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7 October 1842 - Father Jean Forest to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Auckland

Translated by Natalie Keen, October 2013


Source APM Z 208 Sheet of 4 pages , three handwritten, the fourth bearing only the address and the Poupinel annotation.


Monsieur Claude Colin * Mount Saint Barthélemy no.4 Lyon * France
[in Poupinel’s hand]
New Zealand * Auckland 7 October 1842 * Fr Forest


Auckland 7 October 1842
My very Reverend Father,
[1]
I have just learned that a ship which is here is leaving for London tonight. I am taking this hurried opportunity to give you the news I have of the whole mission. For the last three months, I’ve been here in Auckland among the European Irish Catholics. The financial situation of the mission doesn’t allow me to do more travelling around and to visit my very dear fellow priests. However, Father Petit Jean who is arriving from Sydney where he has done some borrowing, will I hope bring me sufficient to allow me to visit some of my colleagues; he’s due here very shortly to take my place.
[2]
Bishop Pompallier has arrived from the tropical islands. He brings nothing but the best news from there. This is what Father Garin who is the provincial residing in the Bay of Islands tells me in a letter about it. Bishop arrived from the islands on 25 August 1842. He had a successful end to his travels. He brought us very good news of the islands. The whole of Wallis is converted, baptized, confirmed and is receiving the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist in large numbers. This island is giving us as much comfort as it earlier gave us tribulations. Fathers Viard and Bataillon, with Brother Joseph, are on this island. Futuna which martyred its priest now has a king of the most Christian people.[1] The whole island has converted, a very large number have received baptism and confirmation. The rest who have not yet been sufficiently instructed yearn for baptism.[2] Fathers Servant and Roulleaux with Brother Marie Nizier are on this island.
[3]
Tonga is converting rapidly. Father Chevron with Brother Attale are stationed here; Father Grange is due to leave very shortly to join Father Chevron. Monsieur Lampila is a deacon; he will soon be ordained. Fathers Baty and Garin are at Kororareka with Bishop. I don’t know where Father Baty is due to go. Father Petit is now on his own at Hokianga , as is Monsieur Rozet at Whangaroa, but these are two stations very close to the Bay of Islands. Fathers Séon and Pezant are at Tauranga. Fathers Comte and Reignier at Opotiki; these last-mentioned places are in New Zealand.
[4]
Father Borjan and Brother Déodat left here for Port Nicholson the night of 31 July / 1 August on a small boat named Speculator.[3] In the Auckland Gazette of 3 October last, I read a report about this boat which gives me much cause for concern. Here is that report in French: The Speculator, which left Auckland in July last for Port Nicholson, its destination, has not yet arrived there. There is some concern about it.
[5]
In truth, my reverend Father, I am very worried. This journey takes only six days and more than two months have gone by since they left. The captain of the port of Auckland to whom I have spoken about it has been scarcely reassuring; he told me that this ship was very inferior, the captain constantly drunk.... As soon as I have something more comforting about them, I’ll let you know.[4]
[6]
Father Tripe is still in the South with the French colonists; he is all alone. I still have no news from there. I’m very concerned about this as well. Ha, how a priest on his own is to be pitied. I have been on my own here for two months but I can tell you that if I wasn’t continuously making an effort to work on studying either the English language or the Holy Scriptures, there would be a myriad of chances for me to be led astray. Here in New Zealand, are the dangers really great? How much we need prayers. I urge you too, ever to be most insistent that there always be two priests together.
[7]
New Zealand offers very little on the plus side. First of all, the Europeans are very largely all Protestant. Here in Auckland there are over two thousand Europeans; it is a small town where wealth and debauchery certainly exceed our very worst places in France. Drunkenness and lust are the two vices which have entirely taken hold of this poor place. The women drink like men, perhaps more. All the rich folk are Protestants; around four hundred Catholics among the poorest class are on our side. If only they were good Catholics, but alas they have nothing Catholic but the name ----- few come to Sunday services, possibly forty or so. I haven’t converted anyone since I’ve been here. Everything is against the conversion of these poor folk. They especially look down on the Catholics because of their poverty. Here I myself am in a state of extreme poverty; we barely have a few small pieces of bread to eat with a little piece of pork while these rich Protestant fellows of whom there are many here generally have good food, fine homes, like our upper class in Paris. On the other hand, not knowing the language sufficiently, I haven’t attempted to win them over. My very reverend Father, I am in no way saying that I am sorry for myself with all this; I am too blessed. I would stay here forever if God so wished, but it is to give you a picture of the place. The poor Maori who are running from all sides into these Babylons are lost immediately. Every day I see groups of young Maori arriving at nightfall. You understand their purpose: the poor Maori get clothes, money etc. and then it is impossible to do anything good with them. These are truly children who do not reason but who seek their pleasures. In the inland areas, a group of Protestant Methodist ministers are countering the whole success of our poor missionaries. These ministers are very rich; they take into their service a large number of these Maoris whom they clothe well and feed. They give, or sell most often, books to the others, give medicines to the sick, while the poverty of our mission doesn’t allow us to do anything at all. The poor boat which for us is a terrible leech still keeps going. If it were possible for some prayers to be offered in the Society for the disposal of this boat, what a huge relief this would be for the mission. With this boat we shall always be in dire distress.
[8]
Recently I’ve received a letter from Port Nicholson telling me that it is not necessary to send priests there, that an English priests should arrive there soon for them.[5] In fact this will be much more convenient from the language point of view. But alas! What will become of this priest on his own? Oh how I could wish that we might all be put on tropical islands where there is so much good to be done. In those islands there is not this huge number of Europeans who spoil everything.
[9]
I haven’t yet seen Bishop Pompallier. However he has written to me once replying to two letters I had written to him since his arrival. He doesn’t seem to regard my arrival unfavourably; however, he tells me to be careful not to listen to all the tales abroad relating to the administration. As soon as I find another opportunity to write to you I shall do so. Please don’t forget me before the good Lord. How lucky you are to be able to now make several good retreats all together. Here, my reverend Father, especially in New Zealand, I look on this as impossible for us. The cost of travel and the constant dangers are very real. I am noticing a considerable lessening in devotion among several of our members. For places like this we need men whose devotion has been well tried and tested; knowledge is most necessary, one has to face daily questions of all sorts from the Protestants. The history of the church, holy scripture with clear commentaries are a must. We don’t have these sorts of books. Moreover, I’ll try to send you a list another time when I am not pressed for time. Father Epalle, who should now be arriving in France, will have lots to tell you. Bishop has been annoyed by his departure. He wanted to go himself. He is afraid this priest will prejudice his mission. I am shortly to see Bishop and I’ll then be able to give you a clearer picture.
[10]
The English Governor died here last September. His temporary replacement doesn’t like Catholics much.[6]
[11]
Brother Colomb is here with me. He sends you his regards. Please give mine to Fathers Cholleton, Terraillon, to your brother, to Fathers Maîtrepierre, Girard, Séon, Chartignier, Poupinel, to the good curé of Saint Paul,[7] to M. Dezeur.[8] - Bishop is most grateful to M. Rubenbauer[9] for his gift. Please tell my brother that I am well.
I have the honour, my very reverend Father, to be your most devoted
Forest,
Apostolic Missionary.
[12]
I have seen Fathers Garin, Petitjean, Comte, Petit, Baty, Rozet, Borjan. I have been in touch with all of them, except Father Tripe, either by letter or personal contact. I haven’t yet been able to write to those in the tropics, no opportunity, but Bishop has arrived.
[13]
I forgot to tell you that it was I along with Brother Déodat, who set up the station in Auckland. We began in a very humble way. Since we had no kitchen whatsoever, my poor brother cooked for a long time outside in rain and shine. I am truly happy to have been able to imitate Jesus in the stable at Bethlehem.

