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Observations by Jean-François Yvert on the NZ Mission to Jean Forest, c. 8 May 1842

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, July 2008

Observations made by Jean-François Yvert, a French Catholic layman who came out with an early Marist group, and was living at Kororareka in the Bay of Islands with the Marist community. After Father Jean Forest arrived at the Bay, 4 May 1842, he talked to the group and asked each man to write down their views on the progress of the mission. Father Comte’s notes were dated 8 May. Yvert’s must certainly have been written before 22 May, the date of a letter authorising Father Petit-Jean to go to Sydney to arrange a loan, a step only foreseen in this present document.

Long live Jesus, long live Mary
Mary’s children can find nothing beyond their strength. If they of themselves are weak, they are powerful through their mother. But nonetheless they can rely on the most Blessed Virgin’s protection only insofar as they stay under her royal cloak. Ah! Without doubt, if they do not stray from this impregnable fortress, if they bear joyfully the bonds with which Mary binds them, for fear that they rush into the field of licentiousness, they are assured of overcoming every obstacle, of bringing down their enemies and winning stunning victories. This good mother, in transports of most tender love, will clasp her children to her most chaste breast, will wipe away their tears or, rather, mingle her tears with theirs. Then, indeed, Jesus, not being able to separate any more the children from their mother, will cry out: “Mother, ask all you wish, I can refuse nothing to the one who denied me nothing while I lived in that land of trials and sufferings.” Faithful virgin, you will obtain for the poorest of your children humility, which is the foundation of all the virtues. Strengthened by your powerful intercession, our dear Fathers will command more and more with gentleness, my good Brothers will experience a new zeal for blindly obeying the orders of the Superiors, and all the members of this family, blessedly brought together, will act no more than as one body and one soul.
Much beloved Father, since you order it, I will set out for you simply some of the ideas I have formed about this worthwhile mission. I am not claiming to say everything in this short statement, and, anyway, isn’t it better to limit oneself to the main features; your wisdom will easily allow you to put light and shade[1] into this slight outline. What use would it be to us to move earth, to build houses, to create new mission stations if, as our venerable Father used to say, we did not put down solid foundations? Let us be faithful observers of our rule, and all the rest will be granted us. Allow me to go into some detail.
1) Let us spend the times of ‘grand silence’ in a holy way, because we have only these short moments to live in retreat.
2) Let us pray our prayers in common with great recollection.
3) Let the Fathers rarely make criticisms in public, and never with too much severity.[2] If any of the subjects (all sent out without a novitiate) is not able to accommodate himself easily to the customs of the principal mission station, let his difficulties be shared,[3] and let him be placed in another station, if prudence demands it. For it needs to be said: the subjects here are put through a very great trial.
4) Let us carefully avoid any too noisy action, the nation among whom we live judges any thoughtlessness with great rigour.
5) Let us avoid speaking, during meals, about politics and still more about the personalities of this island, especially in the presence of strangers.
6) Let us never espouse the bitterness of certain local people against the Governor,[4] let us bear with resignation the words or rash writings, products of the ignorance or the false reports of our enemies. This point seems to me to be of greatest importance. If heresy once causes us to abandon this spirit of moderation and recollection, it will thrust us by degrees into those public contests which will always turn to our disadvantage. That is the most subtle poison that the tempter can offer us. Let us dissipate error and lies by heroic acts of charity, and silence, and not by bitter and hateful replies.
7) Let us not suffer that a member of the house of the first Bishop of Mary’s mission, posted to our country’s Antipodes, offers to the public the sad picture of indifference. Let us pray, let us pray ceaselessly, we must not rest until he has come back to the fold of Jesus Christ.
8) There should be only two Fathers with the Bishop, one for the house, the town and its surrounding district; the other for the sheep who are distant from the station. In our Bishop’s absence, two priests will have to suffice.
Thoughts about the administration.
1) This year no other farm work should be undertaken beyond the huge garden which can supply all the needs of the Bay of Islands mission station. Let us be well aware: the public is watching us, and it can be frankly said that everything we have begun on too big a scale has had most disastrous results. In the eyes of the severe English we are acting like real children.
Brother Colomb[5] could take charge of the garden, the poultry, etc; when the work is too pressing, some other Brother could help him. The gardener Brother would sleep with another Brother in the house on the property.
Courageous Brother Augustin[6] and Brother Déodat[7] could be sent to the Hokianga to develop a little farm under Father Grange’s direction.
4) The printing works could get by with two men for a few months.
5) The activity in the kitchen having been simplified, Brother Basile, helped by a little Maori, could easily look after the shoes of the people at the mission station.
6) The carpenter Brother, he and Jean, or even the former alone, would be enough for the station’s needs.
7) All the people at the station should have lessons in Maori and English. As long as Mr Henry[8] stays at the station, he will be kind enough to give lessons jointly with Mr Waterton.[9] He could even provide other small services.
8) Put the new house in a state able to resist the weather.
9) Father Epalle must go to France via Valparaiso so as to be able to borrow money for the mission in that town.
10) Father Petit-Jean must go to Sydney to collect the sum due, and must also borrow money for the mission.
11) I end my thoughts by recommending the greatest order in all the details of the administration.
Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.
[in a hand not identified]
M Yvert


