by NZ CATHOLIC staff
WELLINGTON — A painting of a youthful Suzanne Aubert was unveiled last month at a gathering of 80 Oceania bishops at the Home of Compassion in Island Bay, Wellington.
Suzanne Aubert was the founder of the Sisters of Compassion and a pioneer of New Zealand’s
health and welfare systems.
Her compassion and practical brand of Christianity made a huge impact on New Zealand
society and her funeral in 1926 was the largest accorded a woman in New Zealand history. The
High Court and Parliament adjourned for the funeral.
Suzanne Aubert’s canonisation is under consideration in Rome. If the cause is successful,
she will be New Zealand’s first saint.
Congregational leader Sr Anne Mills said the painting was a wonderful depiction of the youthful Suzanne Aubert as she would have been at the height of her ministry.
“Many of the photos we have of her are of an older sister. This painting captures the warmth
and energy which were hallmarks of her extraordinarily productive and selfless life. It also
places her in the setting of Jerusalem on the Whanganui River, where her work with Maori
flourished and her care for infants and young children began.”
The promoter of her canonisation cause, Dr Maurice Carmody, gave the bishops — the Assembly
of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania — an overview of Suzanne
Aubert’s life and significance.
She was a woman, he said, who “dedicated her whole life to the spiritual and temporal welfare
of the Maori people she served in Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, at Jerusalem on the Whanganui
River, Wellington and wherever else she met them.
Her care for infants, young children, their mothers and families, and her practical concern
for the incurably sick and unemployed was legendary.
“Earlier this year the case for the cause was examined and approved by a group of six Church
historians meeting in Rome,” Dr Carmody said.
“The case will now be passed onto a similar committee of theologians and a vote will be
taken. If the vote is positive, the way will be open for Suzanne Aubert to be declared ‘venerable’, the first step to sainthood.”
The painting unveiled at the Bishops’ Assembly was done by The Studio of John the Baptist, an
Auckland-based studio which specialises in sacred art and iconography. It was the first time
that such a large gathering of Catholic bishops had assembled in Wellington, coming from
Australia, the countries of the Pacific, Papua New Guinea, the Solomons and New Zealand.