Fr Jean-Baptiste Comte to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Wellington, 29 November 1844
Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, September 2005
APM Z 208 29 November 1844
Wellington, Port Nicholson, this 29 Novemb[er] 1844
Very Reverend Father
I am taking advantage of the opportunity given by the brig Nelson which is leaving directly for London, to give you news about us. A few months ago I wrote you a long letter from Port Nicholson in which I told you a little about each mission station. I sent this letter to the Bay of Islands, asking Father Forest to read it carefully with Father Baty, and to send it on to you, if they thought it appropriate. I must leave, in the months of January 1845, if nothing prevents it, to make a long journey through New Zealand. In this journey I will have the opportunity to see Father Pézant in the Waikato, Father Reignier in Rotorua, Father Bernard in Tauranga, Father Lampila in Wakatane [sic] and Father Chouvet in Opotiki, from where I will come back to Wellington down the east coast. I hope that then I will be able to make you a detailed and exact report, as soon as possible, about all this major part of the island I will travel through.
I have not received any news from the Bay of Islands since I have been in Port Nicholson. Father Petit-Jean writes to me from time to time from Auckland. He is in good health. I recently received a letter from Father Reigner [sic] which he entrusted to some natives from his station coming to Port Nicholson. He told me that Fathers Pézant, Bernard [and] Lampila are well, that Father Chouvet’s sight is getting weaker day by day, that Father Chouvet hopes to be sent to Akaroa, where the French people are, [and] from where he would take advantage of a chance to get to France. He would be replaced at Opotiki by Father Moreau.
I saw in the newspapers of October that Bishop Pompallier went to Sydney to assist in consecrating the Bishop of Port Adelaide, but arrived too late. I think that Bishop Pompallier will have written to you from Sydney, and that you will receive his letters before mine. In line with the Bishop’s instructions, I visited Akaroa, where I arrived on the 20th of the month of August 1844. I returned to Wellington on the 20th October. The few French people who are at Akaroa have very little religious faith. You know that their number includes [se porte à] 30 men, 16 [15?] women and 13 children. This year they sowed 95 acres of land. [p2] They are building a little chapel out of wood. Father Forest will have an opportunity to speak to you about it.
The British colony is not at present in a prosperous state. The Company and the government are not in agreement. There are disputes about land with the natives. I think that sooner or later the British will be at war with the New Zealanders. In Wellington there are 250 [150?] Catholics, among whom are several very respectable families.
The Anglican Bishop has not shown himself up to now hostile to the Catholic Church. It is said that he shares the point of view of the Oxford school.  He is a very energetic man; he has several times journeyed through the whole of New Zealand on foot. It is said that he is talented and has much learning and political skill. He hardly spares the Wesleyans who, up to his arrival, had lived in a considerable degree of unity with the Anglican missionaries, to the degree that the natives hardly thought that the Wesleyans and the Anglicans formed separate churches. Now everything is getting sorted out [commence à se classer]. The Anglican Bishop does not want to act together with the preachers. He has told the natives that the latter had not received any ordination, and consequently were not ministers or dispensers of the word of God. The Wesleyans, generally ignorant, [and] fanatical are very angry over the Protestant Bishop’s conduct towards them. They have had letters published in the newspapers, but the Bishop has not deigned to make any reply to them. In these letters they write about their New Zealand mission, the number of their stations and the money they have spent. In my next report on the Wesleyan matter I will have the opportunity to give you these details. In the meantime here is what I have read in the Sentinel of 11th May 1844, concerning the Wesleyans. The Wesleyans, it says, have at present 274 mission stations in various parts of the world, 389 missionaries, 1640 paid workers and 4884 unpaid workers; 101,137 members belonging to their church, 5,066 people preparing to be received into their communion, 64,307 school pupils, 7 printing presses. What they have received from donations for the year 1843 amounts to 110,620 pounds sterling.
[p3] Post scriptum from a letter I have received from Father Petit-Jean, dated 12th October 1844, in which he has copied a note from Father Baty. “I have received at the Bay of Islands,” says Father Baty, “a letter from Bishop Bataillon to Bishop Pompallier, dated at Wallis 12th September, and brought by the North Star, in which the Bishop of Enos states that the Protestant converts from that island have come back to their vomit, and that reinforced by 100 natives who had come in a canoe, they did all they could to make war on the Catholics. They had left their excreta in a church etc. there were houses burnt in various places. They had forced some Catholics to become Protestants. Prior to this war they had [enbrainé? involved?] almost a whole village in their conspiracy against some chiefs and Catholicism. The captain of the North Star, which arrived at that time, investigated the dispute, found the Protestants to blame, rebuked them and enforced peace.
Futuna goes well. Tonga Tapu gives us hope, there is one more priest; two priests on one of the islands of Fidgi [sic: Fiji]. No news from New Caledonia.” End of the letter.
In all of this southern part of New Zealand, where I am, there are barely 200 Catholics, near the west coast about two days from Port Nicolson. I hope that when we have better books printed, my little flock will grow.
For a very long time I have been asking Father Poupinelle [sic: Poupinel] for spectacles – in various letters I have requested them. I have received nothing. It is No. 10, with blue glass, that I need. I have also asked for a Greek dictionary and Greek grammar, the Old and New Testaments in Greek, but have received nothing. Finally, if this note reaches you, I implore you through Mary our mother not to forget to send me at my address:
1) spectacles bearing the number 10.
2) 1 Greek dictionary, 1 Greek grammar, a Bible containing the Old and New Testaments in Greek.
3) 1 Bible containing the Old and New Testaments in French, or at least the Old Testament, small format, as much as possible.
I have the honour to be, with deepest respect, Very Reverend Father, your very faithful and very obedient servant,
[p4] I do not have time to finish completing this page. I am quite happy in New Zealand. I say quite – later on I will explain this quite to you. The greatest of my consolations is the Fathers – their mutual charity, the uniformity of their views concerning the Catholic mission in New Zealand, the edifying conduct of which everyone gives an example, the spirit of zeal which drives them all, the perfect obedience which they all practise, and the spirit of submission they demonstrate in every circumstance, even the most contrary to the common feeling of everyone. The Bishop wants something, they want it; the Bishop does not want it, they do not want it. I am the only one who does not practise this blind obedience of which all my confrères give me an example. Pride is an element in it, nature rebels, and man becomes [sure? self-confident?]. I dare ask you for special prayers for me, being the one of your children who has most need of them. So I hope that you will bring me to the foot of Mary’s throne, pointing out to her my misery, my weaknesses, all the weaknesses of human nature gathered together in me. That wealthy princess of the celestial court will not then fail to give me alms and to give me an effective remedy to heal the weaknesses of corrupt nature.
[No further signature]
- he is referring to the New Zealand Company, no doubt - translator’s note
- He was right. In 1845-6 there was warfare in the Bay of Islands area – Hone Heke, and near Wanganui and Wellington - translator’s note
- The Oxford school or, more usually, the Oxford Movement, was an effort by Anglican clergymen of Oxford University between 1833 and 1845 to renew the Church of England by a revival of Catholic doctrine and practice. The leading figures in it were John Keble, Richard Hurrell Froude, and John Henry Newman. Newman became a Catholic in 1845 - translator’s note
- the Wesleyans or Methodists - translator’s note
- Bataillon - translator’s note
- cf Proverbs 26:11, 2 Peter 2:22
- Some Wallisians, unwilling to join the general movement to Catholicism there, had gone to Tonga, and now returned, accompanied by some Protestant Tongans - translator’s note
- sic. Very soon after this Comte went to this area to establish a base for his mission – first at Waikawa, and then at Otaki - translator’s note