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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 9 (December 1, 1934)


The history of European missionary endeavour in the Pacific contains no more adventurous story than that of the first Roman Catholic Bishop in New Zealand, the Right Rev. Jean Baptiste Francois Pompallier, Vicar Apostolic of Western Oceania. The great Bishop's early work in this country was more difficult than that of the famous first Selwyn, inasmuch as he was confronted with the task of beginning the propaganda of his faith in New Zealand, whereas the English Church missionaries had opened their crusade in Maori Land more than a quarter of a century before their first Bishop arrived to take charge. Pompallier, moreover, had cruised from island to island in the South Pacific under circumstances of peril before he set foot on New Zealand's shores. Later he, like Selwyn, voyaged in dangerous seas in pursuance of his missionary work. In this article the life and efforts of the pioneer of his faith in this country are sketched, with particular reference to the long and difficult journeys which were necessary in those days of missionary beginnings in these little-known and primitive lands.

Bishop Pompallier (From an early portrait.)

Bishop Pompallier (From an early portrait.)

JeanBaptiste Francois Pompallier was born at Lyons, France, in 1802. His family wished him to become a soldier, but his inclinations were otherwise. His early desire was to become a Jesuit, but from this he was dissuaded by the Archbishop of Paris. However, following his religious bent, he took Orders as a secular priest, and became one of the founders of the Marist Congregation, which took its rise among a few secular priests in the dioceses of Lyons and Bellay. He became novice-master of the Order, and three hundred novices passed through his hands. On June 30, 1836, when he was consecrated at Rome Bishop of Maronée and first Vicar-Apostolic of Western Oceania, the infant society of which he was so prominent a member came under the notice of the Vatican, and he obtained a brief authorising the creation of the new Society of Mary, which had for its special object the evangelisation of the islands of the Pacific.