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8 July 1841 — Father Jean-Baptiste Épalle to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Bay of Islands

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, February 2014

Father Superior-General
Very Reverend Father
Again, a few hasty words, while my heart would dictate to me volumes for you; and still, as you will see, it is into your bosom alone that I want to pour out my feelings. Perhaps I will again be, with you, imprudent, thoughtless, convinced that my thoughtlessness and imprudent thoughts cannot be better placed than in your bosom. I have neither pride nor shame in making known to you my strengths and weaknesses; it is, rightly or wrongly, that I cast myself on you alone. In my doubts and difficulties, I make you responsible for everything. I wonder what you would tell me to do if I could consult you. I recollect myself in God, I ask for Mary’s help, I believe I see your will, and I act. You see, very Reverend Father, how much you must pray for me if you do not want to put yourself in a dishonourable position. My first intention in writing to you today is to prove to you that none of your children has more right than I to the help of your prayers. Here is my situation and tell me if I am right. The Bishop’s journey to Europe has been delayed. Next week he is leaving for the south of New Zealand – it will be a journey of more than two months in length, to spread around most of the new priests. Father Rouleau has already become a priest, but will stay at the Bay of Islands to finish his course in theology and to provide Mass.[1] Father Borgon or Father Garin will stay in the same place to carry out the task of being provincial while also carrying out the sacred ministry.[2] Father Baty is going to be sent to Auckland, the capital of New Zealand, on the Thames, as a second pro-vicar. He will supervise the southern missions while serving the Thames.[3] I will stay at the Bay of Islands as first pro-vicar to supervise more particularly the northern missions, and the mission in general, in his absence replacing the Bishop who, after his southern journey, is leaving for the tropics, probably with Father Trippe who will stay there, and the Bishop will go on from there to Europe without coming back to New Zealand, with Father Viard, via Valparaiso.[4]
The Bishop has given me three days to decide whether I should accept this awful responsibility. During this time I have lost weight rubbing my eyes, I noticed it myself. This period having gone by, I asked for more time. He was late, I went to bed sighing. The next day I made my meditation and said holy Mass with great fervour and at the end of which I went and gave my Lord that simple reply that I regret not having given when it was first offered me: I have no other remark to make. A sinner governed the whole Church. I imagine that Mary had a share in all that; she is no less wise today; so the good mother, the apostles, Saint Francis Xavier and your prayers, my very loving Father, will govern the mission of the Immaculate Conception in the absence of its bishop.
You see, Reverend Father, that what I told you in my last little letter would not come true unless situations changed, because it is almost settled that if the Bishop does not leave, I will be sent, but in that case I will go alone, and consequently I still have the first right to your memento.
I have the quiet confidence that the development of the mission will help the regularity and perfection of the men. It is already doing better even before this new order of things, which has not yet been made public, has been put into effect. The perfection of the men in this last despatch will bring a great blessing, that is my opinion. Among the Brothers, they only lack a Brother Luc. With him, the supreme control of a priest-procurator would have been enough; without him, there are many occupations which, however great they might be, would only be a small part of my load, probably until the arrival of new men. Pro-vicar, director of the Bay of Islands mission, procurator, teacher of the ninth-level class, certainly from time to time and perhaps usually professor of theology. That is my lot. My ninth class includes first and last a young Englishman[5] whose education is demanding a lot from me. I hope to make him a member of our very dear Society, the groundwork has already been laid. The more he challenges me, the more I like him. Pray hard for him, we will probably send him to you to complete his training, if Mary wants this work to go on. I have told you many things which perhaps, in someone’s view, I should not have told you, that is why you should keep them secure between you and me. If I do not soon write to you at great length, it will be because the good God does not wish it.
I am all that you wish for,
Épalle, your much loving son.
(In the margin and crosswise) Mr Yvert asks me to tell you that he will write to you at the first opportunity. I think that you have received my letters written last November. Could I dare to ask you to inform my brother,[6] who is reluctant to reply to my letters.


  1. François-Joseph Roulleaux, an acolyte and a novice at the time of his departure on 8th December from London, was ordained priest on 2nd July 1841 by Bishop Pompallier at Kororareka (Cf Doc 102 [1]). He would be professed as a Marist on 1st April 1842 , would go soon after to Futuna (Cf Doc 202 [2] and, two years later, to Fiji (Cf Docs 332 [1], 337 [1], 343 [1] f/n 1)
  2. Michel Borjon and Antoine Garin, both Marist priests, had left Europe with Roulleaux. Borjon would be given responsibility for the mission station at Maketu in the Bay of Plenty 22nd August 1841 (Cf Docs 114 [3], (f/n 2 contd) 124 [4], 131). A year later, while on the way to Wellington he would die in a shipwreck (Cf Docs 205 [4-5], 215 [1], 247 [3]). Garin would be appointed provincial (Cf Doc 104 [3])
  3. The name ‘Tamise’ is the French equivalent of the English ‘River Thames’ which on contemporary maps referred to the whole of the Hauraki Gulf and not just to the bay now called the Firth of Thames (Cf Ross p 88, and the maps p 36 & 115). This is the way expressions like “the River Thames where the capital” should be understood (Cf Doc 114 [3]. Cf also Docs 111 [5, 15], 129 [4], 159 [3]). Baty would not go and work in Auckland as originally planned, but at Te Auroa on Mahia Peninsula (Cf Doc 113, f/n 1)
  4. Philippe Viard, a diocesan priest from Lyons before his profession on 19th May 1839, arrived in New Zealand the same year. In 1842 he was appointed pro-vicar for the missions in the tropics. In 1846 he was ordained co-adjutor bishop to Bishop Pompallier. Two years later he was appointed apostolic administrator of the new diocese of Wellington and, in 1860, he became the first bishop of this diocese.
  5. Henry Garnett, identified by Épalle in the following letter (Doc 104 [3]). See also Doc 152 [17] f/n 5.
  6. His older brother, Barthelemy Épalle (1806-91), who had been a diocesan priest since 14th March 1832, entered the Marist novitiate at Lyons on 20th September 1841 and was professed on 27th September 1842.

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