The light-filled Chapel at Our Lady’s Home of Compassion, Island Bay, was at capacity on the evening of 19th June with friends and well-wishers, both local and from as far afield as Jerusalem and Kaikoura. They were there to join with the Sisters of Compassion for a Mass to commemorate the 181st birthday of Suzanne Aubert, the inspirational woman who will be New Zealand’s first saint. The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal John Dew along with Fr Maurice Carmody and Fr Rob Devlin. Cardinal John noted how Suzanne Aubert’s example still guides us today and how it was particularly appropriate to be celebrating her birthday on the Day of Prayer for Refugees and Migrants. In her welcome, Sr Margaret Anne Mills said, “Suzanne knew the anguish of refugees as on her arrival in Rome in 1913 she was turned away from more than 40 convent doors. Suzanne also had a challenging time returning to New Zealand in 1920. It took many months for her to obtain legal papers and a passport.” Supper followed the Mass and appropriately there were three choices of soup.
The Mass was the culmination of a day of events for the Sisters of Compassion and the Catholic Parish of Wellington South, which will take the name of Suzanne Aubert upon her beatification. Birthday cards made by children from St Anne’s, St Bernard’s, St Joseph’s and St Francis de Sales, adorned the Home of Compassion bunting-style. A large birthday cake was shared at morning tea in the four churches of the Parish and Happy Birthday was sung in the many languages of parishioners.
Later in the morning, a pilgrimage walk traced Suzanne Aubert’s earliest work in Wellington, which began when she arrived in Buckle Street in 1899. Beginning in the Suzanne Aubert Chapel at St Joseph’s Church, the pilgrimage stopped at the historic crèche in Pukeahu and finished at the Soup Kitchen in Tory Street. Soup and scones were welcomed by the walkers as they stepped out of the southerly into the warmth of the Soup Kitchen’s Open Day. The Soup Kitchen was open to the public to markSuzanne Aubert’s birthday and 115 years of providing meals and support to those most in need in Wellington.