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29 October & 4 November 1842 — Father Antoine Garin to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Kororareka

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, September 2015

(On 30 November 1842 the author sent a “duplicate” of it which, however, contained so many changes and additions that it had to be seen as a separate document - cf doc 228)

A M D G & D G H
New Zealand
Kororareka, 29 October 1842
To the Reverend Father Superior General

Very Reverend Father,
No doubt you have been waiting for a long time for some details about the activities of your children; during this time I have told you little about this, because not having had the opportunity to see for myself, or to hear them spoken about, I couldn’t satisfy you at length. I know, and do not forget, that you are always thinking about us, and that most of your concern is for children who are overseas. You have certainly proved that to us by your letters to us, full of tenderness, which we always find too short. I know about all the prayers that our beloved Society offers for us and our people, I remember how ardently a great number of your children yearn for the moment when they will be able to cross the enormous distance that separates us; I seem to see you groaning with tears, beloved and very Reverend Father, over the sufferings which sometimes have overwhelmed and still overwhelm your beloved children. Ah! If you have, and our beloved Society as well, so much affection for your children in Oceania, the feelings which drive them on are not less lively, and if they are not demonstrated to you as often as you would like, it is not due to indifference but to lack of opportunity and time.
For what concerns me, I would like to know your desires, even to the smallest details, so as not omit the accomplishment of any of them. Yes, I love the Society and am becoming more and more affectionate to it, my whole consolation will be to live and die in its bosom, provided that I am found worthy to do so, my every effort will be to study its intentions and to conform myself to them. So I need to be enlightened about many things, for example, about my duties in respect of each of the members of the Society, on my conduct in regard to the Bishop, on what is to be done to correct abuses, and especially how far I can go in correcting a member, and where one should stop. You know that I am very new in all that, and that is what has forced me to ask you already in the preceding letters, and to entreat you in this present one, to be so kind as to put someone else in my place.[1] The Bishop says that it is not for him, but rather for you to appoint and change the provincial. Since you have seen Father Épalle, you must know our whole situation better than I could explain it to you now in this letter; and that is why I am not talking to you about it. I will however share with you what you could find interesting since his departure from the Bay of Islands.
It would be very useful to instil into the Brothers an openness to being employed in various works that are available, because the ambition they nearly all have of being catechists deceives them very much when they see themselves limited to working in the kitchen and in the garden, without being able to do anything else; they stay a long time in this attitude before learning the language.
Regarding the account I have to give you about the members of the Society, it will still be very incomplete, because I have been able to speak face to face with only two–thirds of them.
Father Chanel, by reason of his virtues, his gentleness, his charity and his sufferings, deserved the beautiful crown which is the envy of many. One of the first to arrive in the mission, he wanted also to be one of the first to arrive in heaven; God willing, may those who have followed him into pagan territories be also able to follow him into the homeland for which all of us long. We hope that his prayers and his powerful intercession will obtain this favour for all of us.
People say that Father Bataillon is too serious; apostolic works and care for the salvation of souls, says the Bishop, absorb him completely. He will only reply with a “yes” or a “no” in long conversations; he is a man in his element, conscientious, concerning himself only with what can contribute to the salvation of his flock, and busy over it with tireless zeal. He has had to suffer hunger, he had been eating almost nothing but marrows for two months until, fortunately, the Bishop arrived and got him out of that sad condition; those long privations have, as well, led him to lose the spirit of poverty a little, says the Bishop, because he has put too much concern into making requests of the Bishop and was a little too tenacious in a discussion with the Fathers. He is a bit too demanding of the Brother who serves him.[2] He doesn’t look after his health well enough; for example, if he is a bit damp from sweat, he will not easily be persuaded to change his underwear, saying that he has to get used to everything. The Bishop had to reproach him for not having carried out his orders, in that having been told to read out a letter written by his Lordship in three places, he had read it out only in two.
