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22 & 26 July 1842 — Father Antoine Garin to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Bay of Islands

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, April 2009

[p. 1] [In the handwriting of Poupinel]
Bay of Islands § Father Garin


Kororareka, 22 July 1842


Ad majorem Dei Gloriam et Mariae Dei Genetricis honorem


Very Reverend Father Superior General
[1]
You must have already received many letters and pieces of information which would serve to bring you up to date on the situation of the New Zealand mission. You must have seen how much it is suffering. But a glance at the present situation will be even more helpful in revealing our needs to you and in arousing the commiseration of those who can take pity on us. Up till the second of July – this present month – the house could present to the public a certain assurance based on the presence of a few people worthy of inspiring it, but for three weeks now I have been on my own to deal with every matter, alone responsible for watching over the needs of the mission, alone with a few pounds recently borrowed to face up to the huge debts which grow from day to day, happy to be assisted by Mr Yvert.
[2]
Yes, right now, our major Superiors, scattered over the seas, are at all four points of the compass, and are for me a constant source of fear and hope. The Bishop and Father Viard, who left a year ago come 23rd July, are sailing the seas to the north,[1] Father Epalle is heading east to fetch help from you,[2] Mr Perret is following on his heels to catch him up and end his journey with him, and is going to recover his health,[3] in the west Father Petit-Jean is looking for a loan in the town of Sydney,[4] Father Forest with Brother Déodat has just headed south to set himself up with nothing in Auckland, or even to go and visit the Fathers at Maketu, Opotiki, Tauranga and Matamata,[5] Father Baty, who has been away for more than eight or ten months without our having had any news of him, is probably at sea to get from Mahia to Kororareka,[6] we daily expect Father Tripe with the Brother who is accompanying him from Akaroa to the Bay of Islands,[7] because, people say, the French colony is going to leave this district.
[3]
Fathers Borjon and Rozet have orders to go as quickly as possible to Port Nicholson to set up an establishment there with nothing, the natives are tormenting us, persecuting us to get books, and so long as Father Baty is not here we cannot get the press working, because he alone can put the finishing touches to the work that must be printed; and most of these poor natives are threatening to leave us so as to receive books from the Protestant missionaries; several are no longer attending worship while waiting for our book so as to see for themselves, they say, where the truth is. A Protestant Bishop has just arrived in New Zealand.[8] He knows how to speak Maori; the natives are gathering to listen to him. Our Fathers are crying hunger in the stations, they are ceasing to travel through the tribes so as to take up the pick and the shovel. The new Protestant Bishop comes with plenty of money, he has let it be known that he is going to open schools for the natives, and I am continually wondering how it is possible for us to still have natives persevering in the faith. No, there is nothing but the hand of God and the protection of Mary supporting them.
[4]
For a few weeks now we have reduced the staff of the house to a minimum because of the high cost of food in Kororareka. Myself, I travel from time to time through the various parts of the Bay of Islands. With a bit of bread and a little pork in a Maori basket, I embark in the boat with two Brothers and out there we wander sometimes towards one tribe and sometimes towards another; if thirst overtakes us while we are eating our dry bread and salty pork, we soak this crust in the sea-water to slake our thirst; having arrived among the natives, we gratefully receive potatoes, kumaras, fish or squash cooked on heated stones, then fitting to our mouths a little hole in a pumpkin [shell] which serves the natives as a bottle we moisten what we have chewed with a good drink of fresh water. When the meal has been finished, the bell announces the time for prayer, we worship God better than in the finest churches. Prayer is followed by a short instruction and the singing of some canticle or hymn about the main truths of religion. Already night has come. The native lights his pipe and leads us into the house which must shelter us during the night; a mat as thin as a sheet, spread on the ground, will serve us for a bed, our bags for pillows, and sometimes exhaustion leads to rest. Indeed you have to be a bit tired to sleep, because you are stifled by the smoke from the fire and the pipes and by the heat produced by the crush of a great number of people gathered together in so narrow a space. That’s not everything. Just when you are on the point of falling asleep, a great silence occurs: the chief has spoken, he has spoken to the priest: “Well now, priest, speak to us; come on, talk, talk.” And therefore it is better that you can instruct them there than in a church, because you have to spend the whole night talking to them. If the priest stops talking, the native goes on well into the night, day soon comes, and the missionary says: “I have to leave.” “But you are going to have prayers,” says the native, “and then, after you have eaten, you will leave.” There you have the life I lead, pretty usually, while waiting for someone to come and help me, but I groan at realising that I cannot stay at least a week in each tribe; that would be the only way of achieving some real good; at least you could instruct the children, you could teach reading and writing to these poor people who are so keen to learn.
