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26 Mar 1843 - Fr Forest to Fr Colin, Bay of Islands

APM Z 208 26 March 1843

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, July 2005 Click here for Clisby's translation


He begins by listing the six letters he has already sent Colin, beginning from April 1842, just before landing in NZ. After a month recovering from illness, he spent June with Fathers Garin and Petit-Jean trying to find ways of decreasing the “enormous “ expenses incurred by the mission. The main thing done was to reduce staffing at Kororareka from 18 to 8, with some being sent elsewhere. He is quick to say that he had just given advice, the decisions were made by Garin and Petit-Jean. And the Bishop made no serious objection!

On 2 July he went to Auckland: to see the 500–odd Catholics there. He was able to do quite a bit even though his English was still limited. He also wanted to see the men going to Port Nicholson to set up a new mission there: Borjon, Rozet and Brother Deodat. Borjon and Deodat were sent off immediately, Rozet to be later. But he could now confirm as certain the news of Borjon’s and Deodat’s deaths at sea, near East Cape. He also wanted to visit the stations in the Bay of Plenty, but could not, for lack of funds. In his first interview with Forest, Pompallier bemoaned his lack of funds which he blamed on their being kept in France. Forest tried several times to disabuse him of this idea, but to no avail. Pompallier was also not happy about Forest’s status as “visitor”- he the Bishop, only, had the ability to “visit” the mission.

However after some time tensions eased and at the end of December 1842 Forest was able to begin visiting the stations. He visited Auckland first, and was much impressed by what Father Petit-Jean had been able to do there in a few months. He met Mrs Louise Outhwaite, a Frenchwoman whose protestant husband worked at the Supreme Court, and was very generous to the Catholic mission. He sees Pèzant and Séon at Tauranga, and describes the “chateaux” in which the Marists live. He describes a little retreat that the Marists made there – Forest leading it. Séon and Pèzant get high praise as missionaries. Brother Euloge also gets praise. At Opotiki are Comte and Reignier. The difficulties of the bar entrance to the harbour are well described, and fervent prayers are needed. Comte gets high praise as a zealous missionary, but is seen to lack confidence in the Bishop, and Forest doesn’t have much effect in trying to show him otherwise. Their difficult living conditions are described, and what the missionaries need to take with them on a journey, particularly one without any Maori help. Problems in crossing rivers and harbours are demonstrated. The members of ASH would not be impressed favourably by the use of tobacco as currency! The problems associated with having to share a hut in a pa with the dogs which normally sleep in it; the lack of space, and the fleas!

The return from Opotiki to the Bay of Islands via Tauranga and Auckland is quickly told. Altogether, this letter from Father Forest is an excellent description of the conditions that the early Marists had to work under.

After their arrival in the Bay the annual retreat was made, Forest again preaching it. Totally in silence – in the Hokianga.

Forest raises the matter of Father Petit-Jean’s letter, which he sees as intemperate, to an Auckland paper about what he alleges to have been unfair treatment by the New Zealand government in its refusing to give Father Petit-Jean a subsidy for building a chapel. Forest believes that the Bishop and M.Yvert, whom the Bishop has put in charge of temporalities, do not have a proper understanding of these things, which helps explain the difficult financial situation of the mission.

Forest says that the missionaries in NZ are one in heart and soul, but things seem not so in the tropical islands of the mission. He says where the newly- arrived men are going, and something about the progress of the faith. Figures of the number of converts, (the Bishop’s) have been published in Europe and have been criticised as being exaggerated.

He makes special mention of the situation of the Brothers. They generally are doing well, but have, like the Fathers, been crushed, a bit, by remarks from the Bishop, who sees them as servants, and, therefore, are not to eat at the same table as the priests. Some of the priests share this view – Fathers Comte and Petit are notable offenders he believes, but Father Petit-Jean and Pèzant the opposite. He makes brief comments on all the Brothers. He strongly believes that the Brothers should have a habit that distinguishes them not only from lay-people, but also from the priests. This would not just gain them more respect from lay-people, but would give them more pride in their own vocations.

He finds himself in some way like the meat in a sandwich (my expression – BQ). When he’s with the priests, he hears complaints about the Bishop. And vice versa.

A large statue of Mary and the infant Jesus has caused great wonderment among the Maori.

