Suzanne Aubert

Founder of the Sisters of Compassion.

Gravestone of Suzanne Aubert and the Sisters of Compassion

Date of birth:  19 June 1835
Date of death:  1 October 1926

A memorial to the Sisters of Compassion records that Mother Mary Joseph Aubert (Suzanne Aubert) 1835 - 1926 was originally buried here, but removed to the order's Mother House in Island Bay in 1950.

Frenchwoman Suzanne Aubert - founder of the Roman Catholic order, the Sisters of Compassion - came to New Zealand in 1860. She worked first in Auckland with Bishop Pompallier as a missionary to Māori, moving on to Meanee and Pakipaki (Hawkes Bay), Jerusalem (on the Whanganui river), and Wellington in 1899.

Aubert devoted her life to helping the homeless, poor and sick. Fluent in Māori, she worked as a teacher and a nurse, produced herbal medicines and established homes for children and old people. On Wellington streets during the early 1900s, she was a familiar figure pushing an old pram used for collecting donations for the work.

When Aubert died in 1926, aged 91, government offices closed and thousands of people lined Wellington streets to watch her funeral procession. The legacy of her life's work has influenced the development of social welfare, education, and health in New Zealand, and benefited the lives of many New Zealanders.

The Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre continues to support Wellington's poor and needy. It operates in central Wellington near the Buckle Street Soup Kitchen that Suzanne Aubert started in 1899. The order received papal recognition in 1913, and the church may eventually recognise Aubert as New Zealand's first saint.