WelCom September 2016:
Cardinal John Dew
As the world watches with delight the canonisation of Teresa of Calcutta to sainthood on 4 September, we share the celebration and prayerful moment of this great woman, world leader and now a Saint of the Church.
Here at home, in Aotearoa New Zealand, we have our own saint in the making – Suzanne Aubert – another woman whose great vision, leadership and influence lives on today.
In a few weeks’ time, on 1 October, it will be 90 years since Suzanne Aubert (Sr Meri Hohepa) died. On 5 October 1926, Wellington saw the biggest funeral accorded to a woman. Historic photos show that event of 90 years ago with thousands of people lining the streets as Suzanne was taken to Karori for burial. The Supreme Court sitting was postponed that day. Members of the Department of Health received a memo saying: ‘I would be glad if as many officers of the Department as possible could attend her Requiem Mass to be held at St Mary of the Angels….I need not remind officers that it is not a question of creed with us, it is a question of the recognition of the services of a very special and devoted woman who by her life and example has left an example to us all.’
Ninety years ago it was publicly recognised that ‘her life and example has left an example to us all’. Today we still acknowledge, and perhaps even more so, her life and example are indeed an inspiration to us in a society that needs compassion more than ever. Her legacy lives on. I was recently asked what I thought her greatest legacy was. I had no hesitation in answering I thought her greatest legacy was her Sisters and the work of compassion they live today. As has been said many times; ‘The Congregation has become an enduring sign of her commitment: to bring “those disadvantaged in society the love, care and compassion of Christ”’ – The Story of Suzanne Aubert, Jessie Munro, Bridget Williams Books 1996. However, there is also the legacy of her strong and courageous faith, her trust in Divine Providence and of course her inspirational writings and practical wisdom shown in her writings.
I have also been asked over recent years why I think Suzanne Aubert should be made a saint by the Church. That answer is also easy. She is a heroine, a role model, a person who walked our streets, a person who continues to give us an example of how to live our lives too. Our society in Aotearoa New Zealand today needs such inspiration. Being publicly and universally recognised by the Church would bring the story of her unique and extraordinary life to the attention of so many more people; it would motivate and encourage others to imitate her selfless and generous love. People would begin to ask what motivated her and what drove her to care for the poor and vulnerable, those who could not care for themselves, and they would discover it was her following of Jesus and living his Gospel. She was a woman who lived and showed great and deep goodness, and she wanted others to share in that goodness, which would lead them to the glory of God.
It is almost 90 years since Suzanne Aubert died. An enormous amount of dedication has gone into preparing all the work for Rome for her to be declared a Saint, but it is a slow process. You can certainly help her Cause with your prayers; you can make her works known and find out more about her, read some of her writings and go and visit the Visitor Centre at the Home of Compassion at Island Bay – it is well worth it. Most of all imitate her example of compassion, love and care and, like her, be aware that everything is a gift from God. Therefore, with her say, and say often, ‘Thanks be to God for all he has done and is doing for us.’
Finally, please pray, we don’t want to wait another 90 years until we have our first Saint.