Father Servant, while being in New Zealand, saw all his senses weakening: sight, hearing, taste etc, which put him in a slightly isolated situation; he did not pay enough attention to the advice received by the Bishop. I am talking about the early days, I do not know if he is the same. Some months before leaving the Hokianga, he was visited by Father Épalle, who couldn’t get to see whether his registers were in order. He was observing the rule as best he could. He seems destined, whether by his clumsiness or by a special permission of Providence wanting to test him, to risk great dangers, as you must have learned from Father Épalle. He is now in a very fine place, the island of Futuna ; he is no doubt destined to gather the fruit which Father Chanel’s blood must produce among that people, who seem now to have the best dispositions.
Brother Marie–Nizier is a good Brother, very pious and loved by the Futuna natives. His health has become delicate under that burning climate. He is still in the same island.
People say that Brother Joseph has not too much religious spirit; he is good in terms of the services he can provide in a mission, but he has a weakness due to a lack of spirit of poverty; he is not careful in his situation in the dealings he has with people. He has contracted a local illness. The Bishop has called him back to the Bay of Islands; he is destined to accompany the schooner Sancta Maria to Valparaiso and to come back to the Bay of Islands, after which it will be sold; it/he will then voyage alone, without priests or Brothers.[3] We thought there was not too great a danger, relatively to his dispositions. He is reputed to be the most famous doctor.
Brother Michel is working for some Europeans.[4] I don’t know very much remarkable about him; only on one side I see with concern that he sometimes goes to visit Brother Élie; on another, through fervent prayers, his return could be brought about. That’s it for the men in the first dispatch.
Let’s move to the second (but for greater clarity, I think it would be better if I spoke to you only about what has happened since I have been here, unless I think it necessary to tell you about something that happened earlier). Father Baty has a strength that I very much appreciate, it’s receiving with religious indifference all the orders he is given and keeping to his rule.
Father Épalle was brusque in a way that could discourage some of the Brothers, but was very attached to the rule. His leaving for France was not just his own decision, but was shared by all those around him, with the exception of Father Viard, on principle, but I think that afterward he thought he should go. I thought I could perceive in him the sole intention of trying to save the mission from ruin. I have always seen him exact in following the Bishop’s intentions, and communicating them to the other Fathers.
Father Petit can be sharp; Brother Claude-Marie who works with him, complains a lot about not being dealt with kindly enough. He is sometimes a bit scrupulous, he tries to observe the rule as best he can. He is full of zeal. His long and difficult journeys have made him famous, people everywhere talk about his long legs. By his speed he tires out all those who accompany him; it’s even said that he brought a native close to death in that way, but I couldn’t confirm that. Right now he is on his own in the Hokianga with Brother Claude–Marie.
Brother Augustin has gone to replace Brother Joseph in Wallis. He is obedient in what concerns the sort of work he is given, or in the changes from one place to another that he can be given, but in his ways of seeing and doing things, he cannot be made to listen to reason, he will argue too easily with the Fathers. Otherwise he is a good worker. He is going to teach the people in Wallis to make cloth; he has brought what is needed to set up 2 looms, one in Tonga, one in Wallis. He loves his rule, and is keen to carry it out as much as he can.
For about a month Brother Élie has no more been alone. He is a great farmer and is very keen on instructing the natives and has somewhat forgotten his rule, and the need to do things in an orderly way and at the set times. However, he is virtuous. He is inclined to clear new pieces of land before having ensured the conservation of the first–cultivated pieces, which he neglects.
Brother Florentin is going from bad to worse, according to Father Tripe, his spiritual director. He still wants to go back to France. His situation amongst icily indifferent French people, and with a Father whose habits can annoy a bit those who serve him, isn’t of a sort to advance him in virtue ; I don’t know of anything really special, because he has only written to me once,[5] I think, and he is too far from us.
Third dispatch – Father Petit–Jean gets a bit carried away, along with a too great ease of saying what he thinks; his words, dictated by his lively feelings, are sometimes harsh towards the natives; he judges the actions of those in authority too quickly, and more than once I have seen that his judgments were wrong and his criticisms unjust. Quite recently again I have had really clear proof of that. In his dealings with different people, he is too austere in his attitude and not open enough. Apart from that, he is a real missionary, indefatigable, not afraid of long journeys, full of courage and zeal, he is quite ready to go barefoot on journeys to save his shoes, to hoist up his trousers up to the knees so as to not allow them to be caught in the branches, preferring instead to expose his skin to them. Pretty usually patient with the natives, and full of a desire to convert them, obedient to an order to go on a journey, but not always when he is given a message; he puts into it too many of his own ideas, is faithful to the observance of the rule.
