Suzanne Aubert (1835 - 1926) - Roman Catholic missionary - arrived in New Zealand in 1860.
Braving the opposition of her parents, she was one of hundreds of other young people from the Lyon region (France) throughout the nineteenth century who were inspired to leave home and dedicate their lives to the missions of the Pacific.
But her life story proved to be exceptional in its range and commitment. She nursed, and developed indigenous remedies using her own expertise in chemistry in association with the herbal knowledge of Maori healers.
She taught, studied, wrote and published numerous works of Maori language. Always "on the go", offering relief, love and opportunities to the poor, needy, disabled and disadvantaged ; from new-born babies to the very old. She and her Sisters opened the earliest childcare and disabled care centres in New Zealand, a soup kitchen and a hospital.
These services were open to all, regardless of race or creed. And, these services were free of charge. Such a wide-ranging perspective from an independent, energetic and intelligent woman was not always understood by the more strictly sectarian amongst her church hierarchy. The people, however, recognised, supported and loved her, not only for her values but also for herself.
Suzanne Aubert died in Wellington in 1926, at the age of 91. Inevitably compared with Mother Theresa, or with Charles de Foucault, Suzanne Aubert has become one of New Zealand's acclaimed heroic figures, and her work is continued with love, enterprise and sensitivity by the congregation she founded in 1892 - the Sisters of Compassion.
A beatification process is currently underway in Rome, and she may one day become New Zealand's first saint.