Text of the Letter

7th letter from New Zealand
Bay of Islands,
26 March 1843

To the Reverend Father Superior General of the Society of Mary

Very Reverend Father
Here is the seventh letter which I have had the happiness of writing to you since my arrival in New Zealand. The first was dated from Cook Strait at the beginning of April 1842. Two, from the Bay of Islands in May of the same year and entrusted to Father Epalle on his way to France; one to M. Perret having the same date; the fifth dated from Auckland in August of the same year; the sixth from the Bay of Islands in December and entrusted to the Bishop who was writing to you. I am very happy, very Reverend Father, to let you know first of all, in a few words, what I have been doing since I have been in this country, the way in which I have acted towards God and my confrères; then I will speak to you a bit about each of them so that when you have the kindness to write to me, you may give me and your other children who are in these countries, [1] all the good advice and counsel you will see as appropriate: as far as I am concerned, I beg you not to spare me.
Having arrived in the Bay of Islands in May 1842, I experienced, in getting used to the place, a real illness which lasted about a month. The following month was taken up in looking at, with Fathers Garin and Petit-Jean, the most appropriate ways of lessening the enormous expenses which were occurring in the mission. Father Epalle had left for Europe. The Bishop had not yet returned from the tropics. The result of our deliberations was the dismissal of several people employed in the mission, well paid and doing very little. The staff at the Bay of Islands was cut back to about eight people instead of eighteen who were there almost continually. Several went into other establishments which did not have enough workers. No doubt you will think that I am going very quickly for a start, that I am exceeding the limits of my jurisdiction here. Very Reverend Father, I tell you that I have never pushed myself forward. I have always been happy just to give advice; the two Fathers who alone were authorised for everything acted – and today I find myself in a very good position because, apart from the fact that the Bishop has shown little disapproval of their conduct, he hasn’t the least suspicion that I had anything to do with all that.
On the 2nd July following, I left for Auckland with Brother Déodat. There were three main reasons for this journey: 1) to visit the Catholics who number about 500 in this capital of New Zealand: they are nearly all Irish. Although I did not know English sufficiently, as yet, to be able to carry out straight away all the functions of the sacred ministry, I was easily able to baptise children, to marry, to do everything required on the holy day, Sunday, and to read them instructions in English. I even had the consolation of preparing for death a poor Spanish sailor who spoke adequate English. I took him the sacraments in public, just as in France. Here, thanks be to God, we are free enough in that respect. 2) To wait there and see Fathers Borjon and Roset [sic: Rozet] who, from the mission they were leaving [2] had to pass through there [Auckland] to then go to Nicolson [3] with Brother Déodat, where they were to begin a new mission among the Europeans and the natives of that place. But how impenetrable are God’s designs! Some time after my arrival in Auckland, Father Borjon arrived. He was without money: thirty pounds sterling which had been sent him from the Bay of Islands, and for Father Roset as well, for their journey, had been stolen on the ship to which it (the money) had been entrusted. So, from the little money I had, I had to pay for this journey [4] and the one from Auckland to Nicolson; at this time we were told that a ship was on the point of making sail for Nicolson. We believed that that provided a favourable opportunity to send off Father Borjon and Brother Déodat, and that Father Roset would leave later because he had not yet arrived. A fortunate delay because, if he had left with poor Father Borjon and Brother Déodat, he would probably be with them at the bottom of the sea. Alas, very Reverend Father, I have the sad duty to inform you that the news I had already given you in my preceding letters is only too true. Since the 1st August when the Father and the Brother set out for Nicolson, we have heard no news, either of the ship or of them; only some people have told us that in the open sea near East Cape someone had seen debris from the masts which was recognised as belonging to this ship. It was the worker himself who had worked on them [the masts] who saw and recognised it while going past that place. If that is really true, we have no more hope of seeing them again in this world. We are all quite devastated at such a loss; through it God has taken from us, I believe, the best of our missionaries and even of our Brothers. May His most holy will be done. The 3rd reason for my journey or my final aim was to then go from Auckland to Tauranga and to Opotiki to visit our Fathers in these missions, in conformity with your desires and the instructions you gave me, Very Reverend Father, but here I was disappointed; all my money had gone on the fares of these Fathers. From another point of view, I had learned that Bishop Pompallier had got back to the Bay of Islands, and I was very happy, before undertaking anything, to come to a good understanding with him, as you indicated to me. After staying about three months in Auckland, I went back to the Bay of Islands. Father Epalle will be able to read you the account of this voyage from Auckland to the Bay of Islands. It will give you some idea of the great wretchedness we experienced in travelling here without money. I sent this account to him in France.
In the first interview I had with the Bay of Plenty, he greatly lamented the state of his mission, that his money had been kept back in France and as a result he was forced to sell a ship he so much needed… I did all I could to convince him of his mistake in the matter of his money, but in vain. Today again and every day it is the same thing over again: if he is unhappy, it is because he has not been sent his money. So how much I would like, if through clear and very plain accounts you could pull him out of his illusion! The responsibility of Visitor you entrusted to me has greatly rankled with him, from the beginning he did not even want to recognise it, saying that I was there only like the others, that this responsibility of Visitor did not mean much, that he alone had the right to visit his mission, that if you wanted to send a Visitor you needed to get permission for it beforehand from Rome, a thing which you could, he said, do so easily, seeing that you were so close (to it). However, at length this bitterness stopped a little. After four or five requests I was able to get a consent and a bit of money to go and make this visit which I believed very necessary, and I was not mistaken. At the end of December I therefore embarked again to go and make my visit. After three days of fairly pleasant sailing, I arrived at Auckland. There I found Father Petit-Jean who had replaced me, and with him Brother Colon.[5]
This good Father seemed to me to be full of zeal and ardour to make his business succeed. In the less than three months that he had been there, he had already had built a small chapel which serves as a church for the faithful on Sunday, and as a school for children during the week; and a little house for his schoolmaster and another for him. All that solely with the gifts of the Auckland faithful. These good Irish Catholics love their priests very much. They do, indeed, all they can, but they are generally very poor. All who are rich are Protestant, and there are no rich people except those who have been sent out by the British government as officials in the colony, and this government, being essentially Protestant, admits no Catholic to share its functions. That is the reason for the difference between these poor Catholics and rich Protestants. There is a French woman, a Parisienne, married to an English Protestant; she is a Catholic, and it can be said, quite a good Catholic. She has done a great deal for us; especially at the beginning when I was in Auckland with nothing, she provided me with many things. Her husband would not be far from becoming a Catholic if the position he occupies and the company he frequents were not a great obstacle for him: he has a fairly well paid position in what the British call Soupreme Court [sic: Supreme Court]. His wife has shown herself to be very generous in all the collections that have been made, for the chapel, for maintaining the priest, for building a school, and for maintaining the schoolmaster. This lady still has her mother in Paris with a little girl whom she had left her as her sole consolation; now she would like to bring this mother and this daughter to New Zealand; here boredom has seized her, and she can live no more without her mother and her daughter. She would like to find a suitable opportunity, as would be a dispatch of missionaries to this country. For she has told me that her mother being very pious would not be afraid to come if she was in the company of some priests, because with priests there is nothing to fear. To bring this about this lady wrote to her mother to make up her mind to come and join her and to bring her child, to take advantage, for that reason, of the opportunity [offered by] missionaries from Lyons coming here at least every year, that they will write to her when they will leave, a month or two before the departure, so as to be ready. If you think, Reverend Father, that this can be done for this good lady, I beg you to show her this kindness. In that case she would have to be recommended to some Father who would have the necessary concern for her. She would no doubt have what was needed to pay her fare but if it was not so, some money could safely be advanced for her; here all would be paid back, I am certain. Here is the address of that lady: Madame Veuve Royet, 101 Vaugirard Street, near the boulevard, Paris.[6] There is nothing to fear about her except death; she is, I believe, almost sixty years old[7] and her little daughter is still a child.
While [I was] waiting for a ship to carry me to Tauranga, Father Petit-Jean and Brother Colon made a little retreat. God willed that I was not long in waiting: the same ship which had brought me from the Bay of Islands was going to Tauranga. I quickly took advantage of it.
That place is the location of Father Pézant’s mission and a day away is Father Séon’s. After sailing [p3] three days and three nights we got to Tauranga harbour, but as it was the first time that the ship went to that place it struck a little rock located in the middle of the harbour, hidden beneath the water; no harm was done, except that it could get off only with great difficulty.