  1. vous fera facilement mettre l’ombre
  2. The letters speak particularly of the public humiliations inflicted by Pompallier: on Father Servant, on Brother Michel (Antoine Colombon), on Father Petit (cf Doc 55, [6-7]), on Fathers Tripe & Comte (cf Doc 139 [2-5]. There was, as well, the great severity of Father Petit towards Brother Claude-Marie (Jean-Claude Bertrand) (cf doc 183 [7], 209 [13], 234 [4-7, 11-12]) Garin speaks about difficulties between Father Tripe and Brother Florentin (Jean-Baptiste Françon) and adds remarks which echo those of Yvert (Doc 239 [3, 6]). In his turn, Forest describes the attitude of the Fathers (and the Bishop) towards the Brothers (Doc 247 [46-47]).
  3. que l’on partage ses peînes – could mean sharing in the sense of publicly revealing?
  4. Cf Father Petit-Jean’s intervention in favour of Frederick Edward Maning in the matter of the latter’s complaint against Governor Hobson (Doc 184 [59 no 23])
  5. Written “Colon” –– Pierre Poncet
  6. Brother Maire-Augustin (Joseph Drevet) was at the Bay of Islands from his arrival in 1839 (cf Doc 33 [8], 51 [11], 104 [2], 164 [4]. He would soon go to Whangaroa “to help Brother Elie in his work” (Doc 178 [11]); in October 1842 he would leave for Wallis where he would work in his trade as a weaver (Doc 202 [1]. 209 [14], 214 [2] – see also Doc 217 [31], 221 [4]) Brother Déodat (Jean Villemagne) who arrived in Wellington 6 April 1842 and was then directed to the Bay of Islands (Doc 166 [2, 7]), came back to Auckland in July to found the station there – with Father Forest – (Doc 178 [2, 9], 205 [13]). On August 1, 1842, he set out for Wellington with Father Borjon, a voyage in which they both died in shipwreck (Doc 205 [4-5]). Father Jerome Grange, who came to New Zealand with Brother Déodat, left the Bay of Islands 4 October 1842 to join Father Chevron in Tongatabu (Doc 202 [1], 205 [3], 209 [37], 214 [11], 218 [12].
  7. Written “Déoda”
  8. Henry Garnett worked as a carpenter then as a teacher at the Bay of Islands, where he made his vow of obedience 15 May 1842 (Doc 169 [1], also 173 [3]). According to Garin he was from Liverpool in England (Doc186 [12]); he did his novitiate in France, was professed as a Marist, left the Society, but continued to study for the priesthood. Ordained a priest, he came back to Oceania with Pompallier – arrived Sydney 9 February 1830 where Pompallier, being ‘very unhappy with him’, left him. He was then sent to help a priest in a country district ’50 miles from Sydney’ (Doc 880 [5], Simmons Pompallier pp 57, 119, 121, 126; see other documents referring to him (Doc 103 [4], 104 [3], 127 [8], 178 [12], 192 [38], & 276)
  9. Henry Waterton, brother of a famous naturalist, welcomed Bishop Polding and W Bernard Ullathorne, Catholic missionaries from Australia, on their journey to the Bay of Islands in December 1840. At the time Waterton was living at the Catholic mission (Simmons Pompallier p55). In May 1843 Garin wrote that Waterton ‘had left the country’ (cf Doc 255 [1]).

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