From Marist Studies
Fr Jean-Baptiste Comte to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Bay of Islands, 14 May 1842
Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, August 2008
- J[esus] M[ary &] J[oseph]
- Bay of Islands, this 14th May 1842
- Very Reverend Father
- I wrote to you from Akaroa by the Comte de Paris on the 6 March 1842. On the 16th of the same month the Aube was sent to Auckland, the capital of New Zealand and the residence of the British governor. Auckland is on the east coast between the East Cape and the Bay of Islands. Acting on the principle that one should go to the place where most good is to be done, I resolved to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the warship to travel to Auckland, knowing that from that place there were many opportunities to get to the Bay of Islands. I discussed this matter with Father Tripe, whom I would not have wanted to leave on his own without his consent. He was quite in agreement with me because he would not delay long in following me to the Bay of Islands. Mr Lavaud promised to bring him on his ship as soon as the replacement vessel arrived. According to the letters he has received from the minister, it cannot be long in appearing. The French colonists will be seen as British subjects. As far as the ownership of the peninsula goes, I think it will belong to the French company even though there are several English people who say they bought it beforehand, because their contracts are not in order.
- So I took ship on the 16th March. On the evening of the 26th we arrived in Auckland. I said holy Mass on Easter day in the little house which the Catholics had built for the priest whom the Bishop had promised to give them. It is made of wood. It is 12 English feet wide and 20 long. I stayed 15 days in Auckland, always on board the corvette, while waiting for a ship going to the Bay of Islands. The corvette had to go from there to Tahiti. During this short stay I did 10 baptisms and blessed three marriages. How great is the faith of the Irish! How well they receive priests! How they love them! Right now Auckland has a population of two thousand souls, of which three hundred are Catholic. Although the Catholics are generally poor, they have, however, got together a collection amounting to over 200 pounds sterling for the chapel. It will be begun as soon as the missionary arrives.
- With great joy I read the few words you addressed to your son. You tell me that my poverty in Akaroa overwhelmed you with sorrow. O, the bread of poverty, how delightful it would be if one ate it with a truly poor heart! That providence which every day gives food to the nestlings of the birds, could it have caused us to lack the bread which we asked it for day after day? For clothing, it dresses the lily of the fields in stunning beauty. I do not think, Very Reverend Father, that I complained about destitution in my letters, because I always believed myself to be still rich in the very midst of our poverty.
- Following the first visit by the Bishop to Akaroa, we were on very good terms with the civil and military authorities. People like us very much. The commander and the officers came to see us almost every day. Father Tripe will have given you news about the colonists, for whom he was specially responsible. I strongly urged him to do that when I left. Alas! I have left behind a few natives regenerated in Jesus Christ. What will become of them without a shepherd? I hope that the Blessed Virgin will take care of them.
- With greatest pleasure we see Father Forest in our midst. Little by little everything will work out for the good of our mission. I am still contented and will be until the end with the grace of God, who will bring it about that nothing will be able to separate me from the love of Jesus and Mary.
- I did my retreat on my return from Akaroa. I really needed it. I was dry and languishing. The way I obey and the spirit in which I obey must be for a long time the subject of my particular examen.
- I gave a little note about the South Island to Father Forest. I am about to leave for Maketu on the east coast, where Father Borjon is. Father Epalle will inform you about everything.
- I commend myself in a very special way to our Fathers.
- I have the honour to be, with deepest respect,
- Very Reverend Father,
- Your most humble and obedient servant,
- Doc 136, a letter dated 5 march 1842 but no doubt ended the following day.
- In 1842, Easter day was 27th March.
- Written “Otaiti”
- Perhaps he has in mind Colin’s letter to the missionaries in Oceania dated 21 November 1840, in which he says: “And you, much beloved Father Comte, we have received and sent on your various letters, they move our hearts and turn them towards Oceania”. Cf CS, Doc 218 .
- cf Matthew 6:25-29 - translator’s note
- Written “Forêt”
- Cf Romans 8:35, 39
- Cf Doc 151