On disembarking I saw coming towards me good Brother Euloge [Chabany] with a large group of his savages: the children are still totally naked, the adults are generally clothed only between the waist and the knees. This good Brother then led me to his little house in the midst of this crowd of Maoris who all came laughing to shake my hand and saying to me their “Tena ra ko koe, bonjour” [“Hullo”]. I noticed with delight that on all faces there was a look of contentment and joy. I marvelled at the change that our holy religion had brought about in this poor people who, some time before, roasted and ate any stranger who had the misfortune to be wrecked on their coasts. The Brother informs me that Father Pézant is not at home but that he will come back in a day; that Father Séon has just left the house to go to his mission, but that if I wish, he will promptly send someone after him to bring him back. Which was done straight away. The Father’s house is located quite close to the sea in the middle of the Maori houses. It is a little hut all made of taupo,[8] like those of the natives, only it is a bit higher than theirs – to get in you have to bend over a lot. In there you see three chairs, two little tables, a little crucifix and a poor bed, placed over a sort of chest of drawers, the only place to store all his liturgical needs [sacristie], all his personal property and his whole fortune; two little windows about a foot square whose panes are a piece of calico; that is what the chateaus of your missionaries in New Zealand are like [the word chateau was used often by Father Colin to describe any Marist house he considered excessively grand in size or furnishings - translator’s note].The next day our two Fathers Pézant and Séon arrived. What was our joy in seeing each other in these distant lands and, quite willingly forgetting their tiredness from travel, they quickly asked me for news about you, Reverend Father, how our Society was going, who are the members making it up, what changes [had been made] in our houses, whether there are new establishments… Not having yet made a retreat, the good Fathers hastened to begin it as soon as possible, and I having become, would you believe, Reverend Father, a great preacher and, I can say, the first preacher of ecclesiastical or pastoral retreats in New Zealand, I did all the speaking with the exception of a few words which I asked them to say at the closing. [9] This retreat was for eight full days; as regular, as peaceful in our little hut as in the major seminary at Belley. There, just as at Belley, we had our little [retreat] rule, our reading during the meals. There, as at Belley, we were able to say, and we said several times: quam bonum quam jucundum habitare fratres in unum [10] Only one thing was lacking, the presence of our good Father Superior, to give us some of those pieces of advice which do so much good for the soul. Three meditations of an hour each were done during all that time. Two conferences a day; one to the good Brother, the other to the Fathers.
Good Father Séon is still full of zeal and courage. For some time he has been alone and without a Brother. He had a European, but his bad conduct forced him to send him away.[11] He will be given one of the first Brothers to come from France. He is one of our best missionaries. The Bay of Plenty highly esteems him. He is always the same, always happy, whether he has nothing or has much,[12] always the fervent religious.
Father Pézant devotes himself very much to the ministry, and I am a bit afraid that soon he will be totally given himself to it, without care for himself. Like many others, he has been crushed by the Bishop and it is now very hard to revive confidence in this poor heart, confidence in their Bishop. However, he seemed to me quite determined to follow the advice he can be given. He has not yet made his religious vows, and unfortunately he is not the only one.[13] None of those who left France without having made them have made them here. At the end of the retreat, this Father would have made them very willingly if I had been authorised to receive them, but I did not think I had received any power for that. All of them however renewed their vows at the end of the retreat.
Brother Euloge, who is with this Father, leads, I think, the life of a good religious. He is full of good will. He only lacks a bit of practical skill in taking care of the underwear and material things in general. Father Pézant is no more capable. How much we need good Brothers trained in everything! How appropriate it would be, if possible, that they were all trained in France in tailoring [couture], cooking, framing, carpentry – in a word, in everything. I found this mission station to be in a pitiable state, in temporal matters, because of lack of practical skill.
After about ten days I left Opotiki, the mission of Fathers Compte and Reigner [sic: Comte and Reignier]. After sailing for two days, we got to the entrance of the harbour at sunset. There we risked a much greater danger than the preceding one. [14] To enter this harbour, it is necessary to cross what is called in marine terms a bar, following a trench dug out by the waters. Our captain, having lost his way, his ship was immediately thrown on a sandbank; the waves of the sea, not being able to tear it from there, came and broke against it, and covered it each moment. All the passengers, most of whom were natives, threw themselves into the sea to get to the shore, but I, who could swim as well as a brick [comme un bon chien de plomb], what was to become of me? I sought refuge in our good Mother, the most holy Virgin, and implored her as hard as I could to find a way to safety for me. One is never as fervent as in these circumstances, however there are always distractions, and a man never is more aware of his frailty and weakness than in these sorts of dangers. Mary did not abandon me. By means of a rope I was able to get down into a little boat and, through the foaming waves which covered us, get to land. It was a little island surrounded on all sides by arms of the sea. Less fortunate than St Paul shipwrecked on the island of Malta, we did not find anyone to give us a little hospitality [Acts 27 and 28]. However, like him we were able to gather some wood, (and) light a fire to dry ourselves without fear of being bitten by snakes. Here this creature is unknown, as well as many other venomous creatures found in Europe. Night was coming on and (there was) no hope of getting off our island to look for shelter elsewhere. Already I was wandering back and forth beside the sea to find some grass where I could rest while waiting for daylight, when suddenly I heard some savages calling me – ariki – ariki – [chief, chief]. They had found a little boat and they offered to take me to our Father’s house, roughly about three-quarters of an hour from there. At this news I thanked the Lord who never abandons his own. However I was still not without fear. To get to our destination we had to travel with a frail boat through rivers and very dangerous places in the middle of a very dark night.
I was also afraid that by going away from our ship, my belongings and those of the Fathers that I had left on board would be pillaged… At last, putting everything, my belongings and my life, into Mary’s hands, we peacefully arrived at the house of the Fathers, whom I found sleeping soundly. My arrival did not greatly surprise them. They had heard that I had left the Bay of Islands to come and visit them. The next day our ship happily arrived in the harbour with my belongings safe and sound. How marvellous is Providence! How good Mary is! Our Fathers and Brother Justin [Perret], who is with them, had made their retreat about a fortnight before. However, together we had some little conferences on the Rule, on the ways of keeping ourselves going in our difficulties. We read some of your letters, Very Reverend Father. You would not believe the good they do us. We preserve them with great care. Be so kind as to write some as much as you can.
I saw them all individually. Each one told me about his little adversities quite simply. Father Comte is very happy in the holy ministry, he enjoys rude health. None of the tasks of the mission cost him very much. I believe he is also a good religious; except that he lacks one very important thing: confidence in his Bishop, and all the reasonings I could give him on that matter did not have, I believe, great success. However, this lack of confidence does not prevent him from having the necessary relationships with the Bishop, but it is out of duty that he acts in that area, rather than out of affection. This lack of confidence is not special to him: it is almost universal and it is greatly paralysing the mission. Father Reignier is doing very well. He has not yet seen the Bishop and up till now he has almost entirely been occupied in studying languages. Brother Justin is very depressed: he says that when he left France he had been promised that he would be a catechist and that now he is employed only in cooking, that he cannot bear the Maoris, that they are too dirty… that the Fathers see him a little too much as a servant (which is not entirely false in several mission stations) and in this depression he has unfortunately abandoned the sacraments for some time. But I did my best to console him. I promised him that I would speak to the Bishop to have him moved. He was then a bit more encouraged, he went back again to the practice of his[15] duties, and in my presence he renewed his three vows. The Bishop, to whom I have spoken about him, will move him soon, he will bring him here. For the rest, everything is going well. The greatest unity reigns between them. They observe their Rule as religious quite well.
In temporal matters, they are badly housed. In the winter they continually have three or four inches of mud in their house; but right now the Bishop, to whom I described their needs in great detail and gave a good description of their misery, is having made for them, as also at Tauranga, a pretty house made of wood, like all those belonging to the Europeans in this country. Otherwise, they are quite well fed. They have an abundance of potatoes, pork, flour, (and) Brother Justin has a little farmyard fairly well stocked with hens. He has a garden which gives them a lot of vegetables. They have two goats etc…
