December 30, 1860: Suzanne arrived in New Zealand on the ‘General Teste’. The whaling boat berthed at the old wharf at Freeman’s Bay. Suzanne wrote from Rome 56 years later “Pakehas were few when I landed, and a Māori hand was the first held out to me on the then poor miserable wharf of Auckland, on which the whole population had assembled to greet the Bishop on his return. Behind the Māoris, stood dear old Mother M. Cecilia with three of her Sisters and their pupils. A procession was formed, headed by the children and closed by three priests and His Lordship. We followed Queen Street, up to Wyndham Street, the then end of the town, and proceeded to the old Cathedral where an attempt was made to sing the ‘Te Deum’ ”.


Between 1863-1865 Suzanne visited outlying Māori tribes. It is certain that she visited the Waikato often enough to be thoroughly familiar with its flora and with the dialect of its tribes. Most of these journeys had to be made on foot, and they extended throughout the Waikato and towards the Bay of Plenty.


Suzanne’s Aubert’s last journey among the Māoris of the northern district was undertaken in October, 1867, when she went to Whangaroa. She frequently visited Hokeanga . There were no roads then and the little coastal boats on which she travelled had no accommodation for passengers.


On 15 February, 1871, Suzanne boarded ship, the ‘Lady Ashley’, for Napier. Upon arrival, she travelled the 20 kilometres or so to the Marist Mission in Meanee. Now aged 35, a new stage in her life as a missionary had begun.

Peata, Suzanne (seated right) and their pupils


Suzanne spent most of her time in Hawkes Bay at Meanee. While there she became involved in the mission to Māori throughout the wider Hawkes Bay area. Suzanne was the only full-time Māori missioner in the diocese of Wellington. She was known to the Māori people as Meri Hohepa (Sister Mary Joseph), and was the mainstay of the Mission in Hawke’s Bay as a catechist, school teacher, nurse, prayer book reviser and musician.

Napier Gaol

The Māori Chief of the Nga Rauru people, Keropa, had taken responsibility for the murder of a Lutheran Minister, Rev Völkner. Although he had not been involved in the killing, carried out by his men, he accepted responsibility when he was arrested for the crime. Tried in Napier, he was sentenced to death. When the time of Keropa’s execution approached, Suzanne obtained permission from her influential ministerial contact in parliament, Donald McLean, to spend the final night praying with him in his cell.


Suzanne Aubert visited Hastings frequently while living in the area, and also during her collecting tour to raise money to re-build the church at Jerusalem (Hiruharama).

First Presbytery & church at Meeanee. F.Seon sitting on Verandah


This Māori village is situated at the crossroads just before you reach Hastings. Father Soulas had constructed a new church at Pakipaki where there was a strong Catholic Māori presence. Suzanne furnished everything needed for the new church and was very proud of it. Father Yardin, the administrator of the diocese blessed the newly completed church in June 8, 1880.


At Omahu, Suzanne vaccinated people against smallpox which is said to have broken out among the people living there. This was reported in the Hawkes’s Bay Herald on 1 February 1872.

Waiohike, Petane, Pakowhai, Te Karamu, Ohiti, Ngatahira, Matiawi, Koupatike, Opepe (in the hills towards Taupo), Te karaka, Ngahape, Moteo and more.

Suzanne visited the various pas, bringing her medical skills to the sick. The Baptismal Register shows when and where Suzanne went. She also sometimes stood godmother in regular baptisms administered by Father Reignier and Father Séon, who came to Meanee in 1872.

Clive and Havelock North

These two places were visited while Suzanne lived at Meanee, and during the collection tour.


Philiip Anderson, the vicar of Taradale; his diary entries through 1876 and 1877 record two of his children being treated by Suzanne Aubert.


Father Reignier built the church at Waipawa. The church, St. Patricks Church, was consecrated in 1874.There is reason to believe that Suzanne Aubert would have been there at the opening.

Taradale Cemetery

Marist Fathers and Brothers known by Suzanne Aubert, were buried in this cemetery. Fathers Michel SM, Reigner SM, Yardin SM, Séon SM, Joachim Gata SM. Brothers Basil Montchalin SM, Martin Mader SM, AthanaseSM, Cyprien SM.


“Orua Whara” was the home of Sydney Johnston, a friend of Suzanne Aubert. Suzanne stayed at Orua Wharo in 1889 and again in 1913 prior to her trip to Rome. Most of the streets in the Takapau are named after a member of the Johnston family.

Palmerston North

During 1887 Suzanne Aubert had been urged to market her remedies. Monsieur Louis Pascal, of Palmerston North was very keen about this. In 1892 she met either Father Le Menant, or Father Ginaty in Palmerston North, they both gave her advice about doing the will of God.


On the 4 July, 1883, Father Soulas, the sisters of St Joseph and Suzanne Aubert travelled from Wanganui to Jerusalem by canoe, a trip which would be repeated numerous times by Suzanne Aubert. During the early part of 1884 while the Māori people of Jerusalem were attending the native land court held in Wanganui to prove ownership of their land, Suzanne Aubert went down to stay at Wanganui to correct proofs for the ‘New and Complete Manual of Māori Conversation’ .


Sister Aloysius a Sister of St Joseph later recalled the trip. “We spent the first night at Atene. The sisters sat up all night huddled in a whare after chasing out some pigs… Three days of bush tracks, overhanging ferns, papa cliffs, eel weirs, rapids and still reaches, then past Moutoa and round a wide curve of the river – Hiruhārama at last”. On the 24 November 1888, when the little Church built by the Māori people of Hiruhārama was burnt down maliciously by a European with a grudge, Suzanne Aubert promised Father Soulas that she would go on a “collecting tour” to raise money to build a new one. Much to her surprise Father Soulas approached her the very next day to make a start!

