Priest on case for NZ saint

A Nelson priest is gathering evidence to convince the Vatican a New Zealand woman is worthy of sainthood.

Father Maurice Carmody said Mother Suzanne Aubert was a New Zealand hero who worked tirelessly to help everyday New Zealanders.

The Vatican appointed Father Carmody as postulator, the person who will plead for the case of Mother Aubert.

It is an unusual step for the Vatican to appoint a postulator outside of Rome. However, Father Carmody's language skills made him an ideal candidate.

He speaks Italian and English, and reads French, which helps him cross the communication divide between New Zealand and Italy.

Born in France in 1835, Mother Aubert worked as a nurse in the Crimean War as a teenager.

She moved to New Zealand in her 20s and undertook a wide variety of work that included nursing Pakeha and Maori, working in orphanages, establishing hospitals and developing herbal remedies.

Fluent in Maori, she contributed towards a Catholic Maori prayer book and a Maori-English phrase book.

She died in 1926 in Wellington.

Father Carmody said his task was to look at the life of Mother Aubert and to draw conclusions.

He will travel to Italy and present the case to the Relator in Rome, who will decide if Mother Aubert will receive a sainthood.

The last Relator recently retired and he is waiting for the new one to be appointed.

Mother Aubert is currently deemed a Servant of God and Father Carmody is seeking a "venerable" status – the first step in recognition of sainthood. After that comes beatification, which declares someone as blessed, and finally comes canonisation, in which the Pope recognises someone as a saint.

It could be a lengthy process, Father Carmody said.

He studies Mother Aubert's letters and written work, church documents, and archives from Wellington's Home of Compassion, which also houses bottles of medicine she made.

Father Carmody said there was a tremendous amount of material to go through, but he normally squeezed in an hour or two a day of research on top of his day job as parish priest for St Francis of Assisi, in Stoke.

Sister Josephine Gorman and Sister Margaret Ann Mills, from Wellington, are helping him in his research. They meet every couple of months to discuss progress.

Father Carmody said Mother Aubert was a great New Zealand woman who gave a lot to the people of her time.

"She was with the grassroots people and anybody looking at what she did, whatever their faith background, would say she was a good woman."

The Nelson Mail