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20 December 1841 — Father Catherin Servant to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Hokianga

APM Z 208.

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, September 2014

The very Reverend Superior of the Society of Mary
St Barthelémy Rise, my 4th letter, to Lyons, France

Hokianga, New Zealand, 20th December 1841

Very Reverend and dear Superior
I am going to give you the details you want to know. First of all I will say that I am very happy in mission work; time flies, my tasks are so varied! For several months I have been living a peaceful life in our station. And this is the reason: the natives are scattered here and there because of their garden work; up till now it has been hard for me to get natives to row our boat because I have not had anything to feed them with, nor to pay them, so great has been our poverty. This year we had almost no help from the Bay of Islands.[1] Our Hokianga tribes have suffered from a lack of visits, however those who are doing well have come from time to time to take me to where they live, but the natives generally do not want to take me free of charge to a different tribe from theirs. The natives of the tribes who come rarely are precisely those who should be visited most often. Apart from the care of the natives, up till now we have had to earn our living by the sweat of our brows. Father, you recall, perhaps, that I had been offered to the mission as someone not knowing how to do anything for its temporal welfare. But necessity is the mother of skills. Often I have been obliged to take on several sorts of manual work. I am sometimes a tailor, a joiner, a carpenter, a gardener, a sail-maker, seaman, etc. Good Brother Claude-Marie, although pious and having good will, is neither strong nor skilful.
I have Father Roulleaux as a confrère, but he is involved only in studying theology.[2] So I am on my own in the struggle in this Hokianga mission, and, however, there are three great enemies, namely: heresy, the scandal given by a certain number of white men, and paganism. Good things are being achieved here without any fuss and fairly slowly. Heresy has been humiliated in a public debate: the outcome of that debate was beneficial, especially for our natives from Hokianga who had good reason to be confirmed in their faith. We confronted the leader of the Anglicans, we still must confront the Methodists who are swarming in the Hokianga, but the latter do not seem to be very brave. I think however that soon the natives will force them to take part in a gathering. If they agree to this gathering, the natives will gather in thousands and the Europeans in hundreds. May Mary, our good mother, stamp out this heresy which does so much harm to the Church.
Very Reverend Father, could I forget to talk to you about our good martyr? I rejoice beforehand at the consolation which this news will bring you. Father Chanel truly died for the sake of the faith: we must hope that many others will share his happiness!
Before I finish, a word or two about the Rule: it is observed fairly well here, the bell calls us to the exercises as it does in the houses in France. What you could criticise in me is the great ease I have in giving up the rule when I am moving among the tribes. Our good Father Provincial[3] does not fail to tell us, “You are that man”.[4]
Please give me a good share in your holy sacrifices. I am, and always will be, in the holy hearts of Jesus and May,
With respect, obedience and devotion,
Your humble servant
Miss(ionary) apost(olic)


  1. ‘Bay of Islands’ – where the mission headquarters had been since June 1839 - translator’s note
  2. ‘studying theology’ – Father Roulleaux had been ordained only in July 1841, soon after arriving in New Zealand, and Bishop Pompallier judged that he needed to re-do some theology before being given a missionary task - translator’s note
  3. Father Antoine Garin (see the following document)
  4. Cf Samuel 12:7, quoted by Servant in a preceding letter: Doc 97 [4]

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