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July 1856 – Father Antoin Séon to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Wellington

APM 1670-24763 Letters 1855-1860

Biography and letters of Antoine Séon

Translated by ChatGPT, September 2023


New Zealand, Wellington, July 1856

To the Very Reverend Father Colin
Founder of the Society of Mary

My very reverend father,
It was on February 27th that I received the letter from my brother dated September 25th, 1855, which you kindly took the trouble to send to me. I have the honour to thank you for it. I am also very grateful for the paternal and affectionate greeting you deigned to add for me and for the other confreres. This renews our strength and eases our troubles.
I promptly communicated the honourable and gracious message to the fathers and brothers of the Society who are here; all of them shared my satisfaction. We hope, my very reverend father, that this will not be the last. We all rejoice that the concerns about your health that were once troubling have now been dispelled; may you continue to bestow upon us your paternal care for a long time, in concert with the new and dear superior whom your vigilance has trained, and whom your prayers have obtained for us. Sharing our burden between you two will make it lighter, and we will derive greater benefit from it, as instead of one superior, we now have two fashioned after the same model.
It has been a long time, my very reverend father, since I had the honour of writing to you in my own name; I feel the need to do so today to keep you informed of the actions of the one you, though unworthy, have sent to the missions. So, here is what I have done primarily in the past two years. In May 1854, I yielded my place at the Hutt to Father Forest, who returned from Nelson, where I had filled in for him during his illness, and I returned to Wellington. Immediately, Bishop Viard sent me to Otaki, before the end of the Easter season, to give the natives of that station the opportunity to fulfil their customary duties at that time. This place is about 53 miles from Wellington, on the west coast of New Zealand. I went there with pleasure because it was the first time I was visiting it. It is certainly the station I found to be the most advanced in many respects. The fathers who had been there did not waste their time, and their efforts bore fruit.
Catholic prayer began in this place rather weakly around the year 1848. The father of a fairly large family, the only one in Otaki who had resisted the entreaties of the Protestants, found, during a trip, some pages from a Catholic prayer book at a relative's house who had started praying. He decided to follow suit. When he returned home, he gave these loose pages to his sons and asked them if there might be a minister of this prayer in Wellington. Fortunately, Father Comte was there, residing with Father O'Reily, who did not speak Maori. So, they came to invite him to visit them. Since that time, this father has continued, but he only settled among them around the year 1850. Several other families in the vicinity had joined the one that was already praying, so they could be approximately 250 souls at that time. While instructing them in prayer, this father sought to help them improve their temporal well-being. They talked about building a flourmill. The Protestant natives had long had the project of making one themselves; they did not want to be inferior to them. The priest explained to them that they were too few for such an expense. Nevertheless, they persisted and set to work. Some went to work on public projects to earn some money, while others sawed the wood and built the house. During this time, they purchased French millstones from a windmill that had not succeeded in Wellington due to the fierce winds that prevail here; a European carpenter installed them, and the mill has been grinding since 1851. The ingenious and safe manner in which it was installed brought great honour to Father Comte. The Protestant natives bring their wheat to be ground there. Since 1853, a very intelligent native trained by Brother Elie has been solely in charge, and he sends flour to the Wellington market that is in no way inferior to that produced by European mills. Now, this native is training other natives in the same trade because mills are multiplying on this coast. There are now four standing not far from each other. After this initial success, these natives established two ropeworks. A European makes the ropes, and they prepare the flax they extract from phormium tenax. In June 1854, they had produced goods worth more than £909 sterling. In November 1852, they purchased a small 12-ton schooner that they paid £105 sterling for. Half of this amount was provided by Catholics, and the other half by Protestants. A Catholic native serves as its captain. Up to the aforementioned time, this small ship had carried to Wellington flour, potatoes, ropes, etc., for the value of £1122 sterling. To assist them, Bishop Viard provided them with a beautiful team; with that and a cart they own, they transport their goods from one place to another, plow their fields at half the expense, widows and the poorest give nothing; with these oxen, they train others in the same kind of work. This little group brings life to the area, builds bridges and roads where needed. They have a reputation for undertaking and completing whatever they set out to do. They owe all of this to the Reverend Father Comte, as they are pleased to acknowledge and proclaim everywhere. Protestants and Catholics, Europeans and natives, ministers and laypeople all have the deepest respect for this father.
