Br Emery to Henry Garnett, Kororareka, 2 Nov 1843
Henry Garnett, an Englishman from Liverpool, had been working for the mission since about 1840, first as a carpenter and then as a schoolmaster in 1841. In 1842 he went to France to study for the priesthood with the Marists. He did not remain with them, though, and it was as a secular priest that he returned to the Pacific with Pompallier in 1849. But if he served as a priest in New Zealand there is no record of it (Simmons op cit p 121 ).
The stone for the new church of St Peter and St Paul was blessed on 3 May 1843. Its construction had been postponed because the printery had been given priority. It was a large structure of wood built on a small knoll overlooking the town. The first Mass was said there on Sunday February 11, 1844, but it was the crew of the corvette "Bucephale" that was in attendance on that occasion, and not the crew of the "Rhin", as Emery and the others expected.
Garnett was still with the Marists in Lyon when this letter arrived. It found its way into their archives, and a photocopy of it is now included with the others in the AFM. But although a copy of the text was also made by hand, this letter has not been included in the volume of Lettres d'Oceanie.
Text of the Letter
Very dear friend,
- I am taking this good opportunity to write you a few lines. I will have to be short because the ship leaves tomorrow and I'm beginning this at 9 in the evening. Ah, if you knew how the mission is progressing now we have books you would come back immediately. You know how there was no progress at the Bay of Islands or elsewhere when you left. Now it is all changed at the Bay. At Waikare we had only a few Catholics, now they are all fervent converts. His Lordship went there last Sunday and took down a big wakapakoko which was in the pa [fortified village] and they are going to put up a cross in its place. At Tepana [Te Puna] several important chiefs have come back; the same at Kawakawa, and many others at Waimate and Otaiamai [Taiamai]. There has also been a great change at Hokianga; they are nearly all Catholic. In the south great changes have taken place too. The Protestant ministers are in a real rage against Monsignor!
- The chapel is being built at Kororareka. The first stone was blessed with great ceremony. The whole town, Catholic and Protestant, were there and many natives came too. His Lordship gave a fine sermon in English about the foundation stone of the Catholic Church. The dedication will take place in about two months time with even more pomp, since we might have the band from the French warship which should be returning about then. The ship is the "Rhin." It arrived in the Bay of Islands on the eve of All Saints. Br Luc and I carried Monsignor's letter of welcome to the captain. He asked if the band could play at Mass the next day and if they could attend. We replied that that would give His Lordship great pleasure and the next day he sent it, and came himself with all his officers. The band really impressed the natives who had not seen anything like it. About thirty natives made their first communion that day.
- Now our place is full of natives, especially since we built them two big huts behind our big house. It is a fine sight now. Every evening these good Maori can be heard singing hymns, reciting their catechism, rosaries, or other prayers. They learn very fast and know their catechism from one end to the other.
- 1 am printing with dear Br Luc and M. Yvert is in charge. We have already printed two books. The Maori are very proud of them and mock the missionaries who used to say there wouldn't be any.
- You must often call to mind the danger we ran looking for the two priests at Mangonui. I have not had an experience as bad as that since.
- My dear Mr Henry, pray hard for me and for us all. You know what it is like in the mission, how many are the dangers for both soul and body. Encourage your companions to come and share our crosses. They are numerous enough but not hard to bear.
- Present my profound respects to Fr Epalle. Tell him I am still as poor as when he left and that he should bring back a lot of clothes and material to make them, for I have nothing left in my box and our Fathers are all in rags. My respects also to Fr Poupinel and good M. Perret, and also dear Brs Luc and Aurelian.
- All the Brothers at the Bay of Islands send their best wishes - Br Pierre-Marie, "theologian", Br Luc, printer, Br Basile, jack-of-all-trades. Br Claude-Marie was here a week or so ago. Br Marie-Augustin has gone to Wallis.
- I am very tired. Goodbye, I'm off to bed.
- Your very humble servant,
- Br Emery. Marist.
- I forgot to tell you that Mr Finton is no longer here; he has gone to Valparaiso. Mr Oliffe is well. He is always conscientious in attending services. His children are growing up nicely.
- Mr Waterton has gone to Sydney to live off his private means.
- Finton may well be the blacksmith from Whangaroa who found he had no work there and thought he would find it in Valparaiso, according to Elie-Regis (letter to Epalle 19 February 1842 - LO 29). In that case he would have sailed on the "Sancta Maria" the previous November. John O'Liffe was an Irish resident of the town.