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GENERAL REVIEW OF THE MISSION.
Return to New Zealand--Difficulties of the Mission--Sending of the Sancta Maria to South America--Various Pastoral Visits in 1844--A Priest and Catechist Drowned by Shipwreck--Overland Journey to Auckland--General Review of the Mission--War in New Zealand--Voyage of the First Bishop to Rome--Conclusion.
AFTER five or six days passed at Wallis, I left for the Bay of Islands, after an absence of about fourteen months. I took with me three neophytes from Wallis and Tongatabu. We arrived at Kororareka, the head-quarters of my administration, on the 26th of August, 1842. I found the New Zealand mission in great difficulties in money matters, and consequently in a state of spiritual languor. The funds which my administration were awaiting from Europe had been lost in London through the failure of the bank that was to transmit them to Oceania. Besides, as the means of communication in our far-off country were very irregular, the help that was sent after this bankruptcy did not arrive for a long time, and then at disjointed intervals. However, an English bank with Protestant directors, who favoured me with their confidence and esteem, saved me from becoming bankrupt myself and the mission from falling into ruin, by furnishing me with money--cashing drafts that I drew on the funds for the propagation of the faith at Lyons. By these means I saved the mission; and the ministration of all my missionaries in New Zealand resumed its healthy course among the native tribes, whose catechumenate had sensibly diminished in number. However, the former eagerness of these people, which had relaxed during the Bishop's absence, resumed its activity. During the fourteen months I was away several conferences had been held between the Protestant ministers and my missionaries. The light of truth had appeared, and the people were only discouraged because they had not a sufficient number of Catholic priests or enough books of instruction in our holy faith.
Soon after my arrival at the Bay of Islands I hastened to write a long pastoral letter refuting the errors of Protestantism, then I revised my manuscript catechism with all the principal prayers for a Christian, and the whole was printed in a few months by the mission printing press at the Bay of Islands. All these pamphlets, consisting of two thousand copies, were distributed among the Catholic stations in New Zealand.
Shortly before the printing of these books I had sent the Sancta Maria to Tongatabu to take Father Grange there, who was to assist Father Chevron in his work. M. Michel, the captain, had my instructions to take the schooner to some port in South America, to be sold there for the benefit of the mission. She had rendered great and effectual service for more than two years and a half, but she was showing signs of age, and my means would no longer permit me to incur the expense of her keep, and besides the English colony of New Zealand had greatly developed, and furnished me opportunities of making use of its trading vessels, so that it was not very difficult for me to hire a schooner when wanted to make my missionary journeys.
After having paid several pastoral visits to Hokianga, Whangaroa, and Kaipara, where I was finally able to place a priest and establish a station, I hired a schooner of about sixty tons and visited the whole New Zealand mission. The date of my departure from the Bay of Islands was February, 1844. I arrived first at Auckland, where I blessed the Catholic cemetery and conferred confirmation on a number of the faithful.
From there I went to Tauranga, where I visited the tribes of that station and conferred baptism and confirmation on the natives. Then I left the schooner that I had
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hired, giving the captain instructions to take her to Opotiki, where I intended to re-embark. As for myself, I went by land with the two missionaries who accompanied me, to visit the tribes who live between Tauranga and Opotiki. Thus we went to Maketu, where we found the people using Catholic prayers and requiring all the assistance of the minister. The principal chief made the Bishop a present of a fine piece of land on which to build the mission church and the missionary's residence.
From thence we went to the tribes of Tamarakau and Matata, where a certain number of noble catechumens were baptized and confirmed. Two days afterwards, we arrived at Whakatane, where the chiefs with eagerness asked for one of the priests who accompanied me. They gave five or six acres of land for the establishment of the station at this place. I complied with their wishes by leaving them Father Lampilas. The people of this tribe had already constructed a fine church of reeds in which they held all their religious exercises. I conferred baptism there on several catechumens, who had long desired it. In a day's walk I reached Opotiki. The people of this tribe awaited the episcopal visit to be baptized and confirmed in great numbers, and their desires were satisfied. They also gave a very suitable piece of land for the use of their mission station.
I hastened to embark on the schooner, which was lying at anchor near here. I had now only one missionary and a catechist to accompany me. We set sail for the tribes of the East Cape, where the people had been for some years waiting for a Catholic minister; but alas! I was compelled to postpone the realisation of their desires.
From thence we went to Port Nicholson. I found there about two hundred and fifty white Catholics, the majority of whom were Irish. The care of their salvation was entrusted to Father O'Reily. I added to him Father Comte, whom I specially charged with the spiritual care of the natives. I spent about three days amidst the people of Port Nicholson, where I conferred the sacrament of confirmation.
Then I sought the assistance of Father O'Reily to visit Akaroa, the tribes of Port Cooper, the English colonists at Nelson, and the natives of the island of Kapiti, in Cook's Strait. On all these visits the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and marriage were conferred. There were several conversions of Protestant families, and we were filled with the consolation of the Lord. I took Father O'Reily back to Port Nicholson, from whence I started alone on my return to the Bay of Islands.