Father Viard is full of goodness, zeal and charity, knows how to make himself loved by all the peoples; has many virtues.
Father Comte is hot-headed, acts a bit too much according to his own way of seeing things, cannot put his trust in authority, because, he says, trust cannot be ordered. He would like to go to the tropical islands because being distant from authority he would have less to suffer. He has his own ideas which don’t come too close to the religious spirit. When the Bishop told him on one occasion that the natives had to be taught to intertwine their fingers to pray, he replied that that was ridiculous; not faithful enough to his rule, so, having spent some time in Kororareka, he did not go to confession, I believe, nor went to direction. Although he made his annual retreat, he wouldn’t have thought of doing it if I hadn’t told him to do so, although he hadn’t made one since his leaving France. Most of the Fathers, up till my arrival, hadn’t made a retreat after their departure from France 2, 3, or 4 years before.
Father Chevron, exact in his observance of the rule, a good missionary. Brother Attale – a bit unknown to me.
Father Tripe is too old; that’s his problem; he has his personal habits, his habits developed during a peaceful ministry; he seems to have had some significant disputes with the Bishop, to the point that the Bishop told him and Father Comte also, “Well then! You can leave when you wish, I am not holding you back, I am leaving you free, go or stay!” It was after these words that Father Tripe asked you if he could go back to France.[6] The Bishop did not understand how Father Comte had been able to leave Akaroa and leave Father Tripe alone with the Brother.[7] He had told him that if it happened that Commander Lavaud advised them to leave, they could do that and come back to Kororareka,[8] but Father Comte alone left Akaroa and arrived here hoping he could be sent to the tropical islands, but his hope was in vain, the ship had left one or two days earlier.[9]
Father Pèzant makes life difficult for all the Protestant ministers, he defeats them all, but perhaps he doesn’t keep calm enough in the discussions; he is exact in observing his rule.
Father Séon is making himself loved by the natives, who call him their father; he is exact in his rule.
Father Borjon – good religious, good missionary. He has just been sent to Nicholson with Brother Deodat.[10]
Father Rozet doesn’t seem to want to enter the Society. While on the ship, he said, I am beginning my novitiate; having arrived at his station at Opotiki, he said, I am going to begin my novitiate; called from Opotiki and presently destined for Whangaroa, he said, I am going to begin my novitiate at Whangaroa, and when he got to the mission station he said that he could not do his novitiate if he was alone, that he will do it at Kororareka; several facts showed me that he was a long way from having a religious spirit. However I have already prepared a letter to inform him at the first opportunity that he is to come here to do his novitiate.
Father Roulleaux is having difficulty in getting used to the ways of the natives, he is exact in performing the exercises of his rule, he is too attached to his opinions, and too touchy; he is in Futuna with Father Servant.
Brother Pierre–Marie is still studying; he is a bit inclined to be melancholic; otherwise he is submissive and exact in performing his religious duties.
Brother Basile does the cooking, and does us a really fine service by repairing the shoes. For some time he has changed a bit for the better. However he still complains from time to time when he gets an order, he seems bad-humoured, but recognises his faults easily.
Brother Euloge is, I think, still the same in character, the Father who has him is happy with him, he is with Father Pèzant.
I haven’t received much information about Brother Justin.
Brother Colomb is often in a bad mood – he doesn’t easily fit in with other people’s wishes. He is not in very good health; he is in Auckland.
Brother Emery is a very good Brother, he is very even-tempered.
Mr Yvert is still a novice. He says he is waiting for letters from you to clarify his destination in the Society. He gives us great help in temporal matters, and with the printing press. He is very pious, but, like many others, there is something of the old Adam about him, and this fault comes from that spirit of exactitude which he wants to put into everything he does; he wants perfection in everything; when he has an idea about something, it is usually difficult to get him to change it, which amounts to saying that he is not submissive enough in judgment.
