Jean Lampila

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Rev JEAN LAMPILA, aged 33 (on arrival in New Zealand in Group VI in 1842).

A former sergeant in the French army with service in Greece, he arrived with his theology studies incomplete. Pompallier ordained him a priest on Christmas Day 1842 in an open air ceremony at Purakau in the Hokianga. In 1844 he began a mission at Whakatane from where, over the next five years he ranged widely to Poverty Bay and Hawkes Bay. At Viard's direction in 1849 he spent several months at Wairoa to assess its suitability as a mission station when the Wellington diocese would become reality. In the event Viard directed him instead to the Ahuriri district (Napier) and near the end of 1850 he had established his base at Pakowhai (near Clive). He returned to Wellington in 1852 intending to resign and return to France because of his health, but Viard persuaded him try a change of environment first. So he went to the Owhanganui River, settled first at Kaiwhaiki till 1854 when he moved up river to Kauaeroa. There he built up a Catholic Maori community of about 1000 with a large and memorable Maori style church. This was destroyed by the Pai Marire invasion that menaced Wanganui and was blocked by the battle of Moutoa Island.
By 1868 war had made the River station untenable and he went as parish priest to Wanganui for four years, and then onto New Plymouth for five. Frail and turned 70 he went as assistant to Lower Hutt parish which then had oversight of Kaikoura. When that was established as a parish in 1883 he went there as its first parish priest, setting up a Catholic Maori community at nearby Mangamaunu. Four years later he retired to the Sydney Procure as the first stage of returning to France where the current anti-clerical law made re-entry difficult. Eventually, furnished with a medical certificate, he accepted a chaplaincy in his home town of Mazamet, retiring in 1895. He died in the Marist house of St Marcel lés Sauzet on 14 February 1897, aged 89.

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