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Fr Claude-André Baty to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Kororareka, 27 & 29 April

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, October 2005

APM Z 208 27 April 1845


Kororareka, 27 April 1845

To the Very Reverend Father Colin Sup[erior] Gen[eral] of the Society of Mary

Very Reverend Father

On this holy day, Sunday, where I am here in Kororareka with a Brother and two native servants, I can begin this letter with the words of the holy prophet Jeremiah: “quo modo sedet sola, civitas plena populo.[1] Formerly the holy temple re-echoed with the praises of the Lord, and now its roads weep because there is no one who comes to its solemnities.[2] How many reflections I have been able to make on the fragility of human affairs during the three weeks since my return from a journey to the south. I found the town destroyed[3] and almost entirely reduced to ashes. Already the grass is growing on these ruins, and in the evenings instead of the celebrations and noisy pleasures which were heard in the time of its prosperity, now is heard only the howling of dogs abandoned by their masters, which come back at night to visit their former homes, and hide during the day in the scrub. How much abandoned hope! How many miserable families who, being unable to go and find their fortune elsewhere, are going to put up with poverty in Auckland! Happy are those whose God is the Lord,[4] who lose nothing real while they possess this good and powerful master of all things.

As far as the mission is concerned, it has not yet lost anything significant apart from the minor expenses which are necessarily caused by being situated on a battle site.[5] The big chapel had just been finished, and now it is not known whether it will ever be needed; this place formerly so frequented by the natives, a good number of whom came on Sundays to the services, and about 60 of whom went to communion on every feast day, will probably not be frequented for a long time. Bishop Pompallier has just left, to go to Wangaroa [sic] in order not to be shut in here by the blockade to which this Bay is subjected.[6] The natives, [both] those of the party favouring the Europeans[7] and those wanting independence for their island[8] are locked in [p2] a desperate war although up till now there have been only a few deaths.

I am now here with Father Séon, two Brothers and four natives. That is all who remain of this big establishment. We are going to visit the tribes to support them as much as possible in this time of trouble. Father Séon and a Brother have left this morning, [and] that is the reason why I said I am alone with a Brother and two natives today.

Up to now religion has not lost ground among the natives of the two sides. We have to hope that the Lord will sustain them until their quarrel with the colonial government has been pacified.

I do not know, Very Reverend Father, if anyone has passed on to you the details of the terrible catastrophe at Kororareka which occurred on the 11th March last. I think you have been informed about it by the Bishop or one of the priests. However, as the Bishop has written about these details I will say nothing about them, all the more because I was not on the spot then. I learnt this news in Tauranga after the retreat for the Fathers and Brothers of the southern stations which took place at that time. I was in fact the one who gave it, because Father Forest was unable to attend it. We were seven priests and four Brothers including Father Comte from Port Nicholson who arrived there by chance during a long journey he was undertaking. This retreat gave great pleasure to everyone who took part in it, and edified me very much. So be consoled yourself, very beloved Father, in seeing your children, overcome with very exhausting work, almost continuous journeys etc etc, eagerly taking a bit of rest to fortify their souls by renewing their generous resolutions.

I ask you very humbly to excuse me, Very Reverend Father, for having broken my rule by not writing to you at the time I should have. It is the first time I have had the honour and the sweet [doux] pleasure of conversing with you since a letter I had the honour of writing to you from Sydney, and which was carried by Father Trippe.[9] {in margin - *excepting once when I wrote in the Bishop’s name.} Since that time, up to the present, I have continued to work among the natives. After many difficulties, work and patience, a good nucleus had been formed in this station which is one of those which presented the greatest difficulties. If God had allowed peace to last, we had fine hopes; the example of those fervent neophytes had pulled in many others. Now we have to carry on the work without seeing where it will end up. May the most holy will of God be done.

I think that while I am writing these lines some new confrères have arrived in Sydney. May the Saviour of men and the Queen of Heaven give them happy and prompt access to those people who are waiting for them with so much impatience. All the stations, except this one only, ought to have an additional priest, to be complete, without counting the Brothers lacking as well. [p3] 29 April. Three ships arrived yesterday and today with troops. This morning the ships went to the head of the Bay to begin hostilities. God willing, may they end soon.

As for myself, I can only thank God and bless our august mother, I am very happy with my situation. I still feel myself ready to work for the salvation of the poor New Zealanders.

Please accept, Very Reverend Father, the offer of my sincere obedience and my deep gratitude.

Your very humble servant
Baty pr[iest] m[arist]


  1. How alone she sits, the city once thronged with people – Lamentations 1:1
  2. cf Lamentations 1:4
  3. by both the Maori, under Hone Heke, and British naval cannon fire, on 11 March 1845 - translator’s note
  4. cf Psalm 33:12
  5. ! - translator’s note
  6. by the British forces - translator’s note
  7. led by Tamati Waka Nene - translator’s note
  8. led by Hone Heke and Kawiti - translator’s note
  9. sic – Tripe-