[5]
If I go back to the house, it is to hear talk about accounts, debts, needs. Yesterday as well we received from Father Bataillon a draft for 19 pounds, which had been on the way for a year; this shows how every day we run the risk of receiving drafts and not knowing how to honour them. God must soon intend to come to our aid, because I think that soon we will be at the bottom rung, and, if that situation lasts, I will be able to say that we will have experienced every age in a very short time. The golden age under Father Petit-Jean and finally, under me, the iron age; that will literally be true if Father Petit-Jean brings back no help from Sydney.
[6]
Whatever happens, I am not being discouraged. I will always find hope in the arms of the Lord and in Mary’s protection. So please help Providence and get us out of the difficulty in which we really would be placed if someone was nasty enough to want to harm us by presenting us with a draft that we could not honour. Add to that the expected arrival of the Bishop and his schooner and all the men of his crew to be paid as soon as it arrives.
[7]
26 July. We have just received today a letter from Father Petit-Jean. He informs us that he is not happy with the result of his inquiries; he thinks that all he will be able to do will be to bring 300 pounds, while he would have needed a thousand or 1500; several of our creditors are relying on the Father’s return to be paid, but, may God be blessed! we know that what seems to be a misfortune is often a great blessing in the sight of God. Perhaps we have not suffered enough yet to deserve achieving some good. However we still have thanksgivings to offer to the good God, because his Providence has determined that while the other Fathers were away, matters which seemed most difficult have worked themselves out as we would have wished. What has contributed a bit to this has been Father Forest’s arrival. Before he came, the Europeans, seeing that we were not getting any help, were close to believing that this mission had been abandoned, but when Father Forest came, bringing some relief, confidence grew so much that we are no longer in despair, and that with your charity swelling at the request of Father Epalle, we will soon recover from this difficult situation. In the meantime we are planting a good number of turnips and carrots; our garden at Kororareka promises us a most abundant harvest of vegetables, and we are benefitting from it already.
[8]
I have also today received news about Father Baty, and this event also makes me offer an act of submission to the decrees of Providence. The only ship which visits the coast where he is hit rocks and was wrecked; it was on orders to pick up the priest. So now we have to await his return for an unspecified time. He will come at the first opportunity.
[9]
Father Forest will probably wait in Auckland for the arrival of Father Baty, who is destined for that town. Brother Déodat is with him.
[10]
Brother Colomb has gone to the Hokianga to help Brother Claude-Marie.
[11]
Brother Augustin has just left for Whangaroa so as to speed up what Brother Elie is doing; Brother Emery has gone with him to spend a fortnight there in repairing Brother’s clothing; a Brother-tailor is of inestimable value here. It would be the same with a shoemaker if he brought leather with him.
[12]
We have here, at the house, Mr Yvert who is a great help to us in many ways, Brother Pierre-Marie who acts as schoolteacher to the little English children, Brother Basile who does the cooking, is waiting for leather to come from Sydney so as to repair our shoes which are coming apart; shoes have immense use here and throughout the mission. Brother Luc is right now working at carpentry; later on he will be able to work in the garden when Mr Yvert will be busy with the press. Mr Lampila.[9] is studying theology with Brother Pierre-Marie. I am teaching them. Mr Lampila spends almost his whole day right now working in the garden with Mr Yvert. Later on he will help him with the press. We have recruited a French sailor who volunteered his services to the house, wanting to enter the Society. He works at carpentry, but he is often sick. I think he wants to leave us to go to the warmer islands. The young Englishman from Liverpool[10] is still studying Latin under Mr Lampila, he is very zealous. Altogether there are eight of us in the house; not long ago we numbered 12 to 15, all very busy. Two natives from Futuna driven by the winds into the open ocean on their canoe were picked up by an English whaling ship; they have just arrived at Kororareka. They are asking to stay in the Bishop’s house until an opportunity to return to their home comes along. I am going to deal with this tomorrow; I am thinking of taking them in. It will be a sign to this people, culpable of the death of Father Chanel, that the love that is preached to them is real; perhaps this event has been arranged by Providence for the conversion of the whole island. If I take them in, I will send one to Whangaroa to work there with Brother Elie who needs a native, the other will be sent to Hokianga or even here. Please accept, Reverend Father, the assurance of my complete devotion. Please pray for us, and ask Mary to pray. Goodbye.
Garin
Provincial