Mr Perret must be with you if Providence has preserved his life during his voyage.
It’s not for me to describe Father Forest, I see him as my Superior.
Father Reignier is with Father Comte at Opotiki. His health is not very good. I have heard it said that he was a bit scrupulous.
Father Grange has just left to go and join Father Chevron in Tongatapu. He doesn’t have religious spirit, that is to say, he doesn’t hesitate much about following his own ideas, taking hardly any notice of his superiors’ intentions. However there is this to his credit, that he will be exact in doing what he is asked, when that is explained to him clearly. He is very zealous, very hard-working and active. He would have profited very much by a novitiate in the Society.
Brother Deodat is a little touchy, zealous, however, judging from the little time I have seen him.
Brother Luc is a very good Brother; he is working here at carpentry and the printing- press.
Brother Deodat is with Father Borjon.
Finally Mr Lampila has received all the orders up to the diaconate inclusively; he is being trained here for the ministry. He has changed for the better, he is less touchy about little annoyances which, like everyone else, he comes across.
That’s enough for the others, now for me. With Mr Yvert, I am responsible for the procure. I direct manual labour, the work in the house, which takes up nearly all my time. The Bishop is well aware that I cannot stay a long time like this, but he is waiting for a month, that is, until when Father Baty being more free, he will give him charge of the procure. These so varied and many occupations at first gave me at first a little more serious attitude, and made it easier for me to yield to impatience, especially towards the natives, when they came and overwhelmed me with their endless homai (give me). What most aroused me to that was the sight of our distress and those importunate demands. For some time I found it a bit hard to get used to the Bishop’s ways, but that came from a lack of virtue in me. However, thanks to the help of God, I have risen a little above all that, and now act with more light-heartedness, and have a more compassionate heart for putting up with the natives’ faults. I often experience the sting of the flesh; however the Blessed Virgin and my guardian angel have given me many graces; I was only left to fear having lost the grace of God, especially when, wanting to subdue the flesh with the discipline, it only rebelled even more; and since in [spiritual] direction one must declare the good and the evil as one can perceive them in oneself, I will say that the spirit of gentleness in the government of souls has had good results and I have seen happy changes brought about with patience. That spirit of gentleness which I have used is in me[11] less the effect of virtue than a natural feeling or even a fault, because if I have gentleness it is because I do not dare to act ruthlessly, I am overly afraid to upset and cause suffering; so that my governance can sin through lack of vigour and spirit, as you showed us at Belley; giving advice by way of letters, I am not so afraid; but if I have to speak, I have to do myself a really great violence. Sometimes I think, however, that I am getting a bit hardened.
I think I must tell you what I think about everything you have heard said in France, whether by strangers or even by letters from some members of the mission. I find that people have several times been very quick to judge the Bishop’s actions, that often people have judged them without enough knowledge of the reasons which have led him to act. People have greatly criticised his administration; I myself was struck in a way very disadvantageous to him. However I do not see things in quite the same way now that the Bishop has explained to me not only all the reasons which have persuaded him to act in certain ways, but, as well, all the facts and the circumstances of the facts, which are all definite and not vague; it is so true to say: the person who hears only one bell hears only one sound. I am not the only one who thinks like that, and I know some of them who, like me, having heard the Bishop explain, have also changed their way of seeing them. I will give just one example; his voyage from Akaroa to the tropics. He was criticised for having gone straight to the tropics without coming to pick up at the Bay of Islands the things which he sent for on a second voyage.[12] After having heard the Bishop explain the reasons for this action, I saw the thing very differently from how it first appeared.
Another fault that I noticed among the Fathers is that they are not exact enough in carrying out the Bishop’s orders, advice and notes. The Bishop is anxious, and I think he is quite right, to put a lot of consistency and unity into the way of teaching the peoples, and men do not keep to that enough; each one, at least several, want to do things their own way. It is, however, one of the best ways of getting success, because I have already seen for myself when I have visited some tribes, I have found some natives in disagreement. One said: Father Petit-Jean taught us that; another, to the contrary claimed that Father Baty had taught differently; and what will happen when a priest comes to replace another; the natives will certainly tell him: but the priest who was here before did not tell us that &&
Another fault, (according to my limited understanding); several priests often get worried about things which are not their concern, which leads to the Bishop being told that his priests want to take control of the government.
