Suzanne Aubert’s biography in French was launched on 31 May at a function in Paris. The function, held at the New Zealand embassy was hosted by Rosemary Banks, the New Zealand Ambassador.
The occasion was of such importance that newly elected Superior General, Sister Margaret Anne Mills and Archivist Sister Josephine Gorman travelled from New Zealand to represent the Sisters of Compassion.
Speeches before 80 people were delivered by Sister Margaret Anne, Bishop Jean-Yves, Madeleine Le Jeune, the author, and Father John Craddock SM.
The strong foundational relationship between France and New Zealand, the Society of Mary and the Sisters of Compassion was also reinforced by the Marist Europe provincial, Fr Hubert Bonnet-Eymard also attending the function.
The event is a significant but discrete step in promoting the cause of Suzanne Aubert, who is likely to be New Zealand’s first saint.
In the manner of the Kawa of tangi, John Craddock spoke to the newly created Icon of Suzanne by celebrated iconographer, Michael Galovic of Sydney, thus: “Suzanne Aubert, Meri, you were an excellent daughter of post-revolutionary France. The more I reflect on your life and your lasting impact on New Zealand and Oceania, the more I realise you embodied the three great values of France:
la liberté, l’égalité et la fraternité.
La liberté: You lived as a free soul and sought your own calling. Your outreach was beyond racial and religious boundaries and you ignored petty protocol.
L’égalité: You treated all as equals and loved them, especially the disadvantaged, as brothers and sisters. You had the advantage as a child of growing up in the hills above Lyon and then in your adolescent years in Lyon. These two environments gave you ease in both rural and city life. You were able to relate with Maori on their Marae and with the bourgeoisie of our capital city.
La fraternité: You were a leader in universal health care while Governments were still exploring the concepts. Your knowledge and mastery of the Maori language and culture enabled you to use and perfect traditional herbal medicines to preserve health and long before it became accepted and now fashionable. You relied on the generosity of people, the Providence of God, and it worked. You had a saint’s way of making people feel they were helping to make the world a better place. Always on the go, you drew out of them something of the divine and we still love your for this. No wonder, then, we gave you to date the greatest funeral of a woman in our nation’s history. Merci beaucoup, La France, especially Lyon, for this gift to the South Pacific.”
He concluded by playing Chris Skinner’s tribute “Merci à Dieu” and to the music, walked the Icon through the audience, then presented it to the official party.
The very next day, it was by TGV to Lyon and a further book launch with Cardinal Barbarin adding grace with his presence and signature. Then the two Sisters with Jessie and Madeleine travelled with John by regular train to Saint-Chamond where they were guests of the Marist Brothers’ international community at L’Hermitage. Thursday was Ascension day and they joined in the public community Mass and another after-midday with a visiting group of Spanish Brothers in the birthplace of St Marcellin Champagnat. A restful evening provided them preparation for the wonderful festivities the next day two hours away at St Symphorien-de-Lay, the birthplace and first parish of Suzanne Aubert.
Suzanne’s biography, Une Françoise chez les Maoris, by Madeleine Le Jeune. The preface was written by the Cardinal Archbishop of Lyon and the post-face by Bishop Jean-Yves Riocreux of Pontoise.