Opotiki is about thirty leagues[16] from Tauranga. I had to cover this distance on foot, not being able to find a ship to bring me back; Providence allowed this so I could come to know something of the difficulty of the roads and the problems our poor missionaries have in travelling in these districts. Father Reignier was very pleased to come with me on this way. The first day we couldn’t get any native to carry our belongings. So we had to load on our back everything we might need for a four day journey. And what is needed, you will ask me, for travelling in this country? A lot of things are needed – things are needed for yourself and for the others. For yourself you need a blanket which must make up all the missionary’s bedding during the night, you need some food if you don’t want to risk dying from wretchedness and hunger. Some chocolate tablets, but a good chocolate which keeps well, would be very useful for us here, because our poor missionaries who are almost continually forced to travel, have for their ordinary fare only some potatoes which do nothing but wash their stomachs [ne font que leu laver les boyaux] and they would be very happy to have a little chocolate tablet to give them back a bit of energy. If you want to eat a piece of pork, you have to carry it. You have to carry what is needed to administer the sacraments in case of need. As well, you always need to have with you a good stock of sticks of tobacco. They are the everyday currency among the natives especially in the interior. Ten or fifteen pounds [about 5-8 kgs] of tobacco are nothing much for a single journey of about a fortnight’s length. You can imagine, Very Reverend, the package that is made up of all this paraphernalia. As well you have to carry books and rosaries which you distribute to the natives. There is enough for a good mule to carry and often the missionary’s back has to act as the mule.
We had all these goods on our backs, Father Reignier and I, and we had hardly gone a league [5 km] when we were already bathed in sweat and to give us relief we came to a deep river which you could cross only by swimming or on the shoulders of a big Maori. Providence arranged that there were two nearby, fishing. We offered them some sticks of tobacco and straight away they came to carry us across. As I was the heavier, I took the one who was the stronger and more robust, but I wasn’t the better served. When he got into the middle of the river, he wanted to have a game with me and at my expense, as do very often these poor childlike natives who see nothing more in a priest than any other person. So he stopped and said he had a call of nature which he wanted to satisfy on the spot. In vain I remonstrated with him; he didn’t listen. I had to wait patiently on his shoulders where I hung on with a great deal of difficulty, my arms around my neck so as not to get myself too wet. I held on as much as I could, my legs in the air. When he finished, he told me he wanted to throw me into the water, then he shook me as hard as he could, like those mettlesome horses which like to play games with their riders. As well, I had to give him the tobacco I had promised him. This whole business took place in the middle of a rushing current, where I was very much afraid of falling into at any moment.
Two leagues further on we came to a bay. It was roughly three-quarters of a league[17] in width, and it was deep. This is what is done to cross it: on its shore you light a big fire which produces a lot of smoke. A European who lives on a little island in the middle of this bay, seeing this smoke, sends or does not send, depending on how he feels, a native who comes across by means of a waka or canoe. We were fortunate enough in this respect. After about an hour and a half, we saw coming toward us a Maori rowing a little skiff which seemed every instant to be lost in the waves: the sea was heavy. We got into this little tree trunk and in this way we entrusted our lives in the hands of this poor savage. The further we got out into the bay, the wind got stronger and the waves got bigger. Soon they were coming into our little craft. I rowed with all my strength to get to our goal sooner. Father Reignier bailed the water, and all three of us worked our hardest to escape death. As a reward, we gave our young pilot a good number of sticks of tobacco. He told us he was epikopo, that is to say, Catholic, and that he would very much like a cross and a medal. When he received them, he kissed them affectionately and wanted to hang them from his ear so he could use them as ornaments. We turned him from this idea by telling him that if he really loved the cross, he should place it over his heart and not on his ear, which he did straight away.
We continued on our way, and our little savage went with us a bit further to show us the way. It was quite a narrow track which could be hardly seen amongst the scrub. About midday we came to the foot of a high mountain which we had to climb for about four hours. It was dreadfully hot. We couldn’t breathe any more, and at every moment we were staggering under the burden of our great bags which weighed heavily on our backs. How much we longed for some drops of fresh water like that which flows from Fourvière through the subterranean passage of Pilata,[18] but which is very rare on these coasts.
At sunset we arrived at a place called Whakatane. There are many Maoris there, of whom most are Catholics and belong to the mission at Opotiki. They came up to us saying “Tena ra ko koe, hullo.” They asked us a thousand questions, but they forgot one which I considered the most important of all at the time, that asking whether we were hungry and thirsty. However, after a good hour and a half, a good European who lives there and whose wife is a good Catholic, offered us something to eat. Without hesitating, we accepted with gratitude. Father Reignier then gave out some books to the Maoris. He led their prayers. They took part in great numbers. Prayers having finished, we spread our blankets out on the ground in the same house in which we had prayed, then we soon slept soundly in spite of the din made by the natives, who were chanting, talking, and smoking around us. The day was hardly begun when we were woken by the noise of a spade being struck to call the natives to prayer. Our bell ringer was situated on top of a Maori store-loft so as to make his elegant ringing heard at a greater distance. You will no doubt be interested, Reverend Father, to find out how Maori store-lofts are built, and what food supplies they enclose. Maori store-lofts are usually in front of the house for sleeping, about three or four paces away. To build one of the store-lofts, four large pieces of wood are put in the ground about ten feet apart, in the form of a square. These pieces are about a dozen feet high.[19] The legs [pieux] are surmounted by pieces of wood placed crosswise to form a sort of floor. To get up to this store-loft you have another piece of wood the same height as the store-loft, it has hollows (cut) at a regular distance apart for placing the feet. That is their ladder. All these pieces of wood are tied together only with Korara.[20] It is on a store-loft built in this way that people place almost all the food for the household. You can see on them great piles of drying fish, whole sharks... a lot of fern root. The women take care of these provisions. It is a truly interesting sight to see and hear these women at certain times of the day when they are on their lofts. You hear them for a good half hour at a time. From the height of these structures they talk to each other from one end of the village to the other. That is where they stand to argue, saying all they know, good and bad. To hear them, you would think you were at a great fair where the sellers standing on scaffolding shout at the tops of their voices to sell their wares.
Prayer being finished, we set out again. Two natives were quite willing to carry our bags and serve us as guides to Tauranga. They took some potatoes for their lunch and ours. The European gave us some ship’s biscuit for us to use as bread on the way. We walked along next to the sea on the sand which gave way under our feet. After two hours’ walking, our natives wanted to have lunch; for that they took us a little aside to be near a little fountain, the only one in that locality, a distance of seven or eight leagues,[21] and the people who go that way without knowing of that little spring which is at the most six inches in every dimension, or without a little [pavilion][22] of water, would risk suffering greatly from thirst. A small fire was lit to cook the potatoes which we ate very hungrily. All along the way our natives asked us a thousand questions. I still recall this one: who was the first man to preach in the temple in Jerusalem, where was he from? Who were his father and mother? Some prayers were said in Maori; several times we recited the litanies of the Blessed Virgin. We formed two choirs. Father Reignier and one of our natives chanted the invocation e hata Maria, “Holy Mary” etc. The other Maori and I chanted the response: inoi ma matou, “pray for us” etc. We experienced an unspeakable joy at being able to mingle with the frightful sound of the foaming waves expiring at our feet, these chants so consoling to the Queen of Heaven.
Near sunset we arrived at a Maori pa. The little village housed about thirty people; 24 were Catholics and offered the worship of the epicopo [bishop]. On our arrival we were, at first, witnesses of a tangui [sic: tangi]. Tangui is the name for the reception the Maoris give to their relatives whom they have not seen for a long time. It was at the home of the sister of one of our guides where we were going to stay. When this woman caught sight of her brother, she came and gave him a long rubbing of the nose, then she began her tangui, which is chant, mixed with tears. In this chant she told of the joy, the contentment which she formerly experienced with him…
Then, when the tangui had ended, we prayed, then a native belonging to the Protestant group came and asked us what we were looking for in that place. Why were we coming to set up a false and evil Church? Father Reignier, responsible for answering him, sent him to the one of our guides who was most instructed. The discussion lasted at least an hour and a half, the whole sacred history was gone through… The Catholic native always had the upper hand. I expected that after this discussion we would be given something to eat, but we would have had to go to bed without a meal if we hadn’t had a few biscuits left.
Our guide’s sister offered us room in her house: this house was about three feet in height,[23] it was made out of grass like all Maori houses. The door was roughly a foot and a half, two feet high.[24] It serves as a chimney for the fire which people always take care to light in the middle of the house when they are going to sleep. But, afraid of not being able easily to slip through this opening and then of suffocating when we were inside, we preferred, Father Reignier and I, to stay outside under a sort of roof projection which covered the door of the house; it was the dogs’ place during the night. Alas, we did not realise, in occupying [p7] this place, the trouble we were going to cause; hardly had our friends gone into the hut and the doors closed, when the village dogs also came to take their rest. Glaring fixedly at us, they seemed to be asking us by what right we had come to take their bed from them. We courteously sent them away, asking them to give it up to us for that night. But it wasn’t for long. It was cold, they wanted with all their might to have a little space beside us. But we, too selfish, wanted to have the whole lot: they retired, growling, but soon they came back, a new fight… From the other side their fleas devoured us.