It would have served very little if they had been engaged in trade without being initiated at the same time and primarily into the science of salvation. I have not found them inferior in this regard to the other Catholic natives I know. Catechism, debate, attendance at services, participation in the sacraments, everything is going well; far from fearing confession, they would rather pester you than be behind in this respect. They are at ease with the priest, just as the priest is at ease when he is among them. Protestant natives who come to visit us in their company are amazed at the way we treat each other; they are far from being as open with their ministers. During my one-month stay, I heard more than 100 confessions, 86 received Holy Communion; I performed nine baptisms, three newborns, and six adults, one of whom was seriously ill; I also conducted three marriages.
One of them was undoubtedly the most solemn marriage I have celebrated among the natives since I arrived in New Zealand; it was truly a marvel of progress in civilization for me. All the rites of the church were meticulously observed. The banns were proclaimed for three consecutive Sundays during this time. Meanwhile, Paramena and Noemi approached the sacraments as usual. As the moment of marriage approached, they came to confess again. On Pentecost Sunday, after vespers, we rode on horseback to their village, 8 miles from Otaki, to conduct the ceremony right within the family, and furthermore, the Catholics have a very clean chapel in this place that they built themselves, which could only add greatly to the solemnity of the occasion, an advantage that is not found in Otaki.
On Whit Monday, Noemi, with a countenance as joyful as it was modest, dressed neatly. Nothing in her attire showed vanity or the excessive affectation that often characterizes native people wearing European clothing. Shortly before Mass, she was solemnly escorted to the chapel by her closest relatives, who were also well-dressed. Paramena, entirely worthy of his future wife, followed, accompanied by his parents and friends; their attire was clean. The entire village wanted to witness the ceremony, and both Protestants and Catholics rushed to the chapel, which soon filled up. After a brief exhortation, I officiated the marriage, followed by the Holy Mass, which was attended with customary piety. At the appointed time, I pronounced blessings upon this happy couple, invoking the Church's blessings on her children in this solemn moment. Communion followed, and several who could not receive it the day before received it at this time. In the thanksgiving, I placed these two spouses and the entire village under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and when everything was concluded, we celebrated this happy union together.
Everything was ready. Calico tents provided shade for tables set up within the village enclosure. Abundant food whetted the appetites of all, who were all well-disposed to satisfy them. The first, small table was reserved for the newlyweds, the priest, and close relatives. I had the pleasure of hosting it. We ate with forks, using tin plates, and drank tea from new cups and saucers. After this first table, everyone took their turn and enjoyed a hearty meal. Then the father of the groom honoured the occasion by solemnly distributing a large quantity of food to everyone. Touching each lot with his Maori spear, he clearly named the recipient, adding some pleasant and agreeable words to their name. This continued the celebration until evening. Half an hour after this distribution, I set off for a place 10 miles away, where I had to attend to some sick individuals.
I will remember this celebration for a long time; it was so simple, touching, and became so moving. She who bloomed like the humble, fragrant myrtle flower that covers these fields had a sad fate; Noemi passed away like it. She was obliged to return to her parents; an illness struck and took her away from her husband and grieving family. I was far away at the time. Several months later, Paramena himself was afflicted with typhus. Bishop Viard sent me to administer the last sacraments to him. I still vividly recall his condition; he was truly at death's door, as, alas! were many others of his tribe. However, at that moment, the good Lord did not allow the doors to open for him. Thanks be to heaven, he has since regained his health and most of his strength to continue praying for the rest of his dear Noemi, who I hope is also praying to the good Lord for him.
After visiting the entire station, I set off for Wellington, deeply saddened to leave this small, yet so interesting flock, deprived of the guides who had directed them so well and who, unfortunately, could not be replaced anytime soon. A parish, although old, deprived of its pastor cannot help but decline, and even more so a small, budding Christian community, surrounded by people and institutions opposed to its faith.