Notes

  1. Cf Docs 133 [2-7], 135; 136 [15-16].
  2. Epalle left NZ 23 May 1842 – went to Valparaiso, which he left on 27 July for Rio de Janeiro and finally for France, where he hoped to be late in 1842 (cf doc 196 [1]). See also Docs 167 and 179, 180, 181, 182 (from Valparaiso) and 196 (from Rio).
  3. Perret explained his return to France in a letter of 20 May 1842 (Doc 163 [11]). He wanted to go with Epalle but the others persuaded him not to go (Doc 174 [1]), then he got ready to go with Petit-Jean to Sydney but changed his mind at the last moment (Doc 174 [21]), finally the day after Petit-Jean had gone he left for Valparaiso to catch up Epalle (Doc 184 [42]) but when he arrived Epalle had already left. On 5 October 1842 he wrote, describing Chilean life and affirming his devotion to the Marist project (Doc 204).
  4. Cf Doc 168, 176 [2-7], 177, 184 [1-4, 17].
  5. Forest, having begun the Auckland station with Brother Déodat in July 1842 (Doc 205 [13]), remained there until October 1842 when Petit-Jean replaced him (Doc 202 [2]). He did not visit the Bay of Plenty stations until 1843 (Doc 247 [4-30]. When Garin was writing this letter, Comte and Reignier had already arrived at Maketu (Doc 154 [2], 155 [7], 157 [8]) from where, with Brother Justin, they went soon after to the neighbouring station of Opotiki (Doc 202 [2], 205 [3], 209 [36]). Before their arrival Borjon had been at Maketu with Brother Justin (Doc 129 [4]), and Rozet at Opotiki (Doc 129 [8]. From 1841-44 Pézant was at Tauranga (Doc 129 [4], [8]) and Séon at Matamata (Doc 124 [7].
  6. Baty, based at Te Mahia (in the northern part of Mahia Peninsula) since 30 September 1841 remained there until 10 July 1842, when he left to return to the Bay of Islands (Doc 113 [1], 114 [2-3, 5-6, 8-9], 159 [3], 216 [1-3], 233 [13]).
  7. Brother Florentin (Jean-Baptiste Francon) was at Akaroa with Fathers Tripe and Comte (Doc 132, 137 [4]).
  8. George Augustus Selwyn (1809-78), appointed Anglican Bishop of New Zealand, arrived in Auckland 30th May 1842. He had studied Maori on the way. Soon after his arrival he undertook a visitation which lasted six months (Dictionary of NZ Biography Vol 1, pp 387-388, and the most detailed account, Yates, pp 44-45, 51-54).
  9. He had been professed as a Marist the previous September but was not yet ordained - translator’s note
  10. Henry Garnett (Cf Doc 152 [17]).