Around 300 people gathered together on the night of June 19 to celebrate with the Sisters of Compassion the 182nd birthday of New Zealand’s soon-to-be-saint, the Venerable Suzanne Aubert.

A cake provided by the Catholic Parish of Wellington South was cut by Sr Cecilia (left) and Linda Swayn. They are surrounded by the Sisters of Compassion.
A cake provided by the Catholic Parish of Wellington South was cut by Sr Cecilia (left) and Linda Swayn. They are surrounded by the Sisters of Compassion.

The annual birthday Mass was held at St Anne’s church in Newtown and Cardinal John Dew was the principal celebrant.

In his homily, Cardinal Dew spoke of what Mother Aubert’s life had shown people: “patience, kindness, a spirit of holiness, a word of truth and above all the power of God”.

“Tonight, as we celebrate the 182nd birthday of Suzanne Aubert it is actually easy to see how she lived a life of hope and how she could therefore write in the directory for the congregation ‘always pick the flower of hope’,” he said.

Cardinal Dew noted her instruction to her sisters was “to study with Jesus according to his example”.

“We know she didn’t just study the words of Jesus, she prayed them, she lived them, just as she lived the words of St Paul,” he said.

Cardinal Dew said Mother Aubert’s advice regarding insults and opposition was to be indifferent to them.

The same advice goes for praises and compliments. He said Mother Aubert studied and learned from Jesus in the Gospel, St Paul, St John Vianney, her parents and from both Pakeha and Māori.

“It is no wonder she could write always pick the flower of hope,” Cardinal Dew noted.

“It was, however, never about picking the flower of hope for herself, it was always about, and still is through her sisters today what we can do for others,” he added.

“In her words, ‘let us carefully cultivate hope — that small flower which we should always bring to those in need’.”

The Newtown church was adorned with colourful buntings, reflections and birthday greetings.

“Each bunting illustrated an aspect of Mother Aubert’s life and work,” explained visitor experience manager Deirdre Hanlon.

She said the adornments were created by children from St Anne’s, St Bernard’s, St Francis de Sales schools and St Joseph’s parish.

Children from Wellington, Lower Hutt, Gisborne, Napier and Ranfurly also sent their buntings to represent them at the Mass, she added.

The Catholic Parish of Wellington South provided a cake decorated with a black and white photo of Mother Aubert.

The celebrations ended with refreshments and a lot of socialising in the church’s hall. They sang “This is the Day” for the grace before the meal.

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