The Church of England, much older than us in New Zealand, has a much larger number of followers in this area. It has established one of the finest institutions for the Maori here, partly at its own expense and partly with government assistance. It owns more than 800 acres of land, ceded by the natives, where numerous herds of cattle and sheep graze, which it will soon be unable to contain on its own property. It engages in large-scale farming, has a good school, which is well-attended for now, but I say for now because boys and girls are taught together, which is likely to lead to disorder and harm it. It has a very fine church as well.
The Catholics, on the contrary, have none of this in the area. In Wellington, they do have a school for girls, which is run by nuns trained in New Zealand. It was built at the government's expense and is partly supported by the mission. Some native girls attend this school, and that's about it.
It's been almost three years since the wood needed for the construction of a chapel was cut. However, it couldn't be used due to a lack of financial means directed from that side, which at the time held great promise from the natives. Even from our arrival in Wellington in 1850, they were willing to grant over 400 acres of land for the establishment of a mother station, which, by all appearances, would have yielded the most abundant fruits. At that time, we would have created healthy competition between the Church of England and this small Catholic station. This good would have solidified and spread along this coast. However, now it's too late to achieve any somewhat satisfying results here.
The Church of England has taken the lead to the point that anything we do here from now on will be of little consequence compared to what they are doing. Secondly, the number of Protestant and Catholic natives is steadily decreasing. Over the past two years, this place has been visited by several diseases that, along with the usual illnesses, have claimed a good number of lives. Measles, in particular, was much more deadly to them than it typically is to Europeans; 20 Catholics died during the year. Typhus followed, and the majority were affected; 24 succumbed. The number of births was only half that of deaths. Through death or changing residence, the congregation now numbers only around 150 members. Furthermore, several chiefs are considering selling some land to the government. This compels others to look back to their original place in the north, where they talk about returning. If this happens, our numbers will decrease even further. Our great consolation has been that we were able to administer the last rites to almost all of our sick, who all died in edifying dispositions. We have not learned that any of them, in this critical moment, returned to their old superstitions.
Upon my return to Wellington on June 14th, I stayed there for only one day. Several French settlers from Akaroa had expressed their desire to have a priest visit them; they had not seen any priests since we left in August 1851.
At that time, we were forced to leave the house we were living in. It was the one built by Commandants Lavaux and Bérard, the only one that met the intentions of the Minister of the Navy, who had ordered these gentlemen, at the head of the military station in Akaroa and protectors of the new colony, to build at the state's expense the priests' residence responsible for administering religious assistance to the settlers. This house adjoined the chapel's land and was separated from it only by a garden partly cultivated by the sailors from the corvette for the priests of the station. So we thought, and all the settlers thought like us, that we were on our property just as they were on theirs. Unfortunately, Bishop Pompallier had not obtained titles like theirs that circumscribed and secured the Catholic mission's properties in Akaroa. After the dissolution of the New Zealand Company, the Bank Peninsula and a considerable block of adjacent land passed into the hands of a new association, the Canterbury Association, all Protestant and with bases much less liberal than those of the previous company, which only hastened its dissolution. For us, we could therefore not expect any favour. Upon our refusal to purchase an entire lot of 90 acres of land that would have enclosed the land and house we owned, both passed to a member of this association. Thus dispossessed, we returned to Wellington to await the resolution of this matter, which was only concluded in April of this year, 1856.
We owe thanks to His Excellency George Grey, the Governor-General of New Zealand, for the zeal with which he took our interests to heart in this matter, as he had done for all French missionaries in general on other no less important occasions. The five acres of land that he recognized should rightfully belong to us were granted to us by his successor, G. Brown, the Governor-General of New Zealand. His Excellency and the commissioner of lands for the Canterbury province left us one acre of the old land granted by Mr. de Belligny, the one where the location of the chapel, built under the direction of Commander Bérard, stands. Unfortunately, to compensate us for the loss of the house we inhabited, these gentlemen gave us two acres of land, one of which is conveniently situated on the same street, and two more acres on one of the hills within the town's precincts. After 16 years of existence, this station will need to be rebuilt from the ground up.
