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Fr Antoine Garin to Fr Colin, Kororareka, 19 January 1842

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, May-June 2005

APM Z208 19 January 1842

Kororareka, 19 january 1842

To R[everend] F[ather] Superior General

Lyon

New Zealand, Kororareka, 19 January 1842

Very Reverend Father

You recommended to us in one of your letters that we focus our opinions, our thoughts, our affections on Jesus and Mary, on heaven, on the sufferings of the Saviour of the world; that we would find ourselves in persecutions, dangers, privations etc and that we would not take long to recognise the importance of this recommendation. You indeed spoke truly, because it is at the most seven to eight months since the Fathers and Brothers of the last dispatch (of Marists) set foot in New Zealand. [1] and already they find themselves in privations very painful to nature; and if they did not have the sweet consolation of knowing that they are suffering with J[esus] C[hrist] and that they will be abundantly rewarded for this, there really would be reason for discouragement and falling into distress in a moment when all human help fails us, when the missionary soon ceases bearing the word (of God) to the poor natives in order to extract a bit of food from the ground. Oh! If it is true to say that the nature of the words of God is to be hindered, thwarted – our work indeed is like this; and if God is accustomed to humiliate someone before raising him up, we have to believe that he is getting ready to carry off a great triumph over his enemies. Today Father Petit coming from his mission [2] has been telling us that the Protestant natives on Sundays go and find our (faithful) to mock them and turn them away from Catholicism. They are dressed in fine trousers, clothes and hats in front of our poor natives ignominiously crouching under an old woollen blanket: “Where,” they say, “are your books? Show them to us”, and in so saying they show them their fine clothes and the Bibles they have received from their masters. Clothes and books! Can a better way of seducing the Maori be found? There isn’t any. And doesn’t your heart bleed when we see these poor unfortunates come and shout in our hearing: “give me a book, give me clothes” – it’s the cry every day, every hour of the day. [3]

[p2] More ashamed than they themselves, we run away from them sometimes so as not to see ourselves forced to repeat the cruel term which is now becoming a proverb among them: tahioa, tahioa [sic – taihoa] (in a little while, in a little while), tahioa people, they say to us. We have a printing press and no place to set it up; no way of building one, no timber, no money to get it. What’s to be done? Stay here until we have received money! But building in pisé could be done without money, but how much effort and time (will be needed)! [4] already the pisé is rising on the foundations, but as Father Epalle often says (in everything that happens to us he is always Father), this pisé splits, cracks everywhere. The principles of Rondelet [5] are not based on antipodean clay: a clay which was thought to be very good is now seen to be very bad. Well, we’re in God’s hands! We say meanwhile, “Little by little the bird builds its nest”. We will be happy if in six or eight months the press can clank [gémir], and today we are told that the Protest[ant] missionaries should soon receive six to eight thousand Maori Bibles to be distributed to the natives; it’s only a few weeks since they received a complete shipload of blankets. Ah! If God doesn’t show his hand, what’s going to become of us? However, we must thank the Lord: our natives still go along quite well and vigorously resist the enticements of their enemies; nonetheless they know very well how to take advantage of the situation to reproach us for our hard-heartedness towards them. Another thing: in its beginnings the mission had the finest reputation in terms of wellbeing, people thought we were rich, but how differently people think now. Here in Kororareka in the Bishop’s house, the potatoes having been finished up, we began to buy bread, but now, thanks to the hard work of some Brothers, of M. Hyvert [sic – Yvert] and a man paid for that, we have a garden which gives us some vegetables; the bread is beginning to disappear, we still eat a little of it as a dessert, with the salad which is made in the Antipodes with a spoonful of oil and three of vinegar. Some no longer eat bread, soon all will do the same, apart from those whose health is a bit weak. People have begun to ask only in the last few days, if things still continue to go on as now, that is, without money and with food at a gambler’s price [? à un prix d jeu] if it wouldn’t be wise to scatter ourselves among the natives to look for something to live on there, instructing them at the same time, or to withdraw to mission stations which could provide some funds to work there and get food for ourselves. We sometimes throw out the net and we waste more time than the fish we catch are worth, for to catch a worthwhile amount, that is, for two days, you need to devote (to it) a half-day’s work by two or three Brothers, and a day’s work here is very expensive. From this little insight you can form some idea of our distress.

[p3] We all have, however, great confidence in divine providence. We ask God every day to come to our help, and offer him our difficulties in a spirit of expiation for our faults. Sadness has not overwhelmed us, we work happily for the good of the mission, and we await, totally resigned, all the blows which Providence wishes to inflict on us. For my part, I expect to see ourselves cast very much lower, if God, through this trial, wants to ensure we merit some marked advantage over our enemies; because that has been observed in nearly all beginnings of pious works: the Society of Jesus was humiliated at the last moment [? au dernièr point] in its first founders in Rome; the Society of Mary has had its reverses and humiliations – I have witnessed them. The New Zealand mission is in great hardship, but I expect to see it even more humiliated in the eyes of those around us if God later wishes to make it triumph; only I entreat the Blessed Virgin to preserve her children in this trial, and I ask you also, very Reverend Father, to have prayers said for us.

