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4 May 1842. — Father Jean-Baptiste Petit-Jean to Father Victor Poupinel, Kororareka

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, June 2008

To Reverend Father Poupinel, Lyon

Kororareka, 4th May, the month of Mary, 1842

Reverend Father
I know you have a great deal of concern for the beloved Oceania mission, business overloads you, Mary will certainly know how to reward you a hundredfold for the results of your efforts. I thought that this letter, short as it will be, will bring you some pleasure. It is a testimony to gratitude and a sign of the desire I have that the good God may console you and strengthen you in all your efforts. Finally, you have honoured me with a letter dated the 14th October 1840 which is still in front of me, and it is a duty for me to answer it. I thank you very sincerely for the concern you show in getting people to pray for our mission; through that you earn an undoubted right to a return on the part of the Fathers who are in Oceania.
I have not allowed myself to send letters containing observations about the mission because I left that concern to those who were in the administration. We also have rules in New Zealand. Those sorts of things should be done with order and subordination. You would like us to get a New Zealander to write some letters which could interest various people in Europe. Yes, it is true that I have neglected a little that strategy. However, the New Zealanders generally have not yet opened their hearts to all the good attitudes that they might be imagined to have; if they wrote, most of them would emphasise getting clothes, which are very easy for them to get here either by selling or working. Selling here means foodstuffs or pigs. As for land, it has almost all gone. God’s works still progress more slowly than it is thought. Our mission would be unique at this time if it progressed with so much speed and especially if it made perfect disciples from the start. Ah, it is only insensibly that light follows the darkness of the night. Reverend Father, all the difficulties that we meet with are a reason for keeping going. Let us go on – omnia impenam et superimpenar ipse pro animabus vestris [I am perfectly willing to spend what I have, and to be expended, in the interests of your souls: 2 Corinthians 12:15]. Only one thing should be surprising, that God insists on using the most wretched instruments to bring about the conversion of souls, such as money, that worthless thing, such even as men, who are all sinners quorum primus ego sum [of which I am the greatest: 1 Timothy 1:15].
I had 20 people at Kororareka perform their Easter duty, at Whangaroa 4. Generally the Maoris have not yet made their first communion. A few have received baptism. Up till now, I have given this sacrament to 137 people, mostly Maori children, at the Bay of Islands 66 have received it from my hands. Our Fathers tell me that I am rightly named Jean-Baptiste; Father Epalle tells me I am a great baptiser. If we can glorify ourselves over something it is having a member of our group and a confrère a martyr. If the mothers of Sparta rejoiced when their sons who had died in battle were brought back, what must be the joy of our venerable Superior who is our father, on receiving the remains of this beloved son who has died in the struggles he has taken part in for the cause of God. Happy is Father Chanel, happy also are we to have him as our protector.
I have the honour to share your prayers, Reverend Father,
your most humble and obedient servant,
J Bap. Petit-Jean
Marist priest, apostolic missionary
Look up for me please my former teacher, Mr Jackson, and speak to him, in the absence of his wife if possible, about conversion.