So, on June 16, 1854, I departed aboard the steamer Nelson for the Bank Peninsula, where Akaroa is located. I arrived in Port Cooper, now Victoria Bay (Lyttelton), north of that peninsula, in 24 hours. On a previous voyage, it had taken me seven days, and another time, fifteen, to make the same journey by sail.
The Catholic station in this new province of New Zealand has about 200 souls: Europeans, mixed-race individuals, and native indigenous people. The latter number around 40, a remnant of a once much larger population. Two reasons have caused this extraordinary decrease. Firstly, the lack of a solid establishment for the priests on this island, a deprivation felt no less by the settlers whose children have been unable to receive the necessary education. Secondly, death seems to reap the natives more rapidly here than elsewhere. This idea may stem from the fact that the natives were much less numerous on this island than in the North Island, making their disappearance more noticeable. Nevertheless, during part of my stay among them and during the six months following my visit, more than 30 people have died, with about half being Catholics. As for the Europeans, I believe there are more English Catholics than we currently know. The dissolution of the association has removed several obstacles that might have deterred emigrants from coming here. Thus, they will gradually come forward as they are visited regularly.
I spent two and a half months in this station. I did not reap as abundant spiritual fruits as those I obtained in the station I had just visited. The isolation in which many families live, their limited means of self-instruction, the little time spent in each place, and sometimes the forgetfulness and indifference to eternal goods that naturally befall a soul deprived of religious assistance and solely occupied with temporal matters and interests—all of these, combined with other obstacles that virtue encounters everywhere, make these types of house-to-house visits somewhat sterile. However, my efforts were far from being entirely in vain. I heard 44 confessions, 14 from Europeans and 30 from natives; 11 received Holy Communion, most for the first time, including 8 natives and 3 European children. I received 4 abjurations, performed 4 marriages, and administered 27 baptisms, including 15 European or mixed-race children, 5 European and native adults, and 7 Europeans or natives who received conditional baptism. I also administered the last rites to two individuals and buried a native child.
Of all the settlers transported to Akaroa by the Nanto-Bordelaise Society in 1840, there are now only about 60 left, including those born in this new hemisphere. Through their hard work and persistent industry, most of them have created resources that more than compensate for their efforts. Some do not intend to return to France, while others are preparing to do so by striving to increase their possessions. Their lands have increased in value, and they have also started farms where they raise cattle that they hope to sell profitably to new immigrants. These farms are located on the mountains of the peninsula, known for its pastures, and the government of the province has leased the entire area in this way. The cheeses produced there surpass in quality those made in any other part of New Zealand. For those who remain in Akaroa, their lands will be worth even more in the future, as the beauty and safety of the port, the low cost of making landing easy, and the city's development will undoubtedly make the place very important one day. Before leaving, I had them elect three members to represent the Catholic congregation of the Canterbury province, to address its interests and correspond with the diocesan bishop. Two are French, and the third is English. He later became a member of the provincial council, helped with the latest resolutions made and executed by the authorities in favour of the congregation, and had the pleasure of announcing them to His Lordship.
The two months following my return from Akaroa were spent partly in Wellington and partly in Otaki. In November, the Bishop sent me to visit some Catholic natives on the east coast at Turanganui, in the Wairarapa district, about 90 miles from Wellington, traveling along the shoreline. These natives do not belong to the tribe among whom they live; it is only the company of a few close relatives that keeps them there. Both they and their hosts were frightened by the sudden death of one of them and the approach of measles. Without abandoning their respective prayers, they had relapsed into some of their old superstitions. So, I arrived in good time to reconcile our Catholics with God and with several of their acquaintances. Because although many baptized natives did not hesitate to return to the practices in which they were raised, and which are still drummed into their ears every day through the conversations of the elders or half-converted individuals, there is still a considerable number who are beginning to conceive the horror that these practices deserve. These Catholics and Protestants were thus viewed in several places with indignation. If they left their homes and passed through a foreign village after food had been placed before them, the fervent locals no longer greeted them with a handshake as a sign of friendship. They distanced themselves and left them to eat alone. I saw this with pleasure and took the opportunity to instil in their minds more and more what faith should make them understand about all these follies. I increasingly understand how fortunate we are to have confession to uproot the weed of sin in all its forms from the hearts of our new Christians. The Protestants work only half-heartedly and very imperfectly. We often see evidence of this. I know Wesleyan ministers who practice it with their followers just as we do. In this place, I also officiated a mixed marriage. Until now, we have not generally regarded baptized Protestant natives as heretics. But the more we progress, the more we see stubbornness emerging among them, which characterizes this horrible vice and makes it so odious in the eyes of God. I stayed among my people for five or six days and returned via the road that the government continues to open between the city and this district. It covers more than xxx miles on the side of steep mountains. Once completed, it will be easy and pleasant.
