You may have not yet heard of Suzanne Aubert but I am sure you soon will recognize her as you now do Mary MacKillop.

New Zealand does not have a saint, yet! But, God willing, there may soon be one. The cause of Mother Suzanne Aubert has already started in Rome. She will become New Zealand’s first saint.

She was born in France on 19th June 1835. Her parish priest was the famous Saint Jean Vianney, Curé d’Ars. It was he who predicted her future greatness.

When she was 19, she heard Bishop Pompallier from New Zealand speak in France about the need for missionaries in New Zealand. She had studied chemistry and botany. She was fluent in several languages. On the ship back to New Zealand with Bishop Pompalier she studied Maori. She soon wrote a Maori dictionary and prayer book. She continued to study New Zealand plants and used this knowledge to make remedies for healing. The Maori people had a great respect for her and shared their own knowledge with her. She is particularly known for her knowledge of the healing power of native plants.

In 1882, she established a new religious order – the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion. The religious order she founded worked with children, the sick, established soup kitchens, fed workmen so that they could hold their jobs. She cared for orphans and single mothers. She established hospitals and clinics. She opened schools and established nursing training centres.

Suzanne Aubert’s social work was legendary. She was especially respected by the Maori people and all the poor in New Zealand. Catholic and non-Catholic communities were inspired by her work. She did not favour people on the basis of their religious beliefs. She became loved by all. She is quoted “Charity must be the principle and end of all our actions” and “Gratitude is the most beautiful ornament of the human heart”.

She died on 1st October 1926 at the age of ninety one. Wellington and indeed all of New Zealand went into mourning. The funeral itself was a long affair. It seemed that everybody in Wellington attended. The government, the court system, businesses were closed for the funeral. Her funeral was widely reported as the biggest funeral ever accorded a woman in New Zealand.

There is a very strong faith even today that she is truly a saint.

The process of beatification is well on its way. It is noted that anyone who hears about Suzanne and her love of and service to people is inspired and would like to know more about her.

+ Peter

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