Finally the whole night went in fighting, with one hand pushing away the dogs, with the other hunting for fleas. At last day came to deliver us from it all. Our hostess was the first to come out of the hut. She hastened to light a fire, to peel some potatoes; then making a little hollow in the ground she put into it a little layer of grass, then some peeled potatoes, then another layer of grass, and finally some dung on top, and covered everything with earth. There you have what is called the capo Maori.[25] A good half hour afterward, she uncovered her capo and showed us nice potatoes as clean and nice as those we cook in our pots. With good appetites, we ate some of them, then we left after prayers.
Nothing special (happened) during this day. In the evening we arrived at a place called Maketu. There are a lot of natives there. It was poor Father Borjon’s mission. We asked for his house. But we were told that we could not go and stay there, that it was tapu, that recently two men who had been killed in a war were roasted in that house, that the murderer lived there. But we, without being frightened either by the tabou or the murderer, went to find it. It was on the edge of the sea below some other Maori houses which dominated it by a little height. This house was in the middle of a little garden surrounded by a little fence, it had three quite nice little rooms; the murderer who lived in it gave us a good welcome and made us fine speeches to free himself from blame. He was a fat man who, I think, has swallowed some good pieces of human flesh. He had three wives. He allowed us to use one of the rooms of the house. There, on some fern, we were able to sleep very soundly all night. Father Reignier was keen to have prayers in the evening and in the morning, but he had only three people at prayers. However, I believe that the natives number five hundred at that place. They are neither Catholic nor Protestant, I think. Poor Father Borjon had many struggles there and little satisfaction. We saw the opening that had been made in the house to pillage it while he was out on his rounds. We had here as well as everywhere else to give a lot of tobacco sticks to our host who should himself have paid us, being the tenant… How much that place could do with two good missionaries…
At last on the fourth day we got near Tauranga. We had only a bay about a league and a half[26] to cross, and we were considering beforehand what means we could find for that, when suddenly we saw Father Pézant’s boat coming towards us. Two Maoris were paddling it. They were going to carry a letter from the priest to some British soldiers who were close by, to prevent wars between the natives at Maketu and those at Tauranga. They informed us that Father Pézant had left that morning with the Brother[27] and that they weren’t expected to return for a fortnight. So we were quite disappointed. However we were told that he had not taken away the key of the house and that we could go in. But what we were more afraid of was not finding anything to eat, and we were really hungry and thirsty… Already we were working out what we could do to live on, we and our guides. But, O divine providence, there as elsewhere we found something to live on: a lot of potatoes, and pork in abundance. We ate well at the expense of good Father Pézant.
After three days’ rest, Father Reignier started out again with our two guides to go and join Father Pézant who was visiting his Maori tribes near Opotiki. Father Compte [sic – Comte] for his part was going to meet them. All of that took place, as I found in a letter from Father Compte himself who told us jokingly that he had been quite astonished to see upper and lower Auvergne meet on the land of New Zealand.[28]
After Father Reignier’s departure I was again obliged to stay on my own at Tauranga for a week, to wait there for a ship which would carry me either to Auckland or to the Bay of Islands. During that time I said Holy Mass all alone in Father Servant’s little chapel [29] I said the Mass and served it at the same time, because it is still impossible to find among the savages a native well enough trained for that.
I left Tauranga on the 5th February at 11 in the evening on a bad little ship but whose crew was worse. On board were young Maori women living with the Europeans in the style of Barbari [sic: Barbary?]. These miserable Europeans are the greatest scourge of New Zealand. On the 9th we got to Auckland where I found the new priests arriving from France. I could not express to you what was my joy, and all of us together offered thanks to God for their happy journey. Five or six days after, we all left together for the Bay of Islands. It was the little ship that had brought me from Tauranga which took us to the Bay of Islands. Our journey would have been happy if we had thought our ship more seaworthy, but from the next day we realised it was taking in water in many places. People were forced to pump endlessly to stop ourselves from sinking. If unfortunately a rather strong contrary wind had forced us further out to sea, during that time we would have been greatly endangered.
On the 18th February we arrived at the Bay of Islands where we found Bishop Pompallier, and Fathers Baty, Garin and Trippe [sic: Tripe]… The evening before our arrival, the Allier, a French warship, had left the harbour of the Bay of Islands to go back to France. So I couldn’t send a letter on it. The Bishop and our Fathers who were here entrusted several to it, which will no doubt arrive before this one.
Since our arrival in the Bay of Islands we have made our retreat. It was eight full days in length. The first two were in total silence. It was made completely as we made it at Belley. After the singing of the Veni Creator, Bishop Pompallier opened it with a little talk on the need for the retreat and the ways of doing it well. Then he gave Benediction with the holy ciborium. Three meditations a day, each of an hour’s length, were made. Every day a talk was given to the priests on how to act in mission work, alternatively by the Bishop and Father Garin; and every day as well a talk was given to the Brothers on their duties as religious and as workers for the mission. Here as elsewhere I was again the great preacher of the pastoral retreat. Seriously, if this goes on, I am going to become famous as a preacher of ecclesiastical retreats. It seems that it is not yet at an end. Because I am leaving next Monday, the 27th of this month, to begin another of them for Fathers Garin, Petit, Lampilat [sic: Lampila], Brothers Luc and Claude-Marie, who haven’t yet been able to make one. This one will be made in the Hokianga, which is a day and a half from the Bay of Islands. We are going there, Father Garin, Brother Luc and I – 1) to be in calmness and an atmosphere of retreat; 2) to give a retreat at the same time to Fathers Petit and Lampila and Brother Claude-Marie who are at that mission station. I have already found that when a certain number come together, the retreat goes much better.
At the retreat at the Bay of Islands Fathers Trippe, Rozet, Moreau, Bernard, Chouvet, Brothers Pierre-Marie, Florentin, Bernard, Basile and M Yvert took part. The whole time during the meals for the Fathers there was reading from the letters of St Francis Xavier; it gave us a particular pleasure because of the similarity seen between the problems faced by this holy Apostle and our own difficulties; the very difficulties he had, we have; and you would think, in reading these letters, that you were hearing an exact telling of everything taking place in New Zealand. The retreat ended with the renewal of vows. Everyone renewed them with the exception of M Yvert who has not yet made any. The Bishop closed the retreat with an instruction on the Blessed Virgin and Benediction after the Te Deum! All of us recognised that God had showered special blessings on this retreat. Here as at Tauranga we were extremely happy and we didn’t want to see it finish so soon. It certainly wasn’t the way in which the subjects for prayer were presented that could have given pleasure, because not having had more than eight short days to do a bit of preparation, I gave them with the greatest simplicity. I followed the method of St Ignatius and the subjects he designates for an eight days’ retreat. I was criticised for being a bit long; in giving them with effect, I often went beyond 25 minutes…
How satisfied I am to see that soon all the children of Mary in New Zealand will have made their retreat. I am going to find myself the last.[30] Alas, have I not much to fear, Reverend Father, that I can say with the Apostle of the Gentiles, cum aliis predicaverim ipse reprobus efficiar.[31] The Bishop saw with great pleasure, and the Fathers as well, that there was a great change for the better, and to whom can we and must we attribute it? To your good prayers and the prayers you have had said for us. We attribute it also to our blessed Father Chanel.
However, please, Reverend Father, still continue to pray for all your children here in the islands. We have here poor Brother Michel who is giving me a lot of distress. As you know, he has already been away from the mission for a long time and he is living in a very shameful way. He is truly, in the full force of the term, the prodigal son luxoriose vivit[32] among the natives. [33] Please have prayers said for him, for my part I commend him to Reverend Father Chanel. Soon I hope to have a moment to go and see him. He is hardly two short days from the Bay of Islands. Here, thanks be to God, everything is going well in spiritual terms. Our little retreat has done a very great good. Father Trippe seems indeed to be taking new heart. He was telling me again yesterday that now things are very much changed, that they are no longer what they were before, that now, here, a priest is a priest where formerly he was only a poor servant.