Another fault: men too easily allow themselves to criticise the actions of authority, and are not aware that by acting like this they considerably lessen the respect due to it, they discourage newcomers, and, what is clearly obvious, from that comes discontent and the desire to go back to France.
I know very well, and can say it, because this doesn’t usually influence the reasons for actions and well-determined intentions, I know that the Bishop is quick-tempered, and that on the spur of the moment he will say to a subject things likely to arouse his feelings, but also men have not then always had a religious spirit. So I would like people not too easily to believe various reports which are not based on knowledge of things; I myself see now that if I had let be sent a letter which a Father had wanted to send to France, you would have had a wrong idea of the thing he was talking about. I got him to rewrite it. He was telling you about things which still could have had some truth in them at the time, and which are no longer so at present.
I have shown you defects in some Fathers. It’s not for me to condemn or justify the Bishop, he is my Superior. If I have said, above here, things that concerned him personally, it’s because I thought it necessary in order to have it understood that the conduct of some members [of the mission] was not just, in the matters I was talking about. I will say, however, that it is easy for those who are not on the spot, like you who are very far away from it, to see the faults of an administration, but it’s not as easy for those who work to avoid them. We the people of the old and industrialised continent, we are really new in a new island, and in the midst of two new peoples, I mean the English and the New Zealanders. One cannot understand enough the difficulty of knowing how to ally a French Catholic clergy protected by the French government with a Protestant English nation in an English colony. It is a fact that the Bishop is liked by the English, and we see it as a marvel that we can still stay here, given the sinister things surrounding us. If we are in hardship, weep for us; if we are in wretchedness, come to our help, if there have been mistakes, they must have been understood, and the lesson will have been great enough to hope for an amendment.
Father Forest has not yet visited all the Fathers, but he has been able to communicate by letters with all those in New Zealand. If we can find some money to borrow, we will be able to cover the cost of his journey to the men in Tauranga, Opotiki and Matamata. Father Tripe is on his own; he has been written to, to try to get to Nicholson to have confession. We hope to get him out of his isolation either by sending him a confrère or by withdrawing him from that place. He has asked me what I think about his returning to France. I have told him to wait a little longer.
I still think that Father Forest will be Provincial. The Bishop shares this idea. Please make this change. If I have written to you several times to ask you the same thing, it is not that the task is getting me down, no, to the contrary, but it’s because I have not been in the Society long enough; because I cannot know its whole spirit really well, and because I see myself as lacking one quality that’s really needed for preventing a slackening in the observance of the rule, and avoiding the entry of abuses, I mean, I lack go and firmness, I have too much condescendence and timidity.
I don’t have the time to write individual letters. Can you, please, tell Madame Gavard de Chalamont that the two surplices that she was kind enough to send me are being used on major feastdays to clothe young Irish Catholics, and if it interested her, I would give her the names of these little children who wear them in turn. Here are their names: David, John Calanan, David Calanan, Edward Calagan, John Mccarty. The last–mentioned is very interesting; he has a lot of spirit. They sometimes sing in the chapel hymns in English, French and parts in Latin. They remind me of my children in Chalamont. The black tabernacle frontal which she also sent me was used on All Souls Day, the day before yesterday, and for the solemn service for the deceased members of the Propagation of the Faith which we celebrated yesterday. I have had an opportunity to use, happily, the essence of arnica which she sent me.
Please tell my children at Meximieux that I have not forgotten them, and that I am very sorry that I have not been able to write them a single word today. I will do that at another time. Please tell my relatives that I still remember them. On All Souls Day, alone in the chapel in front of the pall, I prayed for my deceased relatives with a burning desire to be heard; I said to myself, Perhaps my father and mother are dead, and that thought made me suffer, and I prayed for them, then I imagined that they were saying the same thing about me: what is poor Antonin doing, where is he now? Perhaps he is dead, perhaps he has been killed, let us pray for him, and I also prayed for them. No doubt our prayers rose together to the God of mercies, because it was for them the time when the bell gave warning to pray for the dead. However it be, I always remember them, conditionally, at the memento of the living and of the dead.
