Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion

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The Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion, known as Sisters of Compassion were founded in Jerusalem, New Zealand on the Whanganui River in 1892 by Suzanne Aubert. [1] Today there are 70 Sisters working throughout New Zealand, Wagga Wagga (Australia), Fiji and Tonga.

The Home of Compassion Island Bay is the site of the Sisters of Compassion headquarters and gathering place for the sisters.[2] Located on the site is a Visitors’ Centre which celebrates the remarkable life and enduring legacy of Mother Mary Joseph Suzanne Aubert (1835–1926).[3] Suzanne Aubert is buried on the same site.[4] Jerusalem remains the Home of the Sisters of Compassion in partnership with the Tangata Whenua.[5]

History[edit]

Arrival in New Zealand, founding a religious institute and establishing Homes for the poor and needy.

Suzanne Aubert, born in France in 1835[6] joined a group of missionaries bound for New Zealand in 1860.[7] Her vision was to become a member of the Third Order of Mary and to work with Māori.[8] Before moving to Jerusalem where she founded the Sisters of Compassion in 1892,[9] Suzanne worked with the Māori, and cared for the sick in Auckland and Hawkes Bay.[10] Concerned with the many social problems in Wellington she left Jerusalem arriving in Wellington on the 6 January 1899, accompanied by Sisters Magdalen, Agnes and Marcelle.[11] Suzanne was by then already well known throughout the country because of her herbal remedies, and also because of her care of abandoned and disadvantaged children regardless of race or creed.[12]

In Wellington the sisters very soon established a Home for people with incurable illness; a soup kitchen and a crèche. The Home of Compassion at Island Bay opened in 1907, later becoming the headquarters of the Sisters of Compassion, and the formation house where the Sisters did their religious training.[13]

During 1913, frustrated with the church bureaucracy and wanting to obtain a Papal Decree for her Congregation, Suzanne Aubert, aged 78, travelled alone to Rome. In 1917 Pope Benedict XV conferred a pontifical Decree on the Congregation of the Daughters of our Lady of Compassion. In 1920 Suzanne returned to Wellington as Mother General of the Order she founded.[14]

Mother Aubert died at Island Bay on 1 October 1926, aged 91. Her funeral was reported in the newspapers as the greatest ever to be accorded to a woman in New Zealand.[15]

After Suzanne Aubert[edit]

For some time Suzanne Aubert had foreseen the tremendous advantage of having the Sisters trained as general nurses. After many discussions with the Department of Health, a training hospital was added to the works at Island Bay in1923. Following government legislation in 1930, the hospital was registered as a grade ‘A’ Training School in 1932.[16]

The Congregation grew and in 1930 a Convent was built adjoining the Island Bay Home, with a wing for the Novitiate.[17] The following year the Aubert Home of Compassion was opened in Wanganui for the aged. In 1933,[18] Archbishop Redwood blessed the foundation stone of St. Joseph’s Home at Heretaunga, which housed male residents of all ages suffering from chronic diseases.[19] In the same year a Nursery for children under 2 years of ages was opened in Auckland, and in 1939 a four bed maternity Home was added to this work.[20]

In 1941, St Anne’s Home, for orphan girls, and for chronically ill residents was opened at Broken Hill (Australia).[21] A modern nursery adjoining the Island Bay Home was built during the same year.[22] From 1945 - 1949 the Sisters helped with the domestic work at Holy Cross Seminary until the arrival of the Sisters of Cluny.[23] In December 1949 four sisters went to Castledare Boys' Home (Australia) to help the Christian Brothers care for the 6-10 year old boys, and remained there until December 1951. [24]

On the 28 March 1949, Cardinal Fumasoni Biondi, obtained the Decree of Final Approbation of the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion and its Constitutions from Rome.[25]

St Vianney’s Home in Timaru was opened in 1951 and during 1952 three more Homes of Compassion were established.[26] Loreto Home in Wagga Wagga (Australia),[27] St Raphael’s in Carterton which included a registered primary school),[28] and Chanel Home of Compassion (Fiji). The work in Fiji expanded when the Sisters taught at the newly opened St. Agnes primary school. [29]

Bishop Warren of the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes (Australia) in 1965, invited the Sisters of Compassion to live and work among the Aboriginal people in Wilcannia. The Sisters provided a dispensary and education from kindergarten level to year 3. The Sisters were there till the end of 1988. [30]

The following decades have seen the Sisters work as Hospital and Prison Chaplains, Pastoral and Social workers in Flaxmere, Tonga, and Christchurch.

Because of the renewed interest in Herbal Remedies, the Herbal Remedy (Rongoā) Analysis Project was initiated in 1993 to analyse the remaining medicines. The project also reconnected the Sisters of Compassion with hapū from Hawke’s Bay and Peata’s home area in the Bay of Islands, where Suzanne had earlier gained knowledge of rongoā, as well as from Ngāti Hau and Ngāti Ruaka on the Whanganui River. The project, led by Dr Max Kennedy of Industrial Research Ltd, was unable to decode the recipes. However, it successfully documented Suzanne Aubert’s rongoā expertise and experience, defined and protected the 100-year-old intellectual property and led to a distinguished biotechnology award for Suzanne Aubert and for the Māori healers and herbalists who assisted her.[31]