Firstly, concerning the Bishop, everyone tells me he has changed a lot, much for the better; formerly there were around him a certain number of flatterers who did nothing but praise him [l’encenser] to the skies, and too much flattery [trop d’incens] could turn his head; but now that poverty, not to speak of destitution, has come, people have been forced to use less incense, [moins d’incens] and also much poorer incense than the former.[34] Rome has sent him certain little grains which are rather bitter, and so bitter that he told me one day that he had never received any like them. You yourself, Very Reverend Father, you have forced him to swallow a very strong pill in the miserable person of the Visitor you have placed in his vicinity.[35] He fears him, I know. The Bishop several times has wanted to appoint him, this Visitor, as Provincial instead of Father Garin, but he has always up till now refused. But now that his visiting is almost finished, he will probably accept this responsibility without receiving the title. Several times the Bishop has wanted to give me the title of Provincial, but I have always refused him. You will have no trouble in understanding the reason for my refusal: the Bishop understood it without my telling him, because he told me one day that he could see in that my tact, that he had perhaps been a bit quick (to act), but that he thought he was authorised to do that by a letter from you.
Father Garin is soon going to take an active part in the holy ministry. He will probably go to Auckland to join Father Petit-Jean who, out of unwise zeal and without consulting his Superior, has attacked in the newspapers the British government, which has answered him in a way that is pretty sharp, although very honest in appearance; there he is now in difficulties, and we do not know how to get him out of them. We are very much afraid that he will do great harm, not just to himself, but also to the whole mission. Be so good as to remind those coming, to never send a single word to the newspapers without formal permission from their Bishop. We are among heretics, under an heretical government which, up till now, we can certainly say, has shown itself in no way hostile towards us. These heretics have even helped us, up till now, to build chapels, houses, etc… Here is the basis of Father Petit-Jean’s dispute. In the regulations of the British colony in New Zealand, it is said: that the governor, with the advice of his council can give a certain sum to the ministers of each religion, when the religions have the number of people stated in the regulations, when these religions have a chapel. Father Petit-Jean, believing he had fulfilled all these conditions, wanted to claim for himself, for his chapel and for his school the benefits of the law, but he was told in reply that, at that time, poverty in the colony being extreme, his request was judged inappropriate. Then the Father got annoyed and, without [praying over the matter? – sans se signer] wrote to the Sydney newspapers about the government’s injustice towards him. The government replied, and poor Father Petit-Jean is now out on a limb. His writing is a bit weird and unsound. It’s disappointing because he is otherwise a fine missionary. Father Garin will probably go to be with him, whether to help him in ministry, or to give him advice, or to fulfil the point of the Rule that demands that we be two. Ha, how wise it is, that point! All these difficulties would probably not have arisen if they had been two.
I return to Bishop Pompallier; one day when he was pressing me to accept the Provincialiate, I asked him to give me in writing what he believed the Provincial’s role should be in the mission. He answered me with a little letter I am sending on to you; it will greatly enlighten you, and when you name a Provincial for these lands, please point out to him very clearly the way he will have to act regarding the Bishop. Here his[36] position is very difficult. The Bishop, as you see, does not envisage that he should be involved in anything concerning the mission. His responsibility would be limited, almost, to ensuring the observing of the rule; but this observing of the rule depends, rather, on the Vicar Apostolic, since the Provincial can order nothing, change nothing without a permission from the Vicar Apostolic… and I know that on this aspect the Bishop is very particular.
If the Provincial could be separated from the Vicar Apostolic in terms of housing, things would, perhaps, go even better. The Fathers or Brothers who come back from (work in) the mission or who could be brought back from time to time, and most of whom have such a great need of renewing their spirits, could withdraw there with the Provincial. There would even be an advantage for those arriving here for the first time, for, not knowing the languages, they are obliged to spend some time at the Bay before going on mission. During this stay, they develop too great an acquaintance with the Vicar Apostolic and perhaps the Vicar Apostolic comes to know them too well, and this excessive reciprocal acquaintance does not always help strengthen the bonds of charity. The Bishop’s home at the Bay of Islands is, in everyone’s opinion, a real tower of Babel. You hear spoken there at the same time all sorts of language: French, English, Maori, Spanish, Latin… The staff attached to this poor house is frightful in terms of numbers. Since the Bishop’s return from the tropics, we have been almost always 25 to 30 people. For the rest, if I am mistaken, Father Garin, who has to write to you, will give you a more exact figure for them, seeing that he is the one who is responsible for all that. For a certain time we have been five priests living at the Bay of Islands, without including the new arrivals, five Brothers and M Yvert.
Concerning M Yvert, he gives great service to the mission in the printing shop, [and] keeping the accounts, but from another point of view he does harm by the advice he gives the Bishop in temporal matters. He always wants to proceed in grand style. He doesn’t want to hear talk of farming here. Meanwhile we are of the opinion, we Fathers, that if we really wanted to, we could soon harvest wheat to provide bread for the whole mission. Only we need more Brothers. Brothers would be, here, a great help for farming and for everything. M Yvert, in whom the Bishop puts all his trust in matters temporal, is not of the same opinion. The expenses are a little less now than they were formerly. Things are ever so slightly improved in this aspect, or rather, it must be said that poverty has perhaps forced (people?) to ease up (on spending?) [la misère a peut-être forcé d’aller un peu plus doucement] but there might be more order [mais y auvoit-il plus d’ordre] (in spending?). I know nothing about that… Good M Yvert is one of those men with great imagination who does not think very much; he is a man who likes to enjoy the Bishop’s affection. He flatters him, or to express it better in words we are familiar with, he fawns upon him a lot and goes his way in every circumstance. Putting it another way, the Bishop has no understanding in temporal matters. He doesn’t consult any of his priests on these things either. If he consults us, it’s just a matter of form, because we see that our advice nearly always has no effect. Only M Yvert is heard, is believed. Nothing but by M Yvert and everything by M Yvert. How much to be pitied is the state of temporal affairs! How good it would be if Rome made someone responsible in these matters.
A lot of spending goes on and everyone suffers. The Bishop thinks only of his natives, he sees only his natives, he speaks only of his natives, he acts only for his natives. These natives come and go continually in the house. They continually have to be given pork and potatoes and flour and sugar and clothes, in a word, nothing is refused them. While our unfortunate Fathers have very often gone without basic necessities, they have not always had what is given here in abundance to the natives. They can give nothing in their missions – they have nothing (to give). The Maoris then tell them that they are not good like the Bishop, that they do not want to give them anything, while the Bishop gives them many things. The only remedy I can see for all this is that Rome has to entrust all temporal matters to the hands of a man who is wise and skilful in these things. Otherwise things will always go badly. That is the issue which has tired me most since I have been here… The Bishop is so taken up with these natives that he is, very much, abandoning concern for those working in the mission. That was not, however, how St Francis Xavier acted; he took very great care, firstly of his co-workers, and then of other people. However, Very Reverend Father, I do not claim to say, here, that the Bishop is making himself blameworthy before God; such a thought is far from my mind. This Bishop has excellent intentions, very pure views, and I have no doubt that God will reward him one day for this conduct which I do not claim here to judge or censure. May God keep me from that. Only, Reverend Father, I am writing to fulfil the promise I made you to tell you everything, good or bad. Neither do I believe that it is an unworthy motive that urges me to speak. Because I like the Bishop very much and I think that he is quite attached to me and certainly I would not wish for all the world that he knew of the way in which I am writing to you… I hope that, through the help of your prayers, the kind master who has already given us great graces for the improvement of things will grant us many others. So I am not getting discouraged. I am waiting with patience for what this good God will see fit to give us.
If in New Zealand everything is going fairly well as far as charity and unity are concerned,[37] I think that in the islands in the tropics everything in that respect is going badly there. Almost all the Fathers have written to me, and almost all complain that they have much to suffer in that respect. Recently I read in a letter from Father Servant something which caused me a lot of distress; according to this letter, he was wanting to forbid his confrère, Father Rouleau [sic: Roulleaux] from saying Mass. However he did not do it. You can, from that, Very Reverend Father, come to an idea of what is the state of charity between these two confrères. The Bishop is going to separate them by dividing the island between them. How disappointing it is that things have come to this. I am afraid that Fathers Bataillon and Viard are not very united either. However I have only rather vague information about that. If I had money I would make this journey[38] straight away. But without money, what is to be done? It will always be a very great difficulty for the one who is responsible for carrying out the task you have entrusted to me, for only some time, as I hope, to not have money designated for this task. Letters can accomplish some small things, but they never achieve what can be done by being personally present.
On the spot, you can see things better… Here are the Bishop’s intentions, up till now, for the new Fathers. Father Morreau [sic – Moreau] will go with Father Reignier to Akaroa, the French settlement. The governor of this little colony is particularly anxious to have a priest.[39] It is not, I believe, that he wants to make use of him, but for the sake of prestige, and so as not to be frustrated in his expectation, he has kept back eight thousand francs of the money brought by our most recently arrived Fathers, until the Bishop sends him priests.
