WANGANUI — About 450 friends, religious sisters, former staff and others associated with the Aubert Home of Compassion in Wanganui gathered around the altar of St Mary’s Church for a Mass of Thanksgiving on September 29.
It was with heartache that the Sisters of Compassion decided in March that the home would have to close immediately as it fell seriously short of meeting earthquake safety requirements. This was hard for Wanganui people to accept.
The last of the 69 residents to be resettled left in May. The buildings that made up this St John’s Hill suburban site overlooking the city and river have been empty since, and the property has been closed to the public.

The congregational leader of the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion, Sr Margaret Anne Mills, speaks at St Mary's Church, Wanganui.

But on the Feast of the Archangels, people came together and thanked God for the care the sisters have provided for the city and districts since coming to Wanganui in 1931 to establish the first Aubert Home of Compassion.
“While the buildings that we associate and know as the Aubert Home are no longer functioning, the legacy that is left from those working in that home and offering a haven for the elderly and infirmed, will be remembered,” said Msgr David Bell in the homily.
“In the true spirit of Mother Mary Aubert, the staff, whether one of the sisters themselves, or a nurse, a cleaner or someone in the office, the overriding atmosphere that was expected, was that of service to the patient.
“It was a place of peace and tranquillity for people to live a quiet life,” Msgr Bell said.
At the conclusion of Mass, congregational leader Sr Margaret Anne Mills, DOLC, explained that the sale of the complex is taking time, with many meetings required, and professional support and advice being sought.
The money from the sale will remain in Wanganui to go to assisting the elderly through the establishment and governance of a community trust. This way, the charisms and essences of Suzanne Aubert will continue, but be expressed and experienced in a different way.
“That we will pick up the challenge of this new initiative, is my prayer.
“Knowing that this next step will lead to the birth of an entity that will meet the needs of our time and into the future, we can move forward step by step, with the certainty that Suzanne Aubert is calling us on,” Sr Margaret Anne said.
Coincidentially, the Sisters of St Joseph of Nazareth, who were in the middle of their general chapter, attended the service as part of their schedule.
This warm gesture of support and love touched deeply Sr Margaret Anne and the Sisters of Compassion.