The path to New Zealand sainthood of missionary Mother Meri Hōhepa Suzanne Aubert has been delayed with a Vatican medical council deciding a potential miracle attributed to her can be explained by medical science. Their decision was announced last month.
The case for a miracle, the details of which remain private to protect the privacy of the person concerned, was put in 2019 to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Vatican agency responsible for studying sainthood nominations. The Congregation appointed a medical council to study it.
New Zealand’s Catholic bishops approved the introduction of the Cause of Suzanne Aubert’s sainthood in 1997. A formal Diocesan Inquiry was held in 2004, when the available evidence for promoting her as a saint was gathered. The results were sent to Rome and approved for further consideration. Included with this material was Jessie Munro’s biography, The Story of Suzanne Aubert. As a result, Suzanne Aubert was given the title ‘Servant of God’. Subsequent presentation and approval of the relevant material led to Pope Francis declaring her ‘Venerable’ in 2016.
After someone is declared venerable, the Catholic Church requires proof of two miracles before they can be declared a saint. Recognition of a first miracle would have resulted in Pope Francis awarding her the title ‘Blessed’, the penultimate step on the path to her being declared ‘Saint’. She continues to be known as Venerable Suzanne Aubert, a woman of outstanding Christian virtue.
Sir Margaret Anne Mills dolc, leader of the Sisters of Compassion in Island Bay, Wellington, says the medical council’s ruling means it is time to consider the future path of the official process towards Meri Hōhepa Suzanne Aubert’s canonisation.
‘From my point of view, the miracle is in the life of those concerned in this process. I witness daily the gift we have of asking Meri Hōhepa to intercede for us on our behalf. It is extraordinary. It is tangible. We have much to be grateful for and we are on a journey of faith. I have witnessed the faith and healing of people as they request Meri Hōhepa’s intercession. This will continue,’ said Sr Margaret Anne.
‘Meri Hōhepa would say at this moment: “It is God’s will.” She said that “when all else fails this is the moment of God.” We need to rest in that moment for a while, before deciding where to go next.’
Suzanne Aubert (1835–1926) founded the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion – the Sisters of Compassion – in 1892. She was a friend and advocate for Māori, children, the poor and the sick, with the Sisters continuing her work to this day. Thousands lined Wellington’s streets for her funeral in 1926, an extraordinary tribute to a woman who dedicated herself to ‘people of all religions or none’.
Cardinal John Dew, President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference says: ‘No matter the outcome of the Cause for Beatification, Suzanne Aubert is remembered, through her writings, prayers and sayings and her life of working for those most in need. All of that lives on. There is no doubt that Suzanne, Meri Hōhepa, was a holy woman, she was greatly loved and respected. All she would want is for us all to follow her example and carry on with works of compassion.’