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Fr Jean-Baptiste Petit-Jean to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Bay of Islands, 22 April 1845

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, October 2005

APM Z 208 22 April 1845

Bay of Islands, Terawiti,[1] 22 April 1845

Through Mary conceived without sin

To the Very Reverend Father Superior General, to him alone or to his assistants

Very Reverend Father

Last February the Bishop withdrew me from Auckland to send me to Sydney. It had been agreed between the two Bishops that I would go for a time to replace an English priest obtained by Bishop Pompallier. Before my departure, arranged in this way, I went to Tauranga to make my retreat with my confrères. Following the Maori war[2] the Bishop had news that soon some priests would arrive [p2] at Sydney to set up there a general supply base [procure].[3] Then His Lordship wrote to His Lordship the Archbishop of Sydney to say he should keep the new priests [and] in this way I would be replaced. He has kept me [and] has placed me at a new station founded near Kororareka at the time of the war. I am happy. I only at the start missed the English language, with which I had become fairly familiar during two or three years of practice.[4] I bless Jesus and Mary for having taken care [ménagé] of my last retreat. There it was I learned to pray and came to have a love for it. It seems to me that I am immediately ready for whatever my Superiors ask of me. I believe there would be no harm in sending a certain number of disciplines to Reverend Father Forest for those who ask for one[5] I am happy, and feel that I will refuse nothing to the good God, provided that his grace continues to carry me along. Alas, after these days of light, [p3] days of darkness will perhaps follows.

The Bishop seems very sensitive. About a year ago he scolded me in a terrible way almost in the presence of children I was getting ready for confirmation. He thought I was not coming quickly enough when he called me out of the chapel. One day at table in Auckland I mentioned as a piece of news that Father Matthew [sic: Mathew], a temperance priest in Ireland, had been made an apostolic representative [commissaire apostolique], and was because of that exempt from the jurisprudence of Bishops.[6] The Bishop, who was present, took offence at it; however he said nothing then, but complained later, and repeated to Father Forest that it wasn’t something to be spoken about in the presence of a Bishop. I feel an extreme dislike of living with him. I find him irksome, tiring. You know, Very Reverend Father, that I am driven to oppose, to contradict, at least interiorly.

The Bishop would like to do everything, to see everything in his own way – which leads to his health breaking down, and things being slow to get done, so that after a few small catechisms were printed, there is absolutely nothing ready [p4] for the press. The need for well produced books is immense. His Lordship is considered to be inferior to several other people in knowledge of the language [7]

It is said that a second press is coming. I weep at the news, unless it is for all the islands.[8]

After God and Mary, the piety of a few faithful New Zealanders, the honour and especially the concern of others have been our protection in the war.

No doubt God had many plans in the destruction of the unfortunately Bay of Islands town. It was also a little one which had been a little sinkhole of money, money for the mission. Certainly some expenses, even important ones, did not come before the council. If I am speaking too freely, God will pardon me for it. These thoughts are not just my own. I ask my Superiors to refer them to others. I am only talking about what causes me grief.

During the last two and a half years I have been entirely separated from His Lordship’s affairs, so much was I taken up with those of my little station among the whites.[9] I humbly ask for your blessing, and am, with deep respect, Very Reverend Father,

Your J[ean] Bap[tiste] Petit-Jean
Pr[iest], M[arist], miss[ionary] ap[ostolic]


  1. Terawiti – could refer to a place on the east side of the Bay of Islands named today Rawhiti – which can mean east - translator’s note.
  2. Petit-Jean seems to be referring to the Maori attack on Kororareka and its sacking on 11 March 1845 – translator’s note
  3. These priests were Marists - translator’s note
  4. Presumably at Terawiti (sic) he had to speak on Maori - translator’s note
  5. A discipline was a type of whip used as an instrument of self-inflicted penance by some in those days - translator’s note
  6. Father Teholbold Mathew began preaching temperance – giving up alcoholic drink – in Ireland in 1838 and achieved an international reputation, visiting the USA in 1849 - translator’s note
  7. Maori. This opinion of Petit-Jean’s seems to have been justified at the time. The first Catholic Maori catechism, produced in 1842, in haste, was not linguistically of a good standard, though later versions considerably improved - translator’s note
  8. He seems to imply that in New Zealand it would be wasted - translator’s note
  9. in Auckland - translator’s note