Father Chouvet would be with Father Compte at Opotiki. Father Bernard would go and begin a new mission station a little distance from Father Petit. Perhaps the Bishop will make other arrangements before their departure. Father Petit is with Father Lampilat. Father Rozet is on his own, but he is quite close to the Bay of Islands. This Father is beginning to give us some consolation. He now wants to join the Society, but would, beforehand, like to make some sort of novitiate; but how could a novitiate according to the rules, as he wants, be organised for him? If we had the house for the Society, which you have spoken to us about, Reverend Father, it would serve as a novitiate… as a retreat house… In the tropics Fathers Viard and Bataillon are together on Wallis Island, Fathers Servant and Rouleau on Futuna, Father Chevron and Grange on the island of Tongatapu.
I have not told you anything here about the progress of the faith. For some time, in New Zealand, it has improved. Since the Bishop has come back, the natives have certainly taken up worship again, but none yet are well formed (as Christians)… What is the number of Catholics in the country? I couldn’t give it to you exactly, but what I am very sure of, is that it is a good deal lower than what was sent to us in France, and I very much doubt whether we have half of the forty thousand which appeared in the French newspapers. The English and the French who have seen this figure and who know the situation well joke a lot over it. They say that soon the Catholic Bishop will count more people in his group than there are inhabitants. However it cannot be denied that the Protestants unfortunately have a good number of them, and I would not, perhaps, be very much mistaken if I said that they have a good half if not more. However, I repeat, there is right now a very visible movement towards Catholicism.
Something about the Brothers. Generally they are going well. They have a fairly good spirit. They have, like the Fathers, been very much hurt. The Bishop has forbidden the Fathers to have them eat at their table, saying that as the Brothers serve us as domestics, it was not appropriate that they be admitted to our table; the poor Brothers have, in that, seen themselves truly humiliated and totally reduced to the status of domestic servants. They have very much felt and understood their position and so several have protested, have got discouraged. As well, the way in which they were treated was a bit severe. Today things are a little better. However, there are still things to correct. Certain Fathers have little regard for them; for example Father Compte acts in regard to his (Brother) almost as if he was a servant. But Father Pézant and Father Petit-Jean have a quite special concern for theirs; they make them eat at their table, are concerned about their spiritual exercises, and treat them with kindness.
Father Petit could show a bit more gentleness towards his (Brother) [40] Father Rozet has enough respect for his Brother Élie [41] Brother Pierre-Marie is here at the Bay of Islands. He is studying theology. [42] He doesn’t have much natural ability. Brother Basile [Basile Monchalin] does the cooking here, and when he has some spare time he practises his trade as a shoemaker. Brother Emery [43] is a tailor. Brother Luc[44] is a joiner. He is certainly the best we have in respect of virtue, and even in all respects. Brother Claude-Marie is at Okianga [sic: Hokianga] with Father Petit. He is getting discouraged, but I hope that his retreat, which we are going to make next week, will set him up again a bit. Brother Colon [45] is with Father Petit-Jean, Brother Euloge[46]: Brother Justin [47] is with Father Compte, and Brother Elie with Father Rozet.
All of our Brothers would like to have a habit which would distinguish them from lay people. They do not wear their religious habits here because of their work, but I think there would be no great difficulty in their having a habit which would be neither a soutane like that worn by the priests nor the sort of dress worn by lay people, but also to make them respected by lay people and which would inspire in them self respect. Once the habit that they brought from France is worn out, they get them made herein all shapes and colours. I have seen two of our Brothers on a journey dressed so much like sailors that I did not recognise them at first. This matter seems very important to me. A habit like the one you gave to the Brothers from Lyons would be very appropriate here, I believe. We are very liberal here concerning all these sorts of things. While waiting for your opinion on that matter, I will ask the Bishop to give them something a bit more religious in appearance than what they have, meanwhile leaving what has already been made to wear out. The greatest danger our Brothers run here comes from Europeans whom they get to know. They have little to fear from the Maoris. The nakedness to be seen among them doesn’t arouse much interest; their colour and their dirtiness doesn’t arouse desire very much. Father Chevron tells me the same thing in writing from Tongatabu. May God always protect us in that respect.
An Irish or English priest has come to Nicolson.[48] He has written to Bishop Pompallier to ask him for faculties. We have read in a Sidney [sic: Sydney] newspaper that a coadjutor was designated for Bishop Pompallier, for New Zealand. According to this newspaper, this Irish coadjutor would come from Dublin. May it please God that this is true.[49]
While telling you of the temporal situation of the mission and especially the spending on the natives, I did not tell you of the reasons that the Bishop could have for acting in this way. I like to think that he has very good ones that I am not aware of. I know however that his intention in acting like this is to win the affection of this poor people in order to win them in that way to the faith of J[esus] C[hrist]. In informing you of everything, my intention has not been in any way to pass judgment. Just as in everything I tell you, I do not claim to be infallible, but my intention is to let you know everything in total simplicity. Father Epalle will be able to explain to you many things which would demand a fuller explanation. Now, for myself, Reverend Father, I very much fear being among the number of those of whom the Imitation of Christ speaks when it says: qui multum peregrinantur raro sanctificantur [50] In all these journeys I have made since I have been here, because I have been almost always travelling, I have indeed neglected my spiritual exercises a bit. My meditation has often either been missed or done superficially, along with my examinations of conscience. I am very much concerned with others and perhaps not enough with myself. However I can say that I really have the desire to make myself holy and, if desire was enough to make a saint, I would be one very soon, but alas, I am[51][p12] A simple annoyance always casts me down a bit. I often find it hard to know if I should warn the Bishop about all the expenses being incurred and even more about how they are incurred. There are so many precautions to be taken in His Lordship’s presence when you speak to him about these sorts of things, that really it is a cross for me every time it has to be done. How much, Reverend Father, I need the help of your prayers… Do not be annoyed with me if I tell you that often I have, indeed, murmured against you, because the responsibility you have given me is certainly one that is most difficult and most delicate. I find in it very little in the way of human consolation, I have nothing but complaints to listen to. When I am with the Fathers, they complain about the Bishop; when I am with the Bishop, he complains about the Fathers. However, I must say, since my visiting the Fathers, he has received letters from them which have given him real pleasure, and he told me again the day before yesterday that at present he saw with pleasure that attitudes were indeed in great part changing. I am getting this small consolation at least.
Do not forget that I beseech you in your prayers (to pray for) the one among your children who most needs it, for him and for the others. Since my departure from France the aim of my prayers has been to ask for union with each other. Today again, while reading one of your letters to the Fathers and Brothers who are here, I recommended them to ask God in a special way for this grace which I see as very important for us.
Ask for it, please, and have people ask it for us. Write, please, a letter to the Fathers who are in the islands in the tropics – a strong letter on this subject.
My respects, please, to Father Cholleton, to the Father Director,[52] (Fathers) Terraillon, Girard, Chartignier, Silvidre,[53] Poupinel, and to all our Fathers at Belley, at Valbenoîte. I am very grateful to Father Chavas for the letter he was kind enough to write me. The statue of the Blessed Virgin which we brought out here is producing a marvellous blessing. People come from all parts of New Zealand to see the big Maria. These poor savages are quite amazed and stupefied on seeing her. They ask how such a thing can have been made – if it is with the printing press? They get everything explained: why she has no shoes, why this fine cloak, this crown on her head, who is this little child she holds in her arms?
I am intending to write, soon, a letter of thanks to the good ladies who helped us to buy her, but, meanwhile, if you find an opportunity to do so, please thank them for me. Brother Luc knows these women. Father Poupinel would very much like me to show my gratitude to them. I also ask Brother Luc to not forget to send me a supply of soft paper for my poultice. It can’t be got here, nor in England, to go with the other necessary things. Forgive me, Reverend Father, if I take the liberty of making you responsible for these matters, but it is impossible for me to write another letter. The ship which must bear this letter to you is about to leave. Then I am forced to leave early tomorrow morning for Hokianga. We will have three days’ travelling to do to get there and as much to get back. As well, each of us will have a good-sized bag to carry on his back. Here, there are no vehicles or horses to help us. Very difficult tracks through forests, gullies, rivers, swamps, etc…
We have learnt through the Sydney newspapers that Bishop Polding was coming back from France, bringing with him about twenty priests, will there be any among them for us? [54] We have not yet dared to inform Bishop Pompallier of the mission in New Caledonia. We have been afraid to cause him a lot of suffering. [55]
I am very grateful to M Solichon for the newspapers he has sent me. I read them while dashing here and there.
I have, indeed, the honour to be, Very Reverend Father, your very devoted child
But the most unworthy and weakest of all,


