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Fr Euloge-Marie Reignier to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Rotorua, 15 February 1850

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, February 2006

APM Z 208 15 February 1850

J M J, Rotorua Station, 15 February 1850

To the Very Reverend Father Superior
Father Superior
Since you have ordered me to write to you at least twice a year, I have good reason to obey your Paternity’s order, a duty which is, anyway, as agreeable as it is just.
Brother Basil is taking this letter to Auckland, where he is going to take part in the general retreat for the Brothers. Bishop Viard, I believe, is threatening me with taking this confrère away. I wrote to him that in the case of the imminent return of the Bishop of Maronea,[1] that would be quite all right, but if his return was indefinitely delayed, I begged him not to deprive me of this good Brother. My frequent and long journeys do not allow me to take up my time with concern for temporal matters – I already have too much to concern myself with as a pastor; so I urged His Lordship in the name of the Rule and even said to him that I could not agree to remain alone.
I do not yet know whether your desire that we gather for a general retreat will be carried out this year. Perhaps this retreat will be divided [p2], one for the Fathers in the North, and the other for those in the South. A retreat like that is very useful.
The whole colony, Europeans and natives, knows about our removal, the newspapers have been proclaiming it for a long time. Such and such a ship is declared to be bringing our successors, then nothing happens. I do not know what to believe. This precarious and uncertain situation places our mission in a state of stagnation which destroys and compromises our reputation. When will a happy outcome occur? May Jesus and Mary protect us. Below the 40th degree [of latitude] there are few natives, a few hundred Catholics, all the rest are entrenched in Protestantism and fanaticism. There is almost nothing to gain among them. What picture will we present in the sight of the colony? – to go in numbers and then have few results. Father Baty has left for Port Nicholson to survey the scene there. It seems regrettable, humanly speaking (God has his views) that we were not consulted over the erection of the new Vicariate Apostolic, that thus Bishop Pompallier is left in sole possession of New Zealand, since he wants it, and that we are to be removed elsewhere, even to the Solomon Islands, if Bishop Viard had to replace Bishop Colomb. At least, there, there would be some people and it is not a British colony.
However his Excellency the Governor[2] whom I had the honour of having at lunch during a visit to our district, told me that he liked [p3] the French priests very much – is this the now-fashionable attitude?[3] Wouldn’t English priests be preferred? I think so. He told me that he could see that we were presently in difficulties and at a standstill.
The problem in these British colonies is that prices are too high. Gold and silver are nothing for the rich Britisher, and, what is more, this country being huge, it is hard to fruitfully work in this mission while at the same time keeping the rules of our Society. The natives are scattered at distances from each other.
Our newly-baptised do not yet, in general seem to have a deeply rooted faith; there are few who truly have that fear of Hell, that desire for Heaven, firmness;[4] they are fragile with[?][5] relapses into superstition, laxity, vices, and Protestantism more or less frequent from time to time; however a small group perseveres in prayer. Few spontaneously ask for the sacraments in time of illness, they call on us rather for medicines, [and] for healing of bodies. The parents customarily arrange unions; it is hard to get agreement for a marriage beforehand.[6] How many greater or smaller obstacles to grace arise!
Happy will be the time when your desires will be fulfilled, when we will live in community wherever it may be. Your will will always be for me the will of God. What I am writing to you here is not at all intended to set myself in opposition to the will of God in anything, to yours, to the one who is his representative. In death as in life nothing is as beautiful as the will of God. May I always fulfil it [then two or three words – lost in photocopying?]
[In margin of p3] [9]
When this letter gets to you, things will have been decided – I am speaking to you uselessly – but anyway I will do what I have to in the circumstances. If the choice of Provincial has not been made, after giving it further thought, I beg you not to take any notice of my nomination of Father Forest in my first list. I find him sometimes too inflexible in his ideas, in his ways of acting; not that I [words obscured partly – do not render?] homage to his rare merit.
I am, Very Reverend Father, in throwing myself at your feet, begging you to grant me your blessing, your very humble and obedient child
E Reignier, priest
[In the margin of p2] [10]
The number of those baptised in my mission in 1849 was 130. 80 died, many of whom were children.


  1. Pompallier – who was yet to return from his long absence in Europe - translator’s note
  2. Sir George Grey - translator’s note
  3. est-ce dy stule dujour?
  4. de la solidité – in belief, presumably - translator’s note
  5. word obscured – avec? – with
  6. il est difficile d’obtenir en premier lieu le mariage