On the 23rd of January 1855, amidst the celebrations that take place every year to commemorate the colony's founding, at 9:30 in the evening, Wellington and its surroundings, at a considerable distance, were shaken by a very alarming earthquake. If the city had been built with stones or bricks, in less than two minutes, it would have been reduced to a pile of ruins. Almost all the chimneys were toppled, and many stores were so damaged that several had to be completely demolished. In certain places, the sea advanced onto the shore and inundated the stores to a height of several feet. The island is now several feet higher above sea level than it was before. The Cathedral of St. Mary had its share in the general shock. Iron bands had to be placed on the columns that had split. Rev. P. Forest's chapel in the Hutt, less significant but well-constructed, suffered little but was displaced from its location by more than a foot. It was eventually moved back to its original spot. This sudden and violent agitation, produced in different directions, opened the earth in several places in a frightening manner. Five or six people in the region lost their lives.
In Wellington, the fear was terrible and had dire consequences for several people; some others were seriously injured by debris, one or two; only one man, however, was killed that night. Many like to recount the providential circumstances that saved them from certain death. But for this man, he was struck as if he were a great criminal. He was sitting in front of his fireplace when his chimney was shattered by the earthquake. The mantelpiece, a piece of glass fixed to it, was shattered and detached by the shock, and it was hurled onto him, inflicting a deep wound on his thigh from which his blood and life escaped within half an hour. The very instrument that had served to nourish his vanity caused his death. It was noted that this wound alone was mortal. This tragic end was a lesson for the entire city. This man was well known for not practicing any religion. Furthermore, he had barely recovered from a severe stroke of apoplexy, during which he had been in great danger. He complained that, at the time, they had tried to disturb him by bringing a priest to him at a time when he needed rest the most. This time, no one bothered him in this way. They removed his powerful body as best they could from under the rubble, dragged him outside, where he expired. He was buried the next day as he deserved and as he had stipulated in his will, without any minister presiding over his funeral.
After this violent earthquake, our land continued to be agitated for a long time, but the tremors gradually became less severe and less frequent. They have not entirely ceased even now (1856); almost every week, we experience something more or less severe. May God protect us all at all times.
Immediately after the earthquake, the newspapers announced that a ship, the "Thomas & Henry," would depart soon for Otago. Finally, the bishop decided, based on a letter he had received from that province, to send someone to explore this part of his diocese, which he knew very imperfectly. Otago is a port located about 200 miles south of Akaroa. A Scottish company, having obtained permission from the British government to establish a Presbyterian colony there, transported a certain number of immigrants there in 1848, who now form one of the six provinces of New Zealand, to which they have given the name of the port. These gentlemen did not want to explicitly reject those of other religious denominations who wished to establish themselves among them, but they did not offer them any particular assistance except for the freedom to join them in divine service and to send their children to their schools if they so wished. This policy, followed with a tenacity characteristic of the Scottish character and further strengthened by party spirit, faces constant opposition every day, which somewhat hinders the colony's progress. However, I do not believe they opposed the construction of a chapel or school different from theirs. Besides, the port offers safe anchorage for ships, the area is favourable for the establishment of farms. The climate is colder than in Wellington, and there is more snow. N.B.
