Tēnā koutou katoa.
As we begin the celebrations of 120 years of the Compassion Soup Kitchen, let us remember all the Sisters of Compassion, the volunteers and staff who have gone before us. Everyone has contributed to a community where people are offered respect and a safe place to be.
The Compassion Soup Kitchen was founded by Meri Hōhepa Suzanne Aubert 120 years ago and has been very visible on the Wellington landscape. Close to the Basin Reserve in its beginning, the spectators of the cricket games were in view of the many comings and goings just over the road in Buckle Street. Since 1901, the Sisters of Compassion have received support from hotels and stores with produce and left over food to be able to provide a nourishing meal for those in need.
Plans for a new motorway meant that the Compassion Soup Kitchen moved to Sussex Street in 1973. The Wellington Community continued to provide the produce and food for the meals. Orchards and gardens from as far away as Katikati, Hawke’s Bay and Ōtaki provided fruit and vegetables. People continue to respond to the needs of the time by offering their skills, excess food and time.
In the 1990s, traffic was congested around the Basin Reserve which made access difficult so the Compassion Soup Kitchen moved to a new location in 1999, 132 Tory Street. This location offers ease of access and remains in the area that the Suzanne Aubert and the first Sisters began in 1901. Firmly imprinted on the footpaths of Mount Cook, Wellington, are the footsteps of many Sisters of Compassion who have been present at the Compassion Soup Kitchen in the last 120 years.
Sisters Magdalen Savage, Agnes Brownlie, Marcelle Small and Mother Aubert (Suzanne Aubert) did not imagine that 120 years later so many supporters and volunteers would be hands-on to offer meals. The partnership with St Vincent de Paul, school groups and the Sathya Sai Group are a few of the organisations who regularly support the Compassion Soup Kitchen. The individuals who have volunteered over the last 120 years would be in excess of 15,000. The partnerships are tangible as people responded and continue to respond to the needs of others in a practical and non-judgemental way. People have a way to share with others and to know that what they offer, big or small, is valued.
Divine Providence and Partnership
The guests who come for the meal appreciate the interaction from a variety of people and together there is an exchange of friendship and understanding. The 2020 Lockdown showed how quickly circumstances can change for people and how others who were in a position to help