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Fr Louis-Maxime Petit to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Hokianga, 14 October 1845

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, November 2005

APM Z 208 14 October 1845


Hokianga, St Joseph’s Mission Station, 14 October 1845

Very Reverend Father Superior

It was with a truly perceptible pleasure that I learnt about the great progress being made by the various branches of the Society of Mary. Only a few years ago it was just like a grain of mustard seed[1] and here is, already, a tree that puts out its branches on all sides. The rapid progress made by the Society give me great hopes for the islands of Oceania, too many of which are infested with heresy, which is worse in one sense than paganism; but, I am certain, Mary, through the means of the Society which is glorified by belonging to her in a quite special way, will prove to the world that the Church does not sing in vain: Gaude, Maria, cunctas haereses sola interemisti in universo mundo.[2]

If Mary did not triumph, in Oceania, over the demon of heresy, this praise which the Church addresses to Mary would no longer be true in its full meaning; so this praise, which is, for the other parts of the world, the statement of a fact, is, in the context of the islands of Oceania, a prophecy. The Blessed Virgin has already shown her power there, and there is every reason to hope that her victory will be all the more complete to the degree that her enemies put more fury into [p2] attacking her cult. Her images have been trampled under foot, and everything which can be called devotion to the Queen of Heaven has been ridiculed; to achieve such a [sale ? – word incomplete – nasty?] goal, all means are worthwhile.[3] We need to remind ourselves often that si Deo pro nobis quis contra nos[4] because heresy here has on its side all the means of success: priority of arrival [ancienneté], the money and support of the powers of this world; but [with] God and Mary being against it, all the other means will serve only to make its defeat more shameful. The struggle has been joined between the British Government and the New Zealand followers[5] of the Church of England. These poor dupes openly claim that they have been tricked by the missionaries who took advantage of their simplicity to persuade them to give their land to foreigners: what will be the result of this war? We await it with anxiety. It is greatly to be feared that sooner or later if may end with the extermination of the New Zealanders. We do not cease to ask God for the blessing of peace and prosperity for the country. For some days people have been talking about peace, but if it is agreed to, it is much to be feared that it will not last long. This war is far from having advanced the work of God: a number of our followers have taken part in it, either in favour of, or against the government, [6] so that all their thoughts are turned to the war, and all those who are keeping neutral, like the others, live in expectation of what must happen.

For eight months I have been alone as a priest in the Hokianga; it is a most painful hardship for me. The Bishop had promised me that it would be only for a little time while awaiting the imminent arrival of new priests from France; but a letter I have just received from Reverend Father Dubreuil leads me to understand that you do not intend to send new confrères before receiving a reply from the Bishop; with the upshot that it will be at least a year before we receive reinforcements. May God’s holy will be done, and that things redound to his greater glory.

I have been told that a confrère who must return to France at the first opportunity intends to prove to you that excessive sums of money are being allocated to each mission station. He must bring as proof the experience of savings he has made. I do not doubt his good intentions, but it seems to that if you come to share[7] in these views the mission would suffer a lot as a result. If it was only a matter of getting what is needed for the life of a priest and a Brother or a servant [p3] and waiting for the natives to come and find you at home, as it seems this confrère has done, I agree that we would have been given too much and we could also have made savings. But it would have demanded, as well, giving up visiting the tribes, leaving the sick to die without help, and children without baptism. I do no know any other places than those in the Kaipara and the Hokianga, but in the Kaipara as here it is impossible to visit the tribes by land. Having a large boat here because of the river which is dangerous, I have four natives to pay and feed, and as well, from time to time I am forced to stay a day at home to give them a bit of a rest. I believe it is quite useless to tell you more about this matter because I don’t think that what could be said would make much impression on you.[8] I am very far from complaining, but I can assure you that if we had more, we would find ways of using it to good effect, to the glory of God. The allocation which the Procure gave us in 1844 allowed me to buy some pieces of printed calico, so some could be given to each child to have a little garment to be made for them at their baptism, which worked very well for me, because the parents, still pagan, urged me to baptise their children, whom they promised to have instructed in religion. More than a hundred of these children would not have been baptised if not for this stratagem. Several are already in heaven, and that is well worth the spending of a few francs.

It was with very real gratitude, Very Reverend Father, that I received the millstones that you were able to get me for the good of the mission at the Hokianga, because Mr Fresquet told me that you partly paid the cost. I hope that the Bishop will enable me to cover the cost of the building, which will not be the least [part of the total]. The Europeans as well as the natives say that no one has brought such a useful thing into the Hokianga. I sincerely hope that the effect will not be purely temporal because that would not be worth the difficulty of creating this enterprise. [9] As for gratitude on the part of the natives for everything we do for them, we don’t have to fear that it will take any merit from us: their ingratitude is repellent, and a lively faith is needed to see them just as souls redeemed by the blood of J[esus] C[hrist] and not be discouraged. There are exceptions but they are rare, [p4] which shows a lack of esteem for or rather a great indifference towards the good which people are trying to achieve for their souls. There are even some who think of us as indebted to them because they deign to take part in the worship we have brought them, as they say. However not too many consequences should be inferred from all that, because I have often noticed religious attitudes in these people, along with language which seems to exclude them. You see, Very Reverend Father Superior, that not everything has been accomplished here, that we and the souls we are responsible for stand in great need of your prayers and those of the Society of Mary. I commend myself, and the mission station of Hokianga, to [those prayers] and am, with deepest respect,

Very Reverend Father Superior
You most humble and obedient servant
Petit, m[issionary] a[postolic]


  1. cf Matt 13:31
  2. Rejoice, Mary, on your own you have destroyed all the heresies throughout the world
  3. pour arriver à une fin aussi sa___? tout les moyens sont bons
  4. if God is for us who can be against us? – Romans 8:31
  5. the Maori followers - translator’s note
  6. which makes questionable Petit’s earlier statement that the war was between the government and Anglican Maoris - translator’s note
  7. ?si vous entri—rest of word missing from photocopy – dans ces vues
  8. !I think Father Petit is about to go to the bottom of the party list! - translator’s note
  9. Some few remains of this mill, set up at Purakau, the Hokianga mission base from 1842 until 1916, could be seen still in the 1990s - translator’s note