  1. Forest had come out as Visitor to the mission of West Oceania - translator’s note
  2. they had been in the Bay of Plenty - translator’s note
  3. sic: Port Nicholson – Wellington - translator’s note
  4. Father Borjon’s, from Maketu to Auckland - translator’s note
  5. sic: Colomb (Pierre Poncet) - translator’s note
  6. It is interesting that in 1895 a Marist community, which still exists, was set up at 104 Vaugirard St (Rue Vaugirard). This is in the Montparnasse district of Paris - translator’s note
  7. This remark puzzles the translator somewhat! I suppose it is a way of saying she is in good health
  8. sic – raupo, rather. Taupo is earthy or rocky material, which Maori did not use in building. On the other hand, raupo, a swamp plant, was commonly used - translator’s note
  9. According to Father Séon, the retreat began on 8 January 1843 - translator’s note
  10. What delight, what happiness (it is) for brothers to live in unity. Psalm 132 or 133/1
  11. In a later letter, 28 April 1843, Séon says this was a French sailor who cooked for him. He found him unreliable and the man left after seven months - translator’s note
  12. like St Paul: Philippians 4:11-12 - translator’s note
  13. Pézant made his religious profession on 7 January 1840, just before he left for New Zealand. Forest must be referring to final vows - translator’s note
  14. he seems to be referring to their earlier entrance to Tauranga harbour - translator’s note
  15. religious? - translator’s note
  16. 150 kms - translator’s note
  17. about three or four kilometres
  18. sic – today Puylata - translator’s note
  19. about four metres - translator’s note
  20. phormium tenax
  21. 35 or 40 kms - translator’s note
  22. sic: pavillon? But I could not find a suitable meaning for it - translator’s note
  23. about a metre - translator’s note
  24. roughly 40 to 60 cm - translator’s note
  25. sic: Williams’ Maori dictionary gives no likely meaning for kapo. Forest may have mis-heard it. He seems to be describing a hangi - translator’s note
  26. about seven or eight kilometres – Tauranga Moana, no doubt - translator’s note
  27. Euloge Chabany - translator’s note
  28. Comte, from the department of Haute-Loire, and Pézant, from Puy-de-Dôme, were the two Auvergnats. Reignier, however, was from Loire-Atlantique. - translator’s note
  29. Not Servant but Pézant. Forest seems to have confused the names Servant and Pézant. Father Catherin Servant was never at Tauranga. He came with Bishop Pompallier to the Hokianga in 1838 and worked mainly there, and at the Bay of Islands until transferred to Futuna in 1842, where he died in 1860 - translator’s note
  30. to make a retreat, seemingly - translator’s note
  31. 1 Corinthians 9:27. But I treat my body harshly and keep it in subjection, for fear that after having proclaimed the message to others, I may myself be disqualified.
  32. Luke 15:13. A few days after, the younger son, having got together all his belongings, left for a distant country and there wasted everything in a life of disorder
  33. Brother Michel Colombon had come to New Zealand in January 1838 with Bishop Pompallier and Father Servant, but left the mission in 1841. He spent some years in the Bay of Islands area, but drifted south, eventually to Reefton in the South Island, where he made a living market gardening. He died there in 1880 - translator’s note
  34. In the French there is in this sentence a play on the word incenser, which can mean both to praise to the skies and to offer incense! - translator’s note
  35. Father Forest is speaking of himself in the third person - translator’s note
  36. the Provincial’s - translator’s note
  37. He must be thinking only of relationships between the Marists, not relationships between the Marists and Bishop Pompallier - translator’s note
  38. to the Pacific Islands, presumably - translator’s note
  39. the governor was no doubt the commissioner of the (French) king: Charles-François Lavaud, up to 18 January 1843, or his successor, Captain Auguste Bérard, up to 10 April 1846 - translator’s note.
  40. Brother Claude-Marie Bertrand was at Hokianga - translator’s note.
  41. Élie-Régis Marin, left alone at Whangaroa on Father Petit-Jean’s departure from that station in 1841, was with Rozet after his arrival - translator’s note.
  42. Brother Pierre-Marie Pérénon did not complete his theological studies. In 1845-6, because of his health, he went back to France - translator’s note.
  43. Emery Roudet was in the northern mission till 1850, went south to Wellington, and then back to France in 1852 - translator’s note
  44. Luc Macé came to the North in 1841, worked in various stations, went south with the other Marists in 1850, but was dispensed from his vows in 1854 and left New Zealand - translator’s note
  45. sic: Colomb (Pierre Poncet) arrived 1841, but was sent back to France in 1844 and then left religious life - translator’s note
  46. (Antoine Chabany) was with Pézant at Tauranga - translator’s note
  47. Perret – arrived 1841, to Wellington 1850, to Sydney 1857 because of health, then back to France - translator’s note
  48. Father Jeremiah O’Reily, an Irish Capuchin, arrived in Port Nicholson – Wellington- on 31 January 1843 with Henry Petre, a Catholic and one of the first colonists in Wellington. Henry’s father, Lord Petre, a director of the New Zealand Company, had asked the Archbishop of Dublin for a priest as chaplain for the Catholic colonists in Wellington - translator’s note.
  49. His hopes were not realised. In 1869 Bishop Moran, an Irishman who had formerly been Vicar Apostolic of the Cape of Good Hope, was installed as the first Bishop of Dunedin - New Zealand’s first Irish Bishop - translator’s note.
  50. De Imitatione Christi, book I, Chapter 23, No. 4: those who travel a lot, rarely are made holy.
  51. The sentence seems unfinished - translator’s note.
  52. Father Pierre Colin SM, the Founder’s older brother – at that time - translator’s note
  53. a priest and Marist novice, who later left - translator’s note
  54. Bishop John Polding had become Australia’s first Bishop in 1835, after William Ullathorne’s two years a Vicar General - translator’s note.
  55. In February 1842, Father Colin informed the Society for the Propagation of the Faith of the setting up of a new mission in New Caledonia. On 21 June he wrote to Cardinal Fransoni, prefect of Propaganda Fide in Rome to repeat a request to erect a vicariate of Central Oceania and to ask permission to send me to Wallis “without referring [recourir] to Bishop Pompallier about that.” The missionary party of eleven priests and Brothers, under the new Bishop, Guillaume Douarre, designated coadjutor to Pompallier, left France in April 1843 - translator’s note.

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