The Sisters of Compassion and the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference have announced the first Sunday of October as a day of celebration for the Venerable Suzanne Aubert.
Suzanne Aubert was the founder of the Sisters of Compassion, New Zealand’s only home grown order of sisters.
Last year, Pope Francis declared Suzanne Aubert “venerable” — the second formal stage on the way to being declared a saint. If Suzanne Aubert’s cause for sainthood is successful, she will be New Zealand’s first saint.
Bishop Charles Drennan, the liaison bishop for Suzanne Aubert’s cause, said “Kiwi culture readily celebrates its sports heroes and sometimes its arts and music high achievers. Suzanne Aubert’s gutsy life focused solely and relentlessly on the needs of others helps us also to celebrate a radical life of practical faith”.
Bishop Drennan added: “Mother Aubert’s life shifts holiness onto our streets and fields. Her’s is a gumboots ‘n sleeves rolled up type of saintliness that resonates both in this country and overseas, with growing interest in her cause in France and parts of the Pacific.”
Last year marked the 90th year since Mother Aubert’s death in New Zealand after dedicating 66 years of her life to living among, learning from and walking alongside Māori as well as caring for the most vulnerable in society.
As a young adult, she chose to leave her native country of France and spend three months travelling to New Zealand where she served the sick, orphaned, elderly and those who society seemed to not notice.
She established New Zealand’s first soup kitchen that still serves almost 40,000 meals a year.
She established orphanages for abandoned children and provided care for the handicapped, the sick and the dying.
She was a pioneer of New Zealand’s health and welfare system and a friend to Māori throughout her life.
Sr Margaret Anne Mills, congregational leader for the Sisters of Compassion, said “The 1st of October gives us the opportunity to rejoice in the faith-filled life of Suzanne Aubert, but more importantly to dare to follow her example by taking the time to listen to the promptings of the Spirit. We can follow her example of complete trust in God who is with us in our everyday actions.
“Suzanne encourages us to listen, to trust and to be aware of the small miracles of grace that we receive each day.”
Sr Margaret Anne added that Suzanne Aubert’s spirit lives on in the work of the Sisters of Compassion and their co-workers.
“The sisters today are still engaged in social work, pastoral care, prison and hospital chaplaincies, education, working with disadvantaged, migrant communities, and care of the sick and the elderly.”
In 1997 the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference supported the first part of the formal process, called the “Introduction of the Cause of Suzanne Aubert”.
More information on Mother Suzanne Aubert and the canonisation process can be found on www. suzanneaubert.co.nz