Wait for NZ’s first saint “frustrating”

By Aroha Awarau

Faithful who are pushing for New Zealand’s first saint say the Vatican needs to change its requirement for sainthood.

Catholic nun, Suzanne Aubert, who died in 1926, needs two miracles to her name to make her a saint. 

Catholic miracles can take the form of cure through prayer.

Father Maurice Carmody has been instrumental in the canonisation of Aubert since 2004.

He's lobbied the Vatican and has even got Pope Francis' blessing.  But he says relying on two miracles, a church process which has been around since the 13th Century, needs to change.

“I feel frustrated at the system," says Carmody,  "I think we get too technical and caught up with 'what is a miracle?'” he says. “The major process was having to deal with Roman bureaucracy, to get them to understand that this is really important for us. It’s the first one that we have presented. It’s not just another saint”.

Mother Aubert came to Aotearoa from France in 1860.  She founded the Sisters of Compassion and championed the poor.  She also opened an orphanage in Jerusalem, down the Whanganui river, and made a difference to its Māori community.  

When she died in 1926, her Wellington funeral was one of the biggest in this country.

“Her spiritual connection with Maoridom is the most significant part of the miracle,” says Jerusalem resident Rangiwhakateka Hough.  “When you get a woman who’s French, who comes here and starts something so different and so compassionate, it’s awesome”.

Among her many attributes, Mother Aubert was also a pharmacist.  It’s believed she was the first person in Aotearoa to cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes.

“She wasn’t using it for recreational purposes,” says Father Carmody,  “It would have been part of medical knowledge.  It would have been integrated with what the Maori people shared with her up the river.  There’s not a problem of her being a saint and using it.  She was a person of her time”.

Mary MacKillop became Australia's first saint in 2010 after her miracles of curing inoperable lung and secondary brain cancers were accepted. 

Native Affairs contacted representatives from the Vatican but they did not reply to requests.