Girard0202

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3 October 1842 — Father Antoine Garin to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Kororareka

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, August 2015


[Address]
Fr Poupinel, 4 St Barthelémy Rise, France ------ Lyons


A(d) m(ajorem) D(ei) g(loriam) et D(ei) G(enetricis) h(onorem)
Bay of Islands, Kororareka, day of the Holy Angels[1]


3 October 1842
[1]
The Bishop has been back from the tropical islands since the 25th August, and tomorrow the mission schooner is to set out again to leave a priest (Father Grange) on Tongatapu, and Brother Augustin[2] on Wallis, where he will replace Brother Joseph who cannot cure himself of an infirmity picked up in the island without leaving that climate, according to the doctor. After having called at these two islands, and perhaps at Futuna, the schooner will go to Valparaiso to be sold there, Brother Joseph will go with it to keep an eye on the interests of the vessel, and at the same time to find a quicker passage to return to New Zealand than if he waited, to come back, for a ship which might mean waiting a year or two. The Bishop thought he had to take Tonga because if he hadn’t, the two islands of Wallis and Futuna would run the risk of being almost entirely destroyed, as Catholics, by Tonga, the most feared island, and which was threatening to massacre the people of the two converted islands. Besides, some Catholic priests have been asked for by a good proportion of the inhabitants of that island and the principal settlement and by the most important chief, of whom a certain number have been baptised by the Bishop.
[2]
I have just received some news from Father Tripe. He seems to be getting bored and discouraged among a colony of men who are mortally indifferent and because, he says, he cannot evangelise the natives as he planned to do when he left France. There are, however, some natives at Akaroa; it’s true that they are not the most receptive, quite the contrary. But, as well, he can’t put up with the Bishop, and says that he will never be able to develop esteem and veneration for him. All this, and similar situations have convinced me that it’s very important not to receive into the Society men who enter only under certain conditions eg to go on missions....&. You know that Father Comte is pretty much in the same situation, except that he is not asking to return to France; he left Akaroa a few months ago, and is working now at the Opotiki mission near Tauranga. Father Tripe has asked permission to go back to France. I am going to look at that in my own time. He tells me that the Brother is going from bad to worse.[3] Father Rozet does not seem to want to become a Marist. He had said on the ship that he was beginning his novitiate. When he was at his mission, he wrote to me, signing himself off as Rozet novice. Notice that when he arrived in New Zealand, he said that he was going to begin his novitiate again, and then, quite recently, having been sent to Wangaroa for some time, he told me that he is going to begin his novitiate at that place. Finally he informed me on another occasion that he would begin his novitiate when he was with a confrère, nothing fairer, [rien de plus juste], but you must see what can be made of that. Father Grange has just made his vows yesterday, 2nd August.[4] Father Petit–Jean has just left for Auckland[5] where he is replacing Father Forest, who doesn’t know English well enough. Father Baty is working with the Bishop and some natives on the book which is going to be printed. The printing press will begin to groan in a few days. Brother Colomb has a character which is almost impossible to put up with. That Brother is in Auckland, the other Brothers are doing fairly well. Several of those who are here in Kororareka have changed for the better. Mr Lampila is a deacon. Brother Augustin is taking to Wallis and Tonga his skills as a weaver; that trade is one of the most desirable in those islands; Brother Attale is with Father Chevron.
[3]
You will soon receive some fairly sizeable drafts; the Bishop must explain each thing to you,[6] but really you have to be on the spot to really understand the causes; if the Bishop had not come back, if Father Épalle had not left, we would really have been discredited, that is to say, pursued by our creditors; fortunately the Bishop has the complete trust of the English, a trust that is pretty well deserved. Many incorrect things have been said against the Bishop; I see now for myself that several of the Fathers have really wronged the Bishop. I see the freedom and haste with which people allow themselves to speak about all the Bishop’s actions and procedures, haste which is the reason why people are so often mistaken; I myself, who am in the house for the administration, have not been able to form an opinion about certain things that were going on quite close to me, and I see other men from some distant place in New Zealand speaking as if they knew everything.
[4]
It is commonly said that the person who hears only one bell hears only one sound. I sometimes see the true situation; I took the liberty of speaking to the Bishop about the various expenses he was being criticised for, and what he told me about them did not match up well with what had been said about them; who was to be believed, those who had heard things being talked about or those who had been personally involved in them.
[5]
Without wanting to try to excuse everything, I am inclined to think that people have said a lot more about the Bishop than facts would support. His too kind heart could, at the beginning, bring him some unexpected outcomes, but along with that I would say that I don’t know whether anyone else in his situation could have been able so well to attract to himself the trust and esteem of a foreign nation, and even of the Protestant “gentlemen”, if another man could have been able to lead the mission so as to bring almost all New Zealand and a great number of islands to ask for priests while there can be seen, not far from us, Catholic missionaries struggling for several years more to be able to introduce themselves and to be received into an island. I am, for the time being, responsible for the procure. That will go on for only a few months, because it is not appropriate for me to be made responsible and overloaded for both temporal and spiritual matters, those two things conflict with each other. Please tell my relatives that my health is wonderfully good, and that I am so busy that I only have the time to write to you about things that are strictly necessary. That is the eighth letter I have written about mission matters in 2 days, having for that only time in the evening. Farewell, reverend Father, if you don’t come to our aid, we perish.
Your most humble and devoted servant, Garin.

Notes

  1. The feast- day of the Holy Guardian Angels, normally observed on 2nd October, was observed on Monday 3rd October in 1842, because on the 2nd, being the first Sunday in October that year, the feast of the Holy Rosary was observed.
  2. Brother Marie–Augustin (Joseph Drevet) had left Bordeaux in 1838; in July 1841 he was at the Bay of Islands in New Zealand (cf doc 104 [2]). Father Épalle thought he was an exemplary Brother (cfdoc 127 [9]). (On his departure for Wallis, cf doc 209 [14], 214 [2]; and also doc 217 [32] 221 [4])
  3. Very likely Brother Florentin (Jean–Baptiste Françon) who was with Tripe at Akaroa (cf doc 104 [2], 132)
  4. To be read, no doubt, as October. The letter is dated 3 October, so “hier” (yesterday) was 2nd October. Since Grange had already made his vows at Belley on 25th September 1841, (cf APM, register of professions, n 62), perhaps it was a renewal of vows, in view of his imminent departure from Kororareka for Tonga. Garin said above [1] that the schooner had to leave the following day: i.e. 4th October; he will affirm later that the departure took place on the planned day (cf Garin’s note in doc 161 [12].
  5. In a letter dated 7th October 1842, Forest told Colin that he was waiting for Father Petit–Jean, who “must arrive very soon” (doc 205 [1]. Petit–Jean will be in Auckland “soon after the end of October 1842” (doc 244 [5])
  6. Cf doc 195, 197. 198, 199, 200, 203, 206, 207, 210, 211, 213, 226