks there was very little damage, very few things spoiled; the loss of goods of some little value that arrived could have been prevented if there had been more time. Once and for all, do not be afraid to put some fragile objects in boxes; a flute worth 80 francs with parts missing, a horn ruined, several bottles of pharmaceuticals broken in the trunk, all in with books and linen: all that and several other losses of the same sort could have easily been prevented. I am also missing several books that I had chosen myself and that I regret not receiving: but they had not been put in the trunks. I found some pieces of instruments of a linear design out of their boxes and not even wrapped in paper; some pieces were lost. After the unpacking of the trunks, we all started (the priests) on our study of the Maori language; we also copied the Bishop’s instructions (50 pages of a large notebook), and a large catechism in Maori; that kept us busy from morning till evening. As well, the Bishop engages in conversation at table; they all concern the mission and he seems to understand in depth the spirit and the way in which it should be conducted. The explanations of his instructions fill us with confidence; his way of dealing with the natives seems very appropriate; it has won him the affection of a large number of tribes. Here where he has already been active, there are several chiefs who wish to embrace the Catholic faith and who want some priests or ariki. (the name of missionary, or minister is for the Protestants; in several tribes, this name is despised because of the Protestants, who have dishonoured it by their behaviour and their slanders, their lies about Catholics). It seems that the priests will still live alone, but not too far away from each other (about two days). After having consulted with Fathers Epalle and Viard, the Bishop said that in his place you would have been forced to do the same. The many Protestant stations, the number of preachers, the mindset of the New Zealanders who do not easily change their minds about a choice they have made, all these factors, all of them, influence the Bishop to act in this way. Father Viard has been in Kororareka since we arrived; he had been living alone for a year. Father Pezant is now there in his place. It does not seem that the priests are unhappy with the Bishop, that they are in discord with him; I have seen nothing that would make me suspect that. As you already know, there are only two Brothers who have deserted the cause of the Holy Virgin, Brother Michel and Brother Amon. [1] This latter person gave us all a lesson which clearly shows that if you abandon the Blessed Virgin you can only expect retribution. The very day that we were embarking in London, 8 October, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, this unfortunate person was out hunting with a Frenchman in whose service he was working. During a moment’s respite, he had an arm and hand leaning on the barrel of his rifle. It fired and pierced his arm and hand. He lost so much blood that he died 36 hours later. He was happy to accept his mistakes before appearing before God.
[2]
We will be leaving in a few days. The Sancta Maria will deliver each of us to our appointed post. The Bishop is sending me to Banks Peninsular where I will be amongst French colonists with Father Comte; Fr Tripe who I am going to replace, will go to another post. [2]. He told me that Father Comte has a rather uncompromising personality, that he cannot have been well trained and that together we should work towards our sanctification and that of the colonists and the natives. [3] It is the only thing that is even slightly unfavourable for we other priests. So I commend myself more and more to the prayers of the Society; I would very much prefer to be under the orders of someone else and work under his command, wherever I go next; But I hope that providence will not let me down. I would also prefer to just be amongst the savages; but in keeping strictly to the Bishop’s advice, to the rules, to prayer, the Good Lord will not abandon me. For us to be completely happy here all we need is our two colleagues, held up at the Cape; [4] They have not yet arrived. As soon as they are here we will all be happy. The Brothers under the care of Mr Yvert [5] are preparing an area for a new house and a new church which will be built by Mr Perret. Antoine Séon.
[3]
Nota Bene. Fr Rozet asks you, my Reverend Father, to take out the last volumes of the full course in holy scripture. He believes that there are up to 24 volumes; he has received the first about Saint Paul, he is missing the others.
[4]
The Bishop has suggested that I try to keep up what I know of Greek; for that, I would need my Burnouf’s Greek grammar [6] which is in the Marist’s library at Belley, with a gospel according to Saint Luke and others. If you could add to that some other Greek works from the seminary, there are old Greek translations that are not used and that would be very useful to us here; a Greek dictionary … Try to send us some copies of a collection of comparisons to teach the country folk, put together by His Lordship, the Bishop of Belley, [7] it is the method of teaching that suits the savages best. In my position I will need, according to advice from the Bishop, some copies of the fundamentals of the faith by Aimé [8] and several other works of this nature. I have added this list here, not for you my Reverend Father, as I know that your duties do not leave you the time to think about this: But I do not really have the time to write to Belley before I arrive on the peninsular and once there, there are not many opportunities. So, give this task, if you think it appropriate, to Father Poupinel or Father Millot. I will anxiously await the results of my request and especially of your news.
[5]
It is impossible for me to write to all the people that I promised I would write to. I do not have time. Later on it will be easier. I ask you, my Reverend Father, with my humblest respect, to commend us more and more to the prayers of the Society; may the Good Lord be with, direct and sustain his missionaries. There seems to be a lot of physical tiredness because of the travelling, the country not being very easy to get around. It is the lot of the missionary. Here we are in good spirits, which makes it easier to bear the pain. We repeat Father Petit’s words: after having eaten pork or potatoes eighteen times, we know that it is Sunday.
[6]
One of your affectionate and obedient sons in Jesus and Mary,
Antoine Séon,
Marist Priest.

Notes

  1. Brothers Michel (Antoine Colombon) (cf. doc. 55, § 6, 7; 72, § 3) and Amon (Claude Duperron) (cf. doc. 72 § 5; on the death of the latter, cf. doc. 72, § 5; 82, § 2).
  2. When the Sancta Maria arrives in Tauranga on 17 August 1841, Séon is still “destined for Akaroa”, but Pompallier, bending to the constant demands of chief Te Mutu, sends Séon to Matamata to evangelise amongst the tribes of the Waikato. On 25 August he arrives there with Baty and Brother Euloge (Antoine Chabany). Baty helps him to found the new station but returns to Tauranga a few days later; Brother Euloge and Séon make two missionary excursions into the interior, after which the Brother returns to be with Pezant in Tauranga. Séon remains alone at the station in Matamata until January 1844, while making frequent trips to Rangiaowhia, Rangitoto, Whawharua, Te Paripari and Mokau (cf. doc. 865, § 6; cf. also doc. 114, § 3; and the unpublished letter of 31 August 1841 from Pezant to Epalle, § 3, APM Z 208). When Comte leaves Akaroa, Tripe remains there with Brother Florentin (Jean-Bapiste Françon) (cf. doc. 132; 202, § 2; 205, § 6; 209, § 16, 21, 49).
  3. In April of the same year, Father Comte complained about Bishop Pompallier’s conduct (cf. doc. 89, § 1, 7-11; 90, § 3). In March, Father Tripe also expressed his grievances (cf. doc. 88, § 3-4).
  4. Louis Perret and Benjamin Dausse (cf. doc. 100, § 1, n. 1).
  5. Jean-François Yvert, layman, arrived in Kororareka on 15 June 1841, being part of the fifth missionary departure.
  6. Jean-Louis Burnouf (1775-1844), author of a Greek Grammar.
  7. Practical guide to learning the catechism, adapted to explaining the first lessons of the catechism by Belley (Lyon, 1838; second edition in 1840. Mayet cites a letter to Bishop Devie in which Colin praises the work of the bishop (cf. OM 2, doc.733, § 3). Or perhaps: Various essays to teach the fundamental truths of religion, for people who cannot understand the written catechism and especially those who do not know how to read (Lyon, 1839).
  8. Aymé, The fundamentals of the faith, for the understanding of people in general, 2 volumes (Paris:Berton, 1777-1778).