Ten students and two support staff from John Paul College in Rotorua have retraced the footsteps of Venerable Suzanne Aubert in Whanganui city and in Jerusalem on the Whanganui River.

En route they visited the studio of acclaimed textile artist Merrilyn George in Ohakune to see her intricate collection of quilts expressing the life story of Suzanne Aubert.

At Cullinane College in Whanganui the pilgrims were credited with having received the first powhiri for manuhiri since the college’s wharenui was opened and blessed in January, 2018.

After lunch, seven Cullinane students joined them in their Whanganui city heritage trail. This started at the council chambers where there is a window of Suzanne Aubert. The group was met by a councillor Josh Chandulal-Mckay.

Pouring rain stopped the group from going to Hatrick’s Wharf and Pakaitore/ Moutua Gardens. Taking shelter in the nearby Tram Shed, the 17 young pilgrims heard about Suzanne’s travels on the river and the people whom she met.

Returning to the wharenui, in an early evening karakia/reflection, the pilgrims were quick to note Suzanne’s unconditional protection of people and sense of social justice and were themselves challenged to do likewise in whatever situation or circumstance — in 2018!

“It was the will in which Suzanne Aubert followed her heart that impressed me,” said Evelyn Casas Del Real from Mexico, an international exchange student at John Paul College.

After farewells, the students headed to Jerusalem where none of them had been before. They stopped at Upokongaro where Maori men had met Suzanne and two Sisters of St Joseph in 1883 to take them up the river to revive the Maori mission.

Following a karakia, it was back in their school van for the Rotorua visitors bound for Jerusalem where they stayed overnight and where the Sisters of Compassion Congregation was “cradled”.

All found the pilgrimage a memorable occasion and wonderful experience in learning about this woman of great faith — he wahine whakapono nui — on location.

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