Suzanne Aubert – Meri Hōhepa 186th anniversary

WelCom August 2021 Sr Josephine Gorman dolc The 186th anniversary of the birth of Suzanne Aubert – Meri Hohepa, coincided with Pope Francis proclaiming 2021 the year of St Joseph,…

WelCom August 2021

Sr Josephine Gorman dolc

People gathered as Cardinal John Dew incensed Suzanne Aubert’s tomb. Photo: Supplied

The 186th anniversary of the birth of Suzanne Aubert – Meri Hohepa, coincided with Pope Francis proclaiming 2021 the year of St Joseph, to mark the 150th anniversary of the dedication of St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. Because St Joseph was so important in the life of Suzanne Aubert, the Compassion Planning Team focused this year’s anniversary celebration around the theme of St Joseph. 

In Suzanne Aubert’s writings, Our Lady of Compassion is the dominant person. She appears on almost every page. But in her spiritual letters to the sisters, Suzanne Aubert wrote far more frequently of
St Joseph, and there were always novenas and special devotions to him. In her letter to the novices, written in Rome in 1915, she pictures a novice asking: ‘If we can never love Mary too much, can we not love St Joseph too much and place too much confidence in him?’ ‘No’, she replies, ‘for this very same reason that we can never love St Joseph as much as Jesus and Mary have done; that we can never rely on him as much as the Eternal Father Himself did when he entrusted Jesus and Mary to his care. Oh! Go to Joseph in all your needs. In all your difficulties, spiritual and temporal, go to Joseph. He is the steward of God, the dispenser of His treasures.’ 

The very name she chose for herself – Meri Hōhepa – indicates her attachment to St Joseph. When Suzanne Aubert was a Holy Family Sister in Auckland, a Marist Tertiary Sister in Hawke’s Bay and, at Jerusalem, the foundress of the Sisters of Compassion, she was always called ‘Sister Mary Joseph’.

This year students from all Catholic schools in New Zealand were invited to make a birthday card for Suzanne Aubert, including a votive (offerings) candle with a prayer to St Joseph. Hundreds of cards have been sent to the sisters and are beautifully displayed on the walls outside the Chapel and the Heritage Centre.

The Calling

The anniversary day’s celebrations began with ‘A Morning with Fleur Beale’. Fleur has written a novel she named The Calling. The story is a glimpse of life at the end of the 19th century. Molly, the main character in the book, searches out Mother Mary Joseph Aubert to find her calling. Though it is a work of fiction, Fleur captures the spirit of Suzanne Aubert and the signs of that particular time.

Against all Odds

Following lunch, the premiere of Against All Odds was screened. In this extraordinary documentary, filmed at Our Lady’s Home of Compassion, Island Bay, Linda Swayn tells her life story. Linda was one of many children cared for by the Sisters of Compassion over the years. Her story is of a life full of achievements, challenges and difficulties overcome. 

The Commemorative Mass

The Chapel was full for the Commemorative Mass at 2pm. Cardinal John Dew was the main celebrant assisted by Fr James Lyons and Andrew Greening as the altar server. Before the scripture readings, Sr Ruth and a representative from the Suzanne Aubert Scout Group processed with the scripture readings. Representatives from the Wellington South Parish Pastoral Area and the Samoan choir led the singing. 

Cardinal John thanked God for His providence and for the care St Joseph gives us. He said that is what Suzanne Aubert did during her lifetime. Following Mass, everyone gathered around Suzanne Aubert’s tomb, and the Cardinal incensed the grave, while the choir sang hymns. 

A special mention has to be made to our many friends and co-workers whose efforts made celebrating this special day possible.