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9 August 1842 — Father Antoine-Marie Garin to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Kororareka

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, May 2015

A m D g & D g h [1]

Kororareka 9th August 1842,

Very Reverend Father Superior-General,
The Fathers at Tauranga, Maketu and Matamata sent too late the letters that they wanted to send through the opportunity given by Fr Epalle’s departure[2], and I am sending them by way of a whaling ship, the Pallas , which is going to Le Havre; it will take some time, but as our news is not really urgent and the carriage will be cheaper that way, I prefer to entrust them to the first mate,[3] whom I know particularly well, and who has promised me to deliver them as soon as possible; it will take about 6 to 8 months. I have sent you a letter dated at the end of January 1842[4] which you must have received about several months ago. To cover all eventualities, I am summarising in a few words in this letter what I told you in the one before.
For two months now I have been the only priest at Kororareka, in charge of everyday business, having Mr Yvert to help me with the accounts. If the mission was not supported by the almighty power of God and the protection of Mary, I think that we would be reduced to having no followers among the natives; indeed our adversaries have every human resource and we are completely destitute of them.
The main superiors of the mission are scattered right now, they are to be found at the four cardinal points of the compass over the huge ocean, and from whatever direction ships come, we scan them with impatience, and with hope mixed with mistrust, hoping from a distance to catch sight of a soutane with a tricorne hat. In fact the Bishop and his pro-vicar Father Viard, in the north, are about to end their long journey along the coasts of New Zealand, and to the islands, Wallis, Futuna, Ascension. We are now in the 13th month since their departure, and the 10th while we have been awaiting the bishop at Kororareka. Father Petit-Jean in the west is soliciting the compassion of the public among the Catholics of Sydney. We are expecting him from day to day. He has told us in a letter that he is hoping to be able to borrow only 300 pounds, while he needs at least, yes, at least a thousand or 1500. In the east, Father Épalle is no doubt at this time trying to cross the isthmus of Panama to go and beg for urgently needed funds; finally the 3rd pro-vicar, Father Baty, in the south, is stretching our patience to a long trial of 10 months; he is always on the point of arriving to put the final touches on the work that we must print, and always we are uncertain and disappointed. Yesterday at last, I received some news of him; he is in Auckland, and perhaps on the way back to Kororareka. In the south as well is Father Forest, who is looking after Auckland until Father Baty can go and stay there.
I would have to talk to you for a long time, Reverend Father, about our hardships and spiritual difficulties, only, so as not to be too long (because I don’t have the time, I am under pressure from every side) I will say that yesterday I received news of nearly all our Fathers, those at Tauranga, Maketu, Matamata, Opotiki, Auckland, and Hokianga.[5] I will tell you that after having spent two hours reading the accounts of all the bodily and spiritual sufferings that weigh down our poor Fathers, I could not restrain my sensitivity, nor the coursing of my tears, and that during the day the memory of those letters started them flowing again, and now while I am writing to you, they are wetting the paper you have before you.[6] May Divine providence be blessed! Let us hope, let us hope! After the storm, no doubt will come the calm. Let us hope, let us hope! Trials are a good omen, said St Ignatius, in an almost similar situation. Yes, dear Father, our missions are truly being tried.
Father Forest, in the middle of a town, the capital of New Zealand, with Father Baty as a companion, is forced, during the night, to go and get water for his cooking; I sent 25 pounds sterling to Father Borjon so he could go with Father Rozet and a Brother[7] to Port Nicholson, and those 25 pounds were stolen, with several letters in the port of Auckland,[8] so that having got to Auckland, he found himself in very great difficulty. Father Baty, so long awaited at Kororareka, at last tells us that he is already in Auckland and that he doesn’t dare to come, for fear that we don’t have the means of paying for his passage. The other Fathers point out to us the great difficulty they have in living. Father Petit makes several requests; I am sending him today a bit of flour, some tea, some rice etc; and everything bought in Kororareka on credit. It is true that no one misses potatoes, nor even pork, with the exception of Father Forest, whom we have sent to Auckland, starting him off with a loaf of bread, a little bag of rice, a little flour, two chickens, a bit of pork, just as you give someone who is setting out on a week-long journey. But those are still not the most serious sufferings.[9] If things don’t get worse, we will hold out, and the future even seems reassuring, when we count on the help that is to come, because the government will give 100 pounds, says Father Forest, and the settlers at Nicholson as much again, for each priest; and two more priests would be wanted for Nelson, a little harbour nearby.
