News

New Zealand One Step Closer to First Saint

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
5 Dec 2016

New Zealand's Suzanne Aubert declared venerable
by Pope Francis

Suzanne Aubert, the founder of the Sisters of Compassion New Zealand's home grown order of Sisters, has been declared 'venerable', a major milestone on the path to sainthood in the Catholic Church.

The announcement was made on the weekend from Rome by Pope Francis.

If Suzanne Aubert's Cause for Sainthood is successful, she will be New Zealand's first saint, said Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington.

"She was a remarkable woman who devoted her life to helping others.  She was a pioneer of New Zealand's health and welfare system and a friend to Maori throughout her life. Her tireless compassion and practical brand of Christianity made a huge impact on New Zealand society."

"Suzanne Aubert was ahead of her time, promoting the rights of women and Maori in the nineteenth century," said Cardinal Dew. "Her care for infants, young children, their mothers and families, and her practical concern for the incurably sick and unemployed was legendary."

Suzanne Aubert was born in France in 1835 and came to New Zealand in 1860 and formed the Congregation of the Holy Family to educate Maori children. She then founded a religious order, the Sisters of Compassion in 1892 and later started two hospitals in Wellington. She died in Wellington in 1926.

Being declared 'venerable' is a major step towards sainthood in the Catholic Church, says Dr Maurice Carmody, the promoter of her canonisation cause.

Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington

"There are four stages in the canonisation process, and being declared Venerable is the second. Last year the official case for her proposed canonisation was submitted to the Congregation for the Cause of Saints in Rome.  Her case has been examined by Church historians and theologians and now, with the Pope's approval, she has been declared 'venerable' - the second stage on the way to being declared a saint.

"The next stage involves the recognition of a miracle attributed to Suzanne, such as recovery from a terminal illness as a result of prayer. She can then be declared 'Blessed' by the Pope.  A second miracle and proof that she is a model for the universal Church will enable her to be canonised as a saint," said Dr Carmody.

Sister Margaret Anne, congregational leader for the Sisters of Compassion, said the news from Rome was very exciting for the Sisters of Compassion and for all of New Zealand.

Her legacy lives on in the work of the Sisters of Compassion.  The Sisters today are still engaged in social work, pastoral care, prison and hospital chaplaincies, education, working with disadvantaged migrant communities, and care of the sick and the elderly.

They run the well-known Soup Kitchen in Tory Street, Wellington, which was begun by Suzanne and her pioneering Sisters of Compassion. They also run a dementia care unit in Upper Hutt and a housing support programme in Lower Hutt.

For more information about Suzanne Aubert see http://www.suzanneaubert.co.nz/.