I have something else to tell you about and which causes me real difficulty. We have in our rule an article which prevents us from sending to France other sealed letters than those addressed to you and only for matters of direction. The others have to be seen by the Bishop or a Father designated by him. The Bishop wants in that way to take a wise step which I very much approve of, which is that everyone is not allowed to speak about the state of the mission by saying things sometimes already contradicted by others, because there are often as many differing opinions as different people On the other hand the administrative council of the [Society of the] Propagation of the Faith wants to be warned if the administration of the mission is going badly; (and) you yourself ask of each of us to be told of everything that happens. How should we act in such a situation? Because he who believes himself obliged in conscience to speak about the administration will be going directly against the intention of the Bishop, who wants to know what people are saying about it. To make the matter easier, and to put consciences at rest, here is what I have done in agreement with Father Epalle and Father Petit: I have written to all the Fathers, that if they think themselves obliged in conscience to write to you something of this sort in their letters, which they send you sealed (because in those which are unsealed they can tell you everything they wish since these letters go through the hands of Father Epalle who sees them). [6] So I have written to them to send me this letter unsealed so that I may see whether the matter is just, as I am at the house of the Procure, as I can keep an eye on the administration and as, besides, Providence has put me here to replace you, I will be better placed to decide on the matter with the grace of God, and to see whether this letter should be sent. In this way they will appeal to someone’s judgment in their cause and will put their consciences at rest. Now I am asking your opinion on this step; as well, I want to know how far I can go in this direction; that is, can I, in view of the Bishop’s ban on one side, and the Lyons Council’s and your recommendation on the other, send you letters which concern the administration without the Bishop or Father Epalle being aware of them? Please, I entreat you, give me a reply on this matter. How much I, and the mission as well, need to you or at least your Provincial to come and visit us; how many things I would have to ask about, how many things I would have to learn! If that cannot be done, I want you, at least, to send me a rule for me which would inform me of my duties as Provincial, the way of acting, the difficult situations in which I could find myself, at what point I can give way in what the Bishop could ask for the good of the mission, the circumstances in which a subject could be sent back to France, and many other situations which could be met with later on. See below this sign *

[p4] *I see, from day to day, that it is easy for the Marist missionary to forget his Rule if he has not got someone who reminds him of it from time to time, and that soon he will no longer consider that he is a religious, given that propensity he has already to think he is allowed many things because he is a missionary. Which leads me to appreciate the need for a house at the Procure where the Provincial would stay, and to where he could call subjects for some months. I think, however, I have noticed for some time that the confrères are observing the rule a bit better. If the Fathers need to be called back to the Rule, even more so do the Brothers. Father Servant notices that his organs are appreciably weakening: sight, hearing, taste, memory – perhaps it is because of the damp climate of the Hokianga. If he goes to the tropics an improvement is hoped for. His ministry is badly affected by it. He complies, with a little difficulty, with observations made to him. Father Petit-Jean is a little too attached to his ways of seeing things; Father Rolleau [sic – Roulleaux-Dubiguon] has difficulty in submission, he is difficult to get on with. Father Comte also has his own ideas; Father Trippe [sic – Tripe] not prudent enough in what he says; M. Perret, too sharp on his responses and not reflective enough, but not often, he easily gets over it; Brother Colom [7] is a wooden-head [? gâte-bois] who wastes time; Brother Euloge is, in the eyes of the natives, an ignoramus. Brother Claude-Marie does little work. The others are doing as well as human weakness allows, more or less well. Brother Colom sometimes shows ill humour; Brother Augustin is correcting his excessively stubborn ways of seeing and acting. Brother Claude-Marie argues a bit too much. As for myself, I strongly recommend the observation of the rule, silence, etc, and I too easily allow myself to violate it in front of others. I find that I lack energy and that go necessary in community living. I don’t have enough devotion to Mary and I have noticed that I wasn’t often speaking about her. Lacking natural judgment and knowledge, I easily allow myself to take on the way others see things. For the rest, time does not weigh on me, the little privations that come my way are nothing to me because I have never had difficulty with good. It is true that I have not yet been seriously tried, but I hope for much from divine Providence and the prayers which several people are offering for me in France. I entreat you to let my parents know that I am still well, that this country is one of the best for health if you put aside the wear and tear of ministry which can be harmful anywhere. I have prepared a letter which I soon send them and my pupils at Meximieux as well [8]: they [9] are not finished.

Please remember me to the good Fathers and Brothers and commend me to their fervent prayers. I have the honour to be, with deepest respect,

Your very humble and devoted servant,
Garin, prov[incial]
Miss[ionary] ap[ostolic]

Notes

  1. Garin and his group arrived in the Bay of Islands on 15 June, 1841 - translator’s note
  2. At that time he had the Kaipara area and was based at Hato Ireneo – St Irenaeus – near modern Tangiteroria - translator’s note
  3. At this time the Catholic mission was heavily indebted and not even able to properly feed and clothe the missionaries themselves. The printery – now called Pompallier House – at Kororareka was being built but would not start producing printed material until later in 1842 - translator’s note
  4. Pisé – rammed earth – is what the walls were eventually
  5. J-B Rondelet, French architect, born in Lyons – 1743-1829 - translator’s note
  6. This sentence seems incomplete - translator’s note
  7. sic – Colomb or, more fully, Michel Colombon - translator’s note
  8. Meximieux was the site of a minor seminary then staffed by Marists. Garin had taught there - translator’s note
  9. the letters, presumably - translator’s note