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Fr JFR Pestre (Provincial) to Fr C Cognet (Superior of Maori Mission)

Translated by Brian Quin, February 2002

Wellington, 24 October 1895

Very dear Father Cognet
I hope that you have received the three boxes which I sent you from Wellington by sea last week.
I am very sorry not to be better acquainted ( ? ) the district of Taranaki. I would have been better equipped to give you the advice that you are asking me for, as to which station to choose. However, with the help of your topographical map and the information you have given me, here is what I think.
First of all, I think you should take a mixed parish, composed of whites and Maori. The two reasons you offer in support of this solution are obvious, and will become more serious each day, in view of the tendency of the Maori to scatter more and more and even to disappear. This point being settled, there remains the question of knowing in which locality you should establish yourself.
It seems to me to be impossible to resolve the matter right now, before knowing his Grace the Archbishop’s thoughts about the suppression of the parish of Patea, and the erection of the two parishes of Stratford and Opunake. I don’t think he can create these two parishes for a long time yet, because of a shortage of priests.
Anyway, I don’t think it would be wise to accept New Plymouth. 1° - that would cause an outcry from the secular priests: they would say that we were [taking? – word indistinct] the best parishes. 2° - New Plymouth, with its 350 Catholics and its convent would give ample work for one priest: then the other would be quite alone [working] for the Maori scattered through this vast district. 3° - At New Plymouth, the people and the Sisters, used to Fr McKenna, who is Irish, would not support for a long time a French priest, who would speak English more or less well. Now, we don’t have any Irish priest to send there, and if we did have one, what would be the situation of Maori missioner with him? To have the food and independence they need for their missions, they would have to create for themselves another centre. So setting yourself up in New Plymouth would only be a temporary solution. It is better, right from the beginning, to select a location where you will be really at home. As far as that goes, Pungarehu seems to me to be [suitable? – word indistinct] for you, and very much preferable, unless Patea was carved up, then Waverley ought to be preferred, as you demonstrate so well. But will this carve-up of Patea take place? Try to see His Grace when he is at Wanganui, and see what he can promise you. For my part, if there is a chance to see him, I will also speak to him about your plans. But do not accept New Plymouth.
I am happy to know that the Catechism and the Histories are finally going [se faire ….? – indistinct] also at Hiruharama.
As for Fr Soulas’ letter to Fr Kirk about your stay in Wanganui etc, don’t worry about it. Tell Fr Kirk quite simply that I will settle the matter with him when I visit him next February, and that in the meantime he shouldn’t concern himself with the letters from Fr Soulas.
I am keeping your letter, to use it when I need it. You will do well to keep mine as well.
Believe me always, very dear Fr Cognet,
Your very devoted servant in JMJ
J F R Pestre