It’s still with really lively affection that I celebrate holy Mass for the Society from time to time; do not forget us either, very Reverend Father. Pray, and get others to pray for your children. Remember me to all the members of the Society, and in particular to Father Maitrepierre, Father Chartignier, Father Poupinel, Father Mayet, my dear colleague, the professors at Belley, the good Fathers of the Capuchins, Father Martin, the director at Meximieux, whom I hope to see again here one day, if the good God hears me. Oh! The indescribable beauty of our religion! To be separated by such an immensity of water, and united so closely by the bonds of the love that Jesus Christ puts into the hearts of his children. No, there is nothing on earth more able to fill and to satisfy the heart of man.
Your most humble servant.
Garin, provincial, missionary apostolic.


  1. After the arrival of Father Jean Forest, Garin made this request in his letter of 7 May 1842 (cf doc 149 [8]). However in the three letters he wrote afterwards, he did not make it explicitly (cf doc 178, 186, 202)
  2. Brother Joseph–Xavier (Jean–Marie Luzy)
  3. Cf doc 221 [8]
  4. Brother Michel (Antoine Colombon) had been expelled from the mission house and so also from religious life by Pompallier (cf doc 71 [5], 72 [3], 102 [1], 122 [17], see also doc 228 [10].
  5. Cf the letters of Brother Florentin (Jean–Baptiste Françon) to Épalle (unedited letters of 29 October 1840 and 14 March 1842, APM OOc 418.22), and also the one he sent to Colin on 7 February 1842 (doc 132).
  6. Cf doc 137 [1 , 3, 7,]; 139 [6]
  7. Br Florentin (cf supra[16] and doc 104 [2], 132, 239 [3-4])
  8. Garin says here that Pompallier “did not understand “ Comte’s leaving Akaroa, but according to Tripe, in a letter addressed to Father Comte and himself, the Bishop “left us to be judges of the appropriateness of our stay, while taking careful note of French authority” (doc 137 [5]). Comte described his departure from Akaroa to Poupinel: “The colonists and the natives are not numerous enough to occupy two missionaries” (doc 154 [1]), and to Colin: “According to the principle that one should go where there is the most work to be done, I took advantage of the ship’s [availability] to go to Auckland, knowing that from there, there were frequent opportunities to get to the Bay of Islands.” (doc 155 [1]; cf also the following note.) According to Tripe, Comte had told him the same thing, mentioning his experience “that in spite of all the confidence people had in him, there was however no-one at his Mass, publicly announced and rung for as mine”( doc 137 [6]). Comte was not insensitive in leaving Tripe who, he said “will not delay in coming to the Bay of Islands” (doc 154 [1]). If is true that Comte left for the Bay of Islands “hoping to be included in the number of priests who are going to go to the tropics on the mission schooner”(according to Tripe, doc 137 [4], it’s not less true that after his arrival at the Bay of Islands, he accepted without complaint being sent to Maketu, where he arrived before 4 June 1842 (cf doc 154 [2], 155 [7], 157 [8]), but soon, with the redistribution of the missionaries in the Bay of Plenty, (cf doc 173 [4], [6]) he found himself in the neighbouring station of Opotiki (cf doc 202 [2], 205 [3] and below [36]).
  9. While returning to the Bay of Islands, Comte was in Auckland “on Easter day” (27 March 1842). He stayed there for a fortnight before being able to complete his journey (doc 155 [2] ); now it was about 2 April that the mission schooner left for Wallis with Viard, Servant and Roulleaux (doc 138 [1], 143 [7], also doc 133 [7])
  10. The author doesn’t yet know of Forest’s suspicions that these two have been lost in shipwreck (doc 205 [4]); the truth of the tragedy will be known only a few months later (cf doc 247 [3]).
  11. “En moins” to be read as “en moi”
  12. See the account of the matter by Petit-Jean (cf doc 192,[24]).

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