by SUE SECONI
WANGANUI — One hundred and fifty people of all creeds and none gathered in St Mary’s Church in
Wanganui on July 12 for the blessing and opening of Merrilyn George’s week-long exhibition of more than 20 quilts inspired by and honouring Mother Suzanne Aubert.
Titled Set Apart, this was the first project since the Associates of Suzanne Aubert—Te Hunga Whai i nga Akoranga a Suzanne was established in January 2012.
Quilter Ms George and a quilting associate said they teamed up for the event with the primary aim of promoting awareness of Suzanne Aubert and her influence and activities in Wanganui and Jerusalem, where the formation of the Congregation of the Sisters of Compassion was “cradled”.
Ms George, who is one of New Zealand’s top quiltists, brings together her spiritual giftedness and natural abilities in a powerful and beautiful expression ofthis extraordinary French missionary woman whose cause for sainthood is now underway.
Sister of Compassion archivist Sr Jo Gorman, from Island Bay, told the audience about the significance of the region for Suzanne, and that she would have loved Merrilyn and the amazing work she does with fabric.
“You have beautifully reflected Suzanne’s vision and spirit in your art. It makes us realise that Suzanne Aubert is still very much alive in the minds and hearts of New Zealanders,” Sr Jo said.
The mother and grandmother from Ohakune said she felt inspired to express Suzanne Aubert through that medium while keeping vigil in her parish church with the icon of St John Vianney when the icon travelled through New Zealand in 2010.
“My work over recent years has mainly focused on aspects of Suzanne Aubert, especially to mission to the Maori people in Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Wanganui and Jerusalem and Wellington,” Ms George said.
The collection is split into four categories: Set Apart, the early stage of her mission: The Red Shed/ Providence, about her work in Hawke’s Bay: The River Calls, about work at Jerusalem/Hiruharama, and The Wind Has Changed, about significant points/events.
Ms George produced a brochure with the fuller explanation coupled with each picture to encourage the viewer to “sit” with each quilt and let the story within each piece unfold.Congregational leader Sr Margaret Anne Mills, DOLC, and postulator Fr Maurice Carmody,
from Stoke, gave Bishop Charles Drennan the 1000 page “cause” of Suzanne Aubert. This gesture
especially made the enduring effort to have her named New Zealand’s first saint more real and led to an outpouring of song, led by Fr Chris Skinner’s song With Our Mother Suzanne
as he played guitar.
A feature of the exhibition is daily guided tours led by Ms George to further unpack the message held within each quilt.
Suggestions of exhibiting the collection in Island Bay, Te Papa, Pataka or Stoke are now up
for serious consideration.