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Fr Forest to Fr Colin, Bay of Islands, 14 Feb 1844

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, August 2005

APM Z 208 14 February 1844

11th letter from New Zealand

JMJ, Bay of Islands, 14 February 1844

To Very Reverend Father Colin

Very Reverend Father

Since my last letter, dated 3 February, a French corvette, the Buscéphale [sic: Bucéphale] has arrived at the Bay of Islands. It has come from New Caledonia where it carried the Bishop of Amata [1] with Father Viard. This Father must spend about six months there as interpreter for Bishop Douarre.[2] After that he hopes to come [back] to New Zealand. These gentlemen have been very well received by the principal chiefs of New Caledonia. The commander [of the Bucéphale] M Laferrière had a little house built for them at his expense – provided them with food. This same vessel visited Futuna. Reverend Father Servant[3] aroused the compassion of the whole ship by the great poverty in which he lived: he had neither shoes, nor hat, only one very poor soutane – that was all he had. The ship [‘s crew] was kind enough to give him, as well as to Reverend Father Rouleau [sic: Roulleaux] who is with him, what he most needed. Fathers Chevron and Grange were also [illegible word – helped?] by the same vessel at the island of Tongatabu [sic: Tongatapu] where they are located: the same poverty as elsewhere. What they most needed was food. The little food that had been sent them had for a long time been ruined, partly while being brought out, but now, thanks be to God, they are all in a bit more comfortable situation.

In my last letter I spoke to you about Brother Colomb and the problems he has been giving us for a long time. Today the Bishop, finding a favourable opportunity to send him back to France at little cost has made use of it. Alas, I fear very much for the poor Brother. I believe that his intention is not to stay in the Society. He has told outsiders here (Frenchmen) that on the day he entered the Society he had drunk a bit too much, and that he did not know what he was doing. For a long time he has been living here in a very unedifying way. All the Fathers in the stations where he has been have had only complaints to make about him, [complaints] I believe well founded, and [pour ne pas? So as not to] [1 or 2 illegible words] myself I will content myself with sending you some letters which have been written about him. I am sending you some, from Father Petit-Jean with whom he has spent some months, and from Father Pézant with whom he stayed some weeks (I believe a fortnight). Father Rozet who had him for a month to build a chapel, told me that he had been obliged to give him strong reprimands on account of the very long absences he took every Sunday without permission, going he knew not where among the natives. He never wanted to associate with the other Brothers, but always did his own thing, loving to wander here and there. About a fortnight ago, having gone to see two Fathers (Fathers Petit and Comte) in order to receive the sacrament of Confession, and the Fathers being busy and not able to hear his confession [p2], he decided to approach the holy table without going to confession [beforehand]. In [saying] that I am not claiming to say he committed a sacrilege, because it could well be that he had no serious sin on his conscience, but this way of acting did not edify the other Brothers… Here, the other Brothers have accused him of stealing things to use as gifts. However, in my opinion, his problem is lack of judgment and common sense rather than real malice. But, everything taken into account, this subject would do more harm than good to the mission. Not to send him back to France and to leave him here outside the mission would be to expose him to [word hard to read – se marier?] – getting married] and almost removing from him his ability to achieve his salvation. He would always be afraid of approaching the priests of the mission; and as well, he would have no other way of living. Because right now the Europeans here are in extreme poverty. All those who have enough means to leave the country are leaving it. Two Frenchmen who were here in the Bay of Islands have asked for a passage on board the vessel Bucéphale to go back to France. The Bishop has [2 illegible words – decided?] that the wisest and most prudent option to make in the case of poor Brother Colomb was to send him to a country where he would find all the help of religion and of [illegible word].

The Bishop is leaving tomorrow or, at the latest, the day after tomorrow, to go and visit the south of New Zealand. He has leased a ship which is costing him £55 a month. The voyage will certainly be four or five months [in length]. He is taking with him Reverend Fathers Comte, Reignier, Bernard, Lampila, whom he will leave at different places in the south, where they are needed: Father Comte at Nicolson,[4] Father Bernard alone at Tauranga, Father Reignier alone at Rotorua. How much the word alone is to be feared here. How right you were to ask that men be two together. Since the arrival of the decree from Propaganda [5] which demanded that missionaries should always be two together, the Bishop has indeed resolved to carry it out as soon as he could, but he is waiting, he says, for new subjects from France.

In a few days I am planning to write to you at real length about many things and especially about the temporal aspects of this mission which is still really suffering, and which will still be for a long time yet.

Be so kind, Very Reverend Father, to pray to the good God for me. I really need the good God to help me with a quite special grace in the situation I find myself in. I will explain everything in a few days. Apart from all that, everyone is well. Everyone is fairly happy, apart from certain matters I will inform you of later on.

I have the honour to be, Very Reverend Father, your very humble and totally devoted servant
Miss[ionary] apost[olic]


  1. Guilliaume Douarre SM was consecrated coadjutor Bishop of Central Oceania and titular Bishop of Amata on 18 October 1842. He led the first Catholic missionary group to New Caledonia - translator’s note
  2. According to Lilian Keyes’ life of Bishop Viard, fairly early in the missionaries’ time in New Caledonia, Viard discovered at Balade on the north-east coast a colony of Wallisians, whose language he had already picked up while in Wallis after Peter Chanel’s death - translator’s note
  3. who had been transferred from Hokianga in New Zealand to Futuna in 1842 - translator’s note
  4. sic: Port Nicholson – Wellington
  5. The Congregation Propaganda Fide – for the spreading of the Faith – had supervised Catholic missionary work worldwide since its foundation in 1622 - translator’s note