Cathryn Daignault was shocked when her years 5 and 6 class didn’t know who Mother Aubert was. 

“One student enquired if she was a young girl who drowned in the river,” said Mrs Daignault, who is the director of religious studies at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Whanganui.

So Mrs Daignault seized a slot in an open-topic category of the Social Studies programme
to teach these 8 to 10 year olds about New Zealand’s saint-in-the-making.

The FaithAlive — Catholic Institute of Aotearoa website was used as a primary resource.

The little learners were eventually able to know about a social welfare pioneer with a distinctive down-to-earth spirituality.

“We are temples of the Holy Spirit, and so we treat ourselves and others with that same respect and dignity. That’s what Mother Aubert did, treated everyone she met as temples of the Holy Spirit,” Mrs Daignault told the children.

Among the ways the children learned was imagining life back in Mother Aubert’s “day”.

The children came to see that she treated everyone as if she was treating Jesus himself. She relied on God for everything.

The learning was spread over a term. Mother Aubert’s French origins, her missionary passion and her works in Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Jerusalem and Wellington were covered.

“The students were blown away when learning that Mother Aubert virtually ran away from home to come to the other side of the world. They were surprised about society back then having to have an orphanage,” Mrs Daignault said.

The module was concluded with each student drawing Mother Aubert. These art works were then displayed in St Mary’s Church, coinciding with the saint-in-the-making’s birth date on June 16.

“Displaying their art builds the parish/school relationship and enables the parishioners to know what the students are learning,” Mrs Daignault said.

Mother Aubert would have visited the original St Mary’s church in Victoria Avenue many times when she was in Whanganui.

This church was built by the early settlers.

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