Bishop Pompallier had visited Otago in 1840; I found some of those he had baptized, Your Excellency, among the natives and the mixed-race population. I had gone there myself in 1850 during my stay in Akaroa, but the ship that transported me there allowed me to stay for only eight days. I had intended to return soon, either by land or by sea, but Providence had other plans. This time, I stayed for two months. The few Catholics I had discovered during my first visit helped me find others during this one. As a result, Bishop Viard now has the names of more than 100 European or mixed-race Catholics spread over a distance of more than 150 miles along the coast.
You can easily imagine, Your Excellency, the spiritual destitution these poor Catholics must have been in on a land that was not visited by any of their priests and had, on the contrary, become the adopted home of people very opposed to their faith. Many of them had settled in these places long before the colony was established. Consequently, many children were not baptized, and others of an older age remembered being baptized, and that was all. They did not even know a prayer, and they were unaware of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Others had abandoned everything for 20 years, and some said, "You are the first Catholic priest we have seen in 17 years." In other places, all the children had been baptized by the Protestants and studied the Protestant catechism. In one place, I found half a prayer book; that was at least something. Others did not even have that. In contrast to this picture, I must present another entirely different one. I had the consolation of meeting several English, Scottish, and Irish families who were successfully maintaining their faith against their circumstances. They preserved the precious deposit of faith they had received from their ancestors, just like Timothy. I am pleased to bear witness to them, as reluctantly acknowledged by the province's newspaper. During my stay, the population census of this colony was published, totalling 2,557 Europeans. The newspaper noted that in various districts, they received the care and instruction of ministers with gratitude, except for the Catholics, who were conspicuously absent before. Nevertheless, they were on good terms with their neighbours.
I sought to be as helpful as I could be to all of them. I visited them in their homes, with several being visited twice. I celebrated Mass at some of their homes. I encouraged all of them to confess, and several responded to my call. Others, who had been out of the habit for so long, preferred to wait for a second visit. I wrote to Sydney to have them send prayer books and instructional books, which are now preparing them to receive this second visit, which will be more profitable for all of them and which they eagerly anticipate.
N.B. The earthquake was hardly felt there; it was more pronounced in Port Cooper or Victoria Bay [Lyttelton] and even more so in Nelson, xxxx, in Cook Strait, where many chimneys were toppled, indicating the direction it took.
Understanding that I could not undertake such a journey without significant expenses, they themselves covered most of the expenses I incurred for them. I performed 40 baptisms: 20 children were baptized solemnly, 11 received conditional baptism with the additional ceremonies, and 9 adults and native children received the same grace. There were 5 confessions, 3 communions, and 8 who received the blue scapular of the Immaculate Conception. May God grant that they will no longer be deprived of the aid of religion for such a long time. May God also inspire all our Catholics to seek first the kingdom of God above all the goods of this world and to place themselves in such a position that they are not exposed to die without the last sacraments. The year preceding my visit was fatal in this regard for this congregation. In January 1854, a relatively wealthy Catholic died on board the ship that was to transport him to Wellington before it even left the port of Otago. This man had been waiting for such an opportunity for a long time, constantly repeating that he wanted to see a priest. Two local ministers came to see him, but he would not even admit them. He received with gratitude the visit of two distinguished Catholics, which was a great relief to him. Towards the end of the year, two other Catholics died after a two or three-day illness. The fourth was a native woman, the legitimate wife of one of them and the mother of 11 children, all still alive. She survived her husband by only two days. Out of grief, she made deep incisions all over her body, losing a large amount of blood, and died as a result of this cruel practice, which fortunately is becoming increasingly rare.
During this journey, I saw something quite peculiar that I had not noticed anywhere else in New Zealand. I called it a natural foundry. I later learned that it was called the Devil's Foundry. It is a part of the Moeraki coast, 60 miles north of Otago. This area measures 6 to 10 minutes of walking. You would think it was a genuine foundry that had just been abandoned. War projectiles are scattered here and there: cannonballs, shells, and bombs. In one place, four globes with a diameter of 5 to 6 feet stand upright, motionless at the spot where they were formed. The fifth was broken by the waves. I have reason to believe that those that are intact are hollow inside but very solid, filled with water and sand. Similar objects appear to form and grow all around you. Some grow out of the rock with their convex surfaces; half-formed 18-inch diameter bombs raise their well-defined, 2-inch-thick walls out of their moulds, seemingly abandoning their moulds to grow on their own; elsewhere, there are large hemispheres hollowed out of the rock that you would mistake for abandoned moulds. All these objects are formed by the sea, which deposits a ferruginous material only in this place, which gradually attaches and grows. The colour clearly indicates this. The shape is due to the action of water and the immovability of the object, which only grows as long as it remains fixed to the ground.