Notes

  1. Keletaona (cf. Frimigacci, p. 152-153).
  2. Besides Pompallier’s report (doc. 193, § 4-6), we can bear in mind that of Servant who speaks of the opposition of the followers of Musumusu (cf. doc. 225, especially § 3).
  3. Ingram (p.24) says it is believed that the schooner Speculator, on a voyage to Wellington, had foundered at sea with the loss of all on board. The Speculator which had left Auckland in July 1842 and Mercury Bay on 12 August, had not arrived in Wellington on 2 November. The schooner was reportedly 40 tons and was carrying several passengers and cargo. A vessel of the same name, under the command of Captain Leech, had left the Bay of Islands on 11 July 1842 for Auckland; it was undoubtedly the same vessel. The Speculator, with Father Borjan and Brother Déodat, is mentioned in documents 230, § 18; 248, § 1; 253, § 8; 260, § 2; 263, § 1;
  4. In March of the following year Forest will write to Colin that mast debris seen in the open sea has been recognised as belonging to this ship and that there is no longer hope of seeing them again in this world. (cf. doc. 247, § 3).
  5. Forest, in his letter of 3 April 1842 (doc. 140, § 9 and n. 5), mentions the community of Catholics in the new town of Wellington (Port Nicholson) thanks to Lord Petre, a Catholic himself and one of the directors of the New Zealand Company. His son, Henry William Petre, one of the first settlers in Wellington, brought out Father O’Reilly, Irish Capuchin, who arrived there on 31 January 1843 (Smart and Bates, p.54-55; McGlone, p.2). The “English priest” mentioned here is undoubtedly this priest
  6. Governor William Hobson died on 10 September 1842; he was replaced by Lieutenant Willoughby Shortland, “administrator” until 26 December 1843 (Encyclopaedia of NZ, vol.1, p.867).
  7. The curé of Saint-Paul from 1833 to 1854 is Jean-François Cattet (cf. Vachet, p.740; see also OM 4, p. 216).
  8. Jean-Henri Dezeur, curé of the main church at St. Etienne from 1824 to 1835, then canon in Lyon (cf. Vachet, p.733; see OM 4, p.498-499).
  9. Martin Rubenbauer (according to personnel register 2, in the Archives of the Archdiocese of Lyon) was born in Lyon on 25 August 1806, ordained priest on 17 December 1831, appointed to Notre-Dame de Saint-Louis, then chaplain at Notre-Dame de Fourvière from 1843 (cf. also Annuaire de Lyon 1841, p.9; Annuaire de Lyon 1844, p.24).