The Fathers are fairly adequately provided for, for struggling along for some months, but what constitutes our greatest cross, is the fury, the anger which the Protestants put into fighting against our Church, and into turning away our disciples; it’s seeing especially how powerless we are to travel among our natives as often as we would like, for lack of a bit of tobacco, or blankets; it’s the lack of books, our natives cannot hide their shame when the Protestants tell them: Look at our books, where is yours? Where is your religion? And to defend themselves these poor children come and ask us to lend them a book, to show it, regardless of whether it was a French, English, or Latin book, they would buy some, even at the risk of buying a bad one, and then they show them to the priest, so he could tell them if it was good. You wouldn’t believe the eagerness these natives have for finding the truth in books. So they make us spend all our time in copying.
However, in the midst of all these problems, we truly have to thank Providence, because there is still good among a significant number of natives. For myself, in the journeys I have made quite recently among the tribes of the Bay of Islands, I have still experienced consolations, mixed, it is true, with some tribulations. Most often the tribes are a mixture of Catholics and Protestants, and, when the missionary goes and visits them, he needs to fortify himself with a lot of courage, gentleness and patience.
He gets there with a lot of difficulty, he jumps out of the boat, decides what he has to do to pull it ashore, and the native, crouching under his blanket, watches him do it. The missionary goes ahead, shakes the hand of each man, some shake it firmly, others with indifference, some will only offer their fingers extended without taking the trouble to close them; others, and these are the Protestants, will offer you the index finger, or indeed, the hand bent inwards, or even the elbow, quite insulting ways of acting. In these cases, I pretend not to see them, or rather, shake their hand vigorously, as if I loved them more than the others. Sometimes they will react well to the greeting, and, quite surprised to see a Catholic priest shaking their hands, they turn to their neighbours, laughing maliciously, but you get hardened to this, and think yourself blessed to be able to suffer some insult for the name of Jesus Christ. After that, the priest sits down and gives an instruction. Often he is ridiculed and derided, but often as well he is listened to with interest; he is told, speak to us now. Lead us in a prayer for the sick.
In my last journey, when I had finished the prayer for the sick, the chief said to me: Is that all? You’re not going to make it longer?.. He was a good chief in one of the most distant tribes. In an earlier journey, he gave me a pig for a present, and in return I brought him a bit of sugar, some tobacco. When I was leaving, he called me back; it was to offer me a fine basket of potatoes. I accepted it with gratitude.
In this bay I number three chiefs with hearts that are quite well-disposed towards priests; and a lot of natives, they are still fervent in attending prayers; the others are a bit less fervent. We have, as well, a chief’s wife, a widow; she is called Peata.[10] She is one of the most zealous women that could be seen; she has a lot of influence among the chiefs, even the two greatest in this part of the island, Rewa and Moka. Among them, she is quite outstanding in virtue. A few days ago I was setting out to visit a tribe when she was arriving, and from as far away as she could make herself heard, she called out to me; Ariki (High chief), priest; while calling out in this way she came near the boat, wanted to get in so as to shake my hand, but I went down the bank. She hastily came near, took my hand which she kissed with respect, which she does every time she has stayed several days without coming.
Reverend Father, I am sending you the young Englishman whom we have already spoken about, I have found an opportunity which, it seems to me, has been arranged by Providence. Captain Terr,[11] American in nationality, captain of the whaling ship Pallas, has been so kind as to grant my simple request to make himself responsible for taking to France Mr Henry Garnett of Liverpool. When I began my letter, nothing had been decided, and I was about to finish when the captain came to give me this reply. I told him that I would provide him with some money to pay for the costs this would involve, I made him understand that I wanted to give him a modest sum, it is true, but appropriate to our situation, but he wanted to accept nothing. On one side we are losing something by letting this good young man go, because he was very useful to us here, but it was too much to be feared that he would lose his vocation, because his inconstancy showed itself sometimes at the sight of ships leaving for his homeland. Besides, our time is precious here, he caused us to waste a bit of it; he also occasioned us some expenses, and I know he will be very useful to you for English language.
I very much commend myself to your prayers, along with the whole mission. If I have the time, I will write you a few words more; I will only add here that the six Fathers near Tauranga agree in saying that it would be best not to devote ourselves to farming, that a good garden would be enough, and that for a number of reasons; Mr Yvert must have written to you about this and with this meaning.[12] I know that we were of a different opinion to Father Épalle, but I don’t know why, I see the matter differently now. The fact is that farming would take up all the Brothers’ time, would occasion expenses, would cause the ruin of men’s health, without anyone being much better off. Our garden at Kororareka could feed a boarding house.
Excuse me for taking up all my margins, but I am doing it because I am afraid of not being able to do a second letter. Best wishes from me to the whole Society. Pray to the Lord that he send fervent and energetic workers into his vineyard.
Your quite devoted and very respectful child,
Antoine Garin,
Prov(incial), miss(ionary) ap(ostolic)