On my way I called at the peninsula of Terekako, where I stayed for a day and a half, and conferred the sacraments of penance and confirmation on the neophytes of that place, who had been deprived of a Catholic priest for two years.
From there the vessel called at several bays on the East Cape. The people continued to beg of me to obtain some priests to teach them; but I could only leave them prayer-books and books of instruction.
These natives gave me the details of the wreck of a schooner, with the loss of all hands, some two years before. Alas! my schooner floated over the spot where one of my missionaries, Father Borgeon, with the catechist, Brother Deodat, had perished in the wreck. Nothing had been recovered from the vessel but the windlass, which had been washed ashore by the sea.
I set sail for Whakatane, where I finally left the hired schooner, sending her back to the Bay of Islands. For myself, I went on foot to visit the numerous tribes to be found in the interior of the island as far as Auckland, where I intended to take my passage for the Bay of Islands. So from Whakatane I went to Opotiki, Matata, Te Kupenga, and Rotorua, where I had a mission station in charge of Father Reynier. Then I came back to Tamarakau, Maketu, and Tauranga. From there I went to the tribes of Waikato and Mokau, whom I had confided to the care of Father Pesant, and at length, after three months' travelling and most consoling work, I arrived at Auckland. I made a short stay in this town. Then I hastened to take a passage on board a small schooner, in which, on my way to the Bay of Islands, I visited the tribes of Ngunguru.
Sentiments of great satisfaction and lively affection filled my soul upon returning to the Bay of Islands. On the one hand I had the remembrance of the numerous people I had just visited, the sacraments that had been conferred on them, the means of
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THE BISHOP'S RETURN TO ROME.
salvation I had left them, the books of instruction that they had learned by heart, and the missionaries and catechists who were labouring for their sanctification. On the other hand, I could not forget the inhabitants of the South--in Otago, Moeraki, Ruapuke, even in Akaroa, who were deprived of missionaries. I had also in my memory the numerous people in the southern part of the North Island, who, for want of people, could not be helped by the Holy Ministry. Now, in all these places, heresy had either mission stations or swarms of catechists to spread their errors and their thousands of calumnies against the Catholic Church. Many of the tribes who had formerly joined the true Faith, harassed afterwards by the objections of the Protestant ministers, and finding themselves, as they fancied, abandoned by the Mother Church, finished by yielding to the importunities of heresy, the full power of whose venom they were ignorant of. They said to themselves, "The Protestants preach the same God and almost the same truths of salvation. If we are unable then to obtain the word of God from the Mother Church, we must obtain it from the Protestants. For it is better for us to have this word, though imperfectly explained, than to have the darkness of infidelity in which our fathers lived." Alas! fifteen or eighteen thousand natives deprived of Catholic missionaries had for these reasons passed over to Protestantism.
Nevertheless, in April, 1846, we counted on our ecclesiastical registers about five thousand who had been baptized, and there were five or six times as many Catholic catechumens. But the people remaining true to the faith are only in the vast area where they have been assisted by the sacerdotal ministry, and where mission stations have been established for them.
Another great affliction for me was the state of war in which New Zealand was. Shortly before my arrival at Kororareka, after the long pastoral visit I had made, the Protestant and infidel tribes had risen against the English authorities. The flagstaff at the Bay of Islands had been cut down by the natives. Then they gave battle to the colonial troops at Kororareka itself. They gained the victory, pillaged the town, and reduced it to cinders. Several fights took place between them in the neighbourhood of the Bay of Islands, and the hostilities lasted for about fourteen months.
During all that time the Catholic Bishop and his clergy passed their time in spirit between the vestibule and the altar, weeping over the evils that had befallen the people. One standard only was in their hands, that of the Cross. Both sides understood our spirit of neutrality in political matters, and our desire for peace. So all the ravages of the pest of war passed over our heads without touching us; our missionary establishments remained standing by the side of the ruins and cinders of the unhappy town of Kororareka. Peace was at length re-established in the country in January, 1846.
One of my grand vicars, Father Viard, was consecrated Bishop to be my coadjutor, according to the request I had made to the Holy See in past correspondence. In accordance with the same correspondence, several other bishops were consecrated some time before to share the labours in Western Oceania. Then, after ten years of labouring and travelling, the first bishop undertook a voyage to Rome to render there an account of everything to the Vicar of Jesus Christ, our Holy Father the Pope; to make more widely known the wants of religion in Oceania, and to watch over and take measures to perpetuate the work of salvation in favour of the inhabitants of Oceania. I started from New Zealand, which I left in the enjoyment of peace, and under the delegated pastorate of Monsignor Viard, my coadjutor. My departure took place at Banks Peninsula, the 16th April, 1846, on the French corvette the Rhin, Captain Berard, who gave me a free passage, as also to a priest and a servant who accompanied me. I landed at Toulon on the 28th August, and was in Rome on the 14th September, 1846. I hastened to pay my homage of veneration in this holy city to the Sovereign Pontiff, in His Holiness, and in Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda, and I employed my stay in giving to the supreme authority of Jesus Christ in His church all the knowledge I possessed of the Catholic religion in Western Oceania.