During recent years because of changes in society and the diminishing numbers of Sisters, the sisters have had to make the difficult decision to close a number of their institutions. Today the Sisters continue the vision of Suzanne Aubert by addressing the needs of society in the ways that they are able. At Our Lady’s Home of Compassion Island Bay, their services include a small Conference and Retreat Centre.[32] In the Wellington inner city, the Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre operates a soup kitchen and the Sisters visit people in need.[33] In Upper Hutt affordable quality housing for the elderly is provided.[34] Homes of Compassion for the care of the disabled and elderly are situated at Heretaunga and Suva (Fiji). The Sisters of Compassion work with people in Wellington, Wanganui, Jerusalem, Flaxmere, Wainuiomata, Upper Hutt, Wairoa, Auckland, Fiji, Tonga and Wagga Wagga (Australia). The sisters are involved in education, social work, pastoral ministries and care of the elderly. They are also Co-workers, employees, and Directors on Boards. The Mother Aubert Home of Compassion Trust Board established in 1917 holds the land, buildings and investments of the Congregation in trust for the general purpose of maintaining and carrying on the charitable works of the sisters.

The Making of a Saint[edit]

The process leading towards the canonisation of Suzanne Aubert as a saint is now under way. A Diocesan Inquiry was held in Wellington during 2004. All the information gathered during the enquiry was collated and sent to Rome for further investigation. [35]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Constitutions of The Daughters of Lady of Compassion". Home of Compassion. pp. iii. 
  2. ^ Harper, Barbara (1992). Unto These Least:The story of Mother Aubert and her great work. Home of Compassion. 
  3. ^ Sisters of Compassion (February 2011). "Voice of Compassion: The newsletter for Sisters of Compassion". Issue 25. 
  4. ^ Sisters of Compassion (July 2004). "Voice of Compassion: The newsletter for Sisters of Compassion". Issue 6. 
  5. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. p. 38. 
  6. ^ Moller, Sister Angela (1945). Reminiscences of Mother Mary Joseph Aubert, Foundress of the Sisters of Compassion. Sisters of Compassion Archives: Sisters of Compassion Archives. p. 1. 
  7. ^ Munro, Jessie. The Story of Suzanne Aubert. p. 53. 
  8. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. p. 25. 
  9. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. p. 25. 
  10. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. p. 17. 
  11. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. p. 51. 
  12. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. p. 21. 
  13. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. pp. 27–28. 
  14. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. p. 41. 
  15. ^ Harper, Barbara (1992). Unto These Least:The story of Mother Aubert and her great work. Home of Compassion. pp. 39–43. 
  16. ^ Moller, Angela. "Reminiscences". pp. Vol.7 p.272. 
  17. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. pp. 64–66. 
  18. ^ "Book of Foundation and Important Events of Our Lady's of Compassion". Home of Compassion. p. 46. 
  19. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. p. 88. 
  20. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. p. 91. 
  21. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. p. 85. 
  22. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. pp. 107–108. 
  23. ^ "Book of Foundation and Important Events of Our Lady's of Compassion". Home of Compassion. p. 63. 
  24. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. pp. 81–82. 
  25. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. pp. 105–106. 
  26. ^ "Constitutions of The Daughters of Lady of Compassion". Home of Compassion. pp. vii. 
  27. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. p. 98. 
  28. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. p. 99. 
  29. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. pp. 121–122. 
  30. ^ Audacity of Faith: Centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Home of Compassion. 1992. pp. 116–119. 
  31. ^ "Industrial Research Project, Sisters of Compassion Archives Wellington, 1993 & 1999". Home of Compassion. 
  32. ^ Sisters of Compassion (June 2008). "Voice of Compassion: The newsletter for Sisters of Compassion". Issue 17. 
  33. ^ Sisters of Compassion (February 2007). "Voice of Compassion: The newsletter for Sisters of Compassion". Issue 13. 
  34. ^ Sisters of Compassion (November 2002). "Voice of Compassion: The newsletter for Sisters of Compassion". Issue 1. 
  35. ^ Sisters of Compassion (June 2004). "Voice of Compassion: The newsletter for Sisters of Compassion". Issue 6. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Audacity of faith: centennial of the Sisters of Compassion, 1892-1992. Wellington, [N.Z]: Home of Compassion, 1992. ISBN 0 473 01605 2
  • Harper, Barbara, Unto These Least: The story of Mother Aubert and her great work, Island Bay, Wellington [N.Z]: Home of Compassion, [1992].
  • Lawlor, Pat, Mother Aubert and her great work, Island Bay, Wellington [N.Z]: Home of Compassion, 1961
  • Moller, Angela, Reminiscences of Mother Mary Joseph Aubert, Foundress of the Sisters of Compassion, typescript, 1945.
  • Munro, Jessie (1996). The Story of Suzanne Aubert. Auckland: Auckland University Press Bridget Williams Books. ISBN I 86940 155 7
  • Munro, Jessie; [Ed] and translated; with the assistance of Bernadette Wrack. Letters on the go: the correspondence of Suzanne Aubert. Wellington, [N.Z]: Bridget Williams Books, 2009. ISBN 978-1-877242-41-0
  • Rafter, Patrick Marie, Never let Go!: the remarkable story of Mother Aubert, Wellington, [N.Z]: A.H. and A.W. Reed, 1972. ISBN 0 589 00685 1
  • Soup: annual magazine of the Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre. Wellington, [N.Z.]: Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre.