Fr Forest (official visitor of the Society of Mary) to Fr Colin, Bay of Islands, June 1842
Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, March 2002
Bay of Islands, June 1842
On the 3rd April last I had the honour of writing to you from Cook Strait; it was the first time we met [land?] since leaving the port of Falmouth…
We arrived in Port Nicholson (New Zealand) on 6th April at nine in the morning. We had five days to spend in this little town (of 2,000 people, it is said). We did a good number of baptisms there, we heard some people’s confessions, we officiated at a wedding, celebrated all the Sunday services, and visited a big number of Catholic families… The Irish Catholics at Nicholson number about 200. They have a piece of land for building a church, a presbytery, a school house and for making a cemetery. At the time of a visit from Bishop Pompallier a fairly big collection was made to build the church and the priest’s house, but nothing has been done about it yet.
On the 11th April we took a vessel which was going to Auckland, where we had be told we would find Father Baty. On the 12th an awful storm began… At last we arrived in Auckland on the 28th April about 10.00 in the morning. There, as at Port Nicholson, we exercised the sacred ministry.
There, the government, as at Port Nicholson, has granted a piece of land, but very small, to build a church and a school. A little weatherboard house has already been built for the priest, who will go there – Father Baty is designated. The Catholics, we were told, number about 400; the European population is roughly the same as at Port Nicholson. The natives are pretty numerous in the districts around each of these places.
We left Auckland on the 3rd May, and we arrived at the Bay of Islands on the eve of the Ascension at 10.30 in the morning. There we found Father Epalle, pro-vicar for the Bishop, Father Garin, Provincial, Father Petitjean, whose role at the Bay of Islands is that of parish priest. Father Comte arrived a little time ago from Akaroa where he left Father Tripe who is still there on his own.
Father Epalle will give you details about this station where Bishop Pompallier has experienced great damage, which has harmed the rest of the Mission. We found at the Bay of Islands as well Mr Yvert, employed at the printery, which will not be really busy for about six months; Mr Perret who does a bit of medical work and wants to go back to France, and three or four Brothers employed in building a fairly big house in pise, which seemed to me to be not particularly solidly built.
The Bishop has been away for 12 months. He is in the islands of the tropics. The mission is in the most awful misery.
Our poor Brother have suffered a lot, and I know some who have gone like savages to ask for some pieces of biscuits from foreign ships passing by.