The West Coast

From the 28 February until the 21 November 1888, Suzanne Aubert and Sister Magdalen toured the West Coast.


On Thursday, 28 February, they landed at Greymouth at 5.30am. Father Carew met them and they were given a very kind reception at the Convent. They were fortunate to meet Bishop Grimes, the Bishop of Christchurch who happened to be in Greymouth. The bishop gave a donation of five guineas, together with the desired permission for Suzanne to collect in his diocese.


Father Martin took Suzanne and her companion to Hokitika on the 1 March. They were once more made welcome by the Sisters of Mercy. Mother Clare Moloney wrote about Suzanne Aubert. “In the farmhouses, along the Arahura River, she gave many useful hints on business”. Before leaving Hokitika Suzanne Aubert took time to make up one of her own prescriptions for some diggers at Rimu or Woodstock, who suffered from rheumatism severely.


Suzanne and Sister Magdalen, visited the Māori Pa at Arahura

Stafford and Waimea

Arrived at Stafford on the 17 March and spent the night at Mrs Whelan’s at Waimea.

Kumara and the nearby goldfields

They went as far as Greenstone on the 21 March.


They left for Reefton on 2 April where they visited Father Ginaty. They returned to Reefton on the 24 September and were the guests of Mr and Mrs McSherry


Suzanne Aubert’s diary on the 3 April reads: Arrived at Westport after six o’clock. Beautiful, but dreadful road”.


Suzanne Aubert’s diary on the 9 April reads: “Went down and round Waimangaroa with Mrs Sullivan. We slept at Mrs Franks place. We had a grand view of the incline with the trucks going up and down”.


Suzanne Aubert’s diary on the 10 April reads: “We went by train to Ngakawao. Took lodgings at Mrs Howard, very kind. Went round a few tents. Mr McKenny partner of Mr Brandon sent for us and volunteered to go round and collect for us. Most kind”.


Suzane Aubert wrote to Sister Bridget from Denniston, mentioning how everyone was being “so Kind”.


In mid-May, Suzanne Aubert and Sister Magdalen crossed the Alps on their way to Christchurch. They were there until the 18 May. Suzanne returned there in 1904 to obtain from Bishop Grimes endorsement for the approval of the Constitutions she had written.


Monday 26 August, they left Wellington by the Takapuna for Picton. They lodged with Mrs Allport. It was here that they had a visit from Father Aubry, who later spent some time at the Home of Compassion, Island Bay in the early 1940s.


Mrs Suggen remembers Suzanne Aubert walking through Marlborough raising money for the rebuilding of the Jerusalem church, wearing men’s Blucher boots, halfway up her calf.


On the 24 September Suzanne and Sister Magdalen visited Nelson. There they visited the graves of Father Garin SM, and Peroline Droguet. Pauline was one of the French women who came out to New Zealand with Suzanne in 1860.


Visited Murchison during the ‘Collection Tour’.

Maori Creek

Suzanne Aubert’s diary on the 16 October reads: “Mr and Mrs Hinnegan escorted us to Mr Blanchfield, and Miss Blanchfield finished escorting us to Māori Creek. Very steep hills and bad tracks. We slept at Mr North’s. ‘Very kind’ ”.


Suzanne Aubert’s diary on the 17 October reads: “Master North drove us to Marsden. Slept at Mrs Russell’s. ‘Very kind’ ”.

No Town

Suzanne Aubert’s diary on the 19 October reads: “Slept at the convent where we were most welcomed. Saw the Fathers. Very kind. Left for No Town, walked up there. Slept at Mr Gillen”.


Suzanne Aubert’s diary on the 16 November reads: “went up to the Alpine with Miss Ryan, came down the incline being hardly able to walk”. Suzanne Aubert arrived back in Jerusalem in December with a total collection of just over £1,000.

Hiruharama (Jerusalem), Whanganui River, early 1880’s


Suzanne Aubert, accompanied by Sisters Agnes, Marcelle and Magdalen arrived in Wellington on the 6 January 1899. Wellington is where Suzanne Aubert became best known, and where she spent the last years of her life. In Wellington Suzanne and the Sisters were district nurses; they opened a Home for incurables, a soup kitchen for unemployed men, a Crèche for young children, a Children’s Home and a Hospital. The Mother House of the Sister of Compassion is in Wellington.


It being highly desirable to have the endorsement of all the New Zealand Bishops for a petition to Rome for the approval of the Constitutions, Suzanne Aubert made a tour of New Zealand to visit them. Suzanne first went to Timaru, where she stayed with the Sisters of The Sacred Heart-most likely because Very Rev. Dean Tubman, The parish priest of Timaru, wanted Suzanne to found a Home of Compassion in his parish.


Dunedin was next visited, and Dr. Verdon (the Bishop) was interviewed.


Suzanne Aubert left for Rome in 1913, returning to Wellington in 1920 after having received the Decree of Praise from Pope Benedict XV, in recognition for the works of the Sisters of Compassion.


Suzanne opened a Home for babies in Auckland on the 11th September 1910. Suzanne wrote to Sister Bridger in 1910: “As you see by the head of this letter I am in Wellington, but only for a couple of days for I must go back to Auckland next Tuesday. I am afraid that for a while my poor life will be spent chiefly on the Main Trunk Line…”.

Crowd at opening of HoC, April 1907