by MARY HOBBS
More than 115 years ago, Suzanne Aubert had kindness as an important part of her work
when she founded the Sisters of Compassion. She was tolerant of people of all religions and no religions. She also relied on providence.

There is also an ongoing campaign for her canonisation.

At a recent open day to celebrate the 115 years of the soup kitchen’s existence, in Tory Street, Wellington, and Mother Aubert’s birthday, kindness was much in evidence. Several volunteers commented on this. They noticed
how well the guests were treated.

Volunteer Reg, who helps with breakfast, noted particularly how nicely the homeless were received. All the volunteers I spoke to commented on what a special place the kitchen is. It was a challenge to work there, they all said, but
it was very rewarding.

The chief volunteer organiser, Sophie, said she had been there for nine years and found the work very rewarding. She came initially because a friend thought she might like the work. The manager, Karen Holland, has been there since November 2015 and said, “it is not easy to work here, but it is special”.

More than 100 people would have attended throughout the day. The flow of visitors was slow until about 12.20pm. Then a queue started to form for soup and scones.

Sr Catherine Hannan, DOLC, observed that although the need for the services of the Compassion Centre (soup kitchen) are not quite as great as in 1901, they are still very much needed. She said the centre has 200 volunteers on its books.

“We never have to advertise. People just offer. We now look after their minds, too, with the computer hub operating several days a week.”

Mother Aubert might think that was providence still operating.

I spoke to some prospective volunteers. Some had worked at the centre before. Others were coming because they knew people who had done the work and thought their friend might like to do this. One such person was Ruth, who had come to the open day to see for herself.

Christine Kelly told me about a group to reflect on the ideas of Mother Aubert and how to put them into practice in one’s own life. Canonisation proceedings have reached the point where Mother may be able to be called venerable in a few months.

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