On our way there, we had stopped at Victoria Bay [Lyttleton], where I had the advantage of seeing the Catholic natives of that place again after six months. When leaving Otago on board the Steamship Nelson, I revisited Akaroa and the same bay. This gave me the opportunity to hear more than 10 confessions, perform several baptisms, and celebrate 2 marriages. This journey took me three months.
That, my very Reverend Father, gives you an idea of what I have done in the past two years. To sustain and expand the good, it needs to be closely cultivated, watered more frequently, and tended to by more skilled hands. May God choose and finally send them to help many souls who desire them and will desire them more ardently as they come to understand more fully how the eternal surpasses what passes and eludes us.
As for me personally, the more I live on a mission, the more I doubt if I would ask to come if it were to be done again. Not because I regret coming for personal reasons of suffering, fatigue, and privations that are beyond our abilities. I have not yet experienced anything of that kind, nothing that we are not all ready to experience again and with joy. But now I better understand what this kind of life is, how much it requires for success in terms of talents and virtues, more than I possess. One thing consoles me, though. It is not only here that I do not succeed; I have not succeeded anywhere else either. So, I am far from attributing all my difficulties to my new position.
To return of my own accord, I am not worth what it would cost the Propagation of the Faith. I feel the truth of what you told me about the difficulty of learning English; it has cost me to learn what I know, and it still costs me to preach in this language. It's not just the words that are difficult; the concepts themselves are as well. When the instruction is given, it must also be learned.
However, I believe I could be available every two Sundays, although sometimes it requires a bit of pulling by the hair. For Maori, it's easier. People are afraid, but still willing. In short, I am the same person you have known and still know.
I wanted to add several other things to this letter, but after several interruptions, I find myself obliged to leave again the day after tomorrow, July 28, for Ahuriri, where Father Reignier is stationed. Typhus, which ravaged Otaki, is now spreading among the people. Bishop Viard is sending me to spend a few weeks with Father Reignier. It's the first time this place is visited by a priest from outside the station. Therefore, please, my very Reverend Father, convey to our new superior my deepest respect and complete submission, as I had the honour of promising to you. Only a lack of time prevents me from writing a separate letter. Please accept my profound respect and sincere gratitude for all the care and trouble I have been the subject of. Brother Justin, who sees that I am writing to you, asks me not to forget to ask you to accept his deepest respect. When I return, I plan to travel by land and visit Father Lampila's and Father Pezant's stations. So, a subsequent letter will keep you informed of the entire diocese. I do not know, my very Reverend Father, the new regulations being prepared, but I doubt they will bring about significant changes in the spiritual policy that has governed us for the past six years. Bishop Viard has placed his trust in Mr. Yvert, and nothing will make him withdraw it. The entire Society has been nothing compared to this gentleman over the past six years; The Bishop saw that everyone was against him. Because of that, he hardly yielded an inch, saying, "He had only this one friend." Father Forest and the others have been nothing. I would even say more: The bishop would have believed himself diminished or exposed to unpleasant consequences if he had deferred to or even sought our advice. He has avoided that. One day he informed me of the departure of one of his nuns, who was ill and going to Auckland (two months ago), telling me that he did not want to hide anything from me. I was far from being taken in by that. Moreover, nothing apparent, nothing abrupt, except unfortunately a few retorts at times, as Father Petitjean has pointed out to me. I conclude, my very Reverend Father, by asking you to pray for one of your most miserable children in Jesus and Mary.
A.J Seon.
Please convey my respects and greetings to all the members of the Society who knew me before my departure.