Many years ago in France, a retired Marist missionary, Fr Delachienne, showed the family of John Dunmore a little story he had written about someone’s ascension into heaven.
Years later, when he had moved to New Zealand and knew a little more about the work of French Marists in early New Zealand and especially the mission station near Pukekaraka, Otaki, John Dunmore remembered how he and his family had met Fr Delachienne when he was a mere schoolboy. He tried to trace the little book Fr Delachienne was planning to have printed. He had even asked John’s mother to translate it into English for him.
Enquiries in libraries and specialist archives in France and in New Zealand led nowhere. But recently, Marist archivist Fr Bourtot told him that the archives held a few items about Fr Melu who was Fr Delachienne’s senior colleague at Pukekaraka.
He discovered that the slim file included a little booklet, printed just at the start of World War II, on Fr Melu’s entry into heaven and his achievements at Pukekaraka.
It is a light, attractive tale of the wonderful achievements of the two missionaries and of the delight of the Maori in heaven who welcomed Fr Melu through a special gate, dancing noisy hakas.
John Dunmore decided to translate it into English because his mother had never been able to on account of the war and other problems. But he discovered, as an amusing touch, that Fr Delachienne had used his mother’s name, Margaret, in a Maori version, as the story’s narrator.
‘The Ascent to Heaven of Fr Melu SM, told to her grandchildren by Makere Tunumoa’ has now been published. It will be launched at the commemorative celebrations at Pukekaraka on October 10 and is on sale through the Marist Messenger at $5 plus postage. The full proceeds will go to the Marist mission.