  1. Ad maiorem Dei gloriam et Dei genetricis honorem = to the greater glory of God and the honour of the Mother of God.
  2. From 1841 to 1844, Pèzant was at Tauranga (Cf Doc129 [4,8] ) and Séon at Matamata (Cf Doc 124 [7]. Comte, having arrived at Maketu at the beginning of June (Cf Doc 154 [2], 155 [7], 157 [8], went off soon after, with Reignier and no doubt Brother Justin, to the neighbouring station at Opotiki (Cf Doc 202 [2], 205 [3], 209 [36]; up till then Borjon had been at Maketu (Cf Doc 129 [4], and Rozet at Opotiki (Cf Doc 129 [8]). Épalle left New Zealand on the 23rd May 1842 (Cf Doc 196 [1].) The letters written shortly before this date: by Pèzant to Colin (Doc 142), to Girard (Doc 146), to Poupinel (Doc 147); by Borjon to Colin (Doc 156) to Girard (Doc 157); Borjon wrote also to Claude Raccurt on 6th June 1842 (Doc 175). There is no letter from Antoine Séon to Colin at APM from Matamata dated May 1842, the last one before that date being in July 1842 (Doc 102)
  3. The first mate was Pierre Audouard, who was second in command on this voyage of the Pallas, under Captain Henry Thayer. They went on whaling in the south Pacific until 2nd December 1842, then got back to Le Havre on 3rd March 1843 (National Archives, Paris, Marine CC5 611; information from Peter Tremewan.
  4. Cf his letter of 19th Jan 1842 (Doc 128)
  5. Of the first three, Cf supra [1]; at Opotiki was Fr Rozet (Cf Doc 129 [8]; at Auckland were Father Forest and Brother Deodat Villemagne (Cf Doc 178 [2], 186 [5], 205 [13]), at Hokianga were Father Servant and Father Roulleaux, with Brothers Claude–Marie (Bertrand) and Colomb (Pierre Poncet) (Cf Doc 111 [6], 123 [2], 124 [7]; 178[10])
  6. Indeed, the second page of the manuscript bears three traces of what could be the effect of tears fallen on the paper.
  7. It is Brother Justin (Etienne Perret), who had been with Borjon since their arrival at Maketu on 22nd August, 1841 (Cf Doc 104 [2], 111 [4], 129 [4]). Up to this time Rozet had been at Opotiki, about 80 km from Maketu (Cf Doc 104 [1], 114,[4] 124 [7])
  8. According to Forest, the money was stolen on the ship which brought Borjon to Auckland (Cf Doc 222 [2], 247 [3])
  9. vicoter = vivoter
  10. This woman, Peata, was certainly the first Maori, and perhaps the first woman, to make vows of religion in New Zealand (Cf Edgcumbe, p2). Munro tells the known facts of her life (p 82 -86): her Maori name was Hoki. She received the name of Beata (Peata) when she was baptised by Pompallier in 1840, a month before the Treaty of Waitangi, and, according to Pompallier she was of high birth, the niece of Rewa and perhaps the daughter of Moka (p 84). In 1845, three weeks after the burning of Kororareka, she will persuade the great Maori chiefs, who had gathered in front of the little town to complete its destruction, to go away without doing any more damage (Munro p 85)
  11. Captain Henry Thayer, born on the 29th March, 1804 in Taunton, Massachusetts, son of Jonathan Thayer and of Ruth Raymond, came from New Bedford to Le Havre on board the Bourbon in 1824. On the 9th May, 1833 he married, in the Reformed religion, Elizabeth Belloncle, and was naturalised as a French citizen on 23rd March, 1836 (Cf Thierry du Pasquier, Les Baleiniers francais du XIXe siècle, Grenoble: Terre et mer, 1982, p230; information supplied by Peter Tremewan)
  12. Cf Doc 152 [11]

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