‘With our Mother Suzanne’ from the Songs Commissioned album. Instead of focussing on this week’s Sunday Gospel, I would like to draw your attention to the annual Suzanne Aubert Celebration Sunday. This is the third year it has been celebrated. October 7th has been chosen because it is the nearest Sunday to the day of her death, Oct 1st, 1926.
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A celebration of a remarkable woman
The brief article below was prepared for parish newsletters.
The annual Suzanne Aubert Celebration Sunday is a day for all Catholics to celebrate and remember the spirituality and good works of this remarkable woman and to be inspired by what she achieved and to follow in her footsteps.
At the age of just 25, Suzanne Aubert arrived in New Zealand from France, to answer God’s call to serve the sick, orphaned, elderly and those whom society rejected. She established New Zealand’s first soup kitchen which still serves thousands of meals a year. She was a pioneer of New Zealand’s health and welfare system and a friend to Maori throughout her life. In the 66 years she lived here, Suzanne travelled widely, visiting more than 24 towns across the country. A special pilgrimage map can be viewed on the website (www.suzanneaubert.co.nz) which has been designed to help those interested to retrace Suzanne’s footsteps in Aotearoa.
(Pilgrimages have a resurgence in popularity as a way of deepening our faith response and connecting with the life and witness of the person or persons being honoured. Mother Aubert is buried in a beautiful chapel in Island Bay which has an inspiring visitors centre attached for people to visit).
Suzanne’s wairua (her spirit) lives on in the work of the Sisters of Compassion (the only permanent established religious order founded in Aotearoa/New Zealand). Sr Margaret Mills, the Congregational Leader of the Sisters, commented that, ‘When she died, Suzanne was accorded the largest funeral ever held in New Zealand for a woman. The whole of Wellington stopped to pay their respects and publicly acknowledge what this remarkable woman had achieved for society. Way before the days of ecumenism, this was in itself an extraordinary event.
Please continue to pray that the church will soon recognize Venerable Suzanne Aubert’s intercession in a miracle which enables her to be beatified.
Several years ago, I asked my friend Sr Sarto of the Sisters of Compassion, to tell me one of Mother Aubert’s common prayers. She told me, ‘Thanks be to God for all he has done and is doing for us’. I put the prayer to music and was commissioned by the Sisters to record the song in English, Maori and French. I am delighted to know that the Sisters sing the song regularly at congregational gatherings.
As a Marist priest, we have had a long association with the Sisters of Compassion in this country. Suzanne’s life is full of Marist connections. An important and happy time of her life was when she was invited to the Hawkes Bay by Fr Euloge Reignier SM in the early 1870’s and worked with the Marist Missionaries among the Maori at Meeanee. I remember too my mother and father talking about her when I was young and the wonderful work she did especially in support of abandoned children. She is certainly a shining light and great pioneering woman in this country. She is deserving of sainthood and to be held up for all of us as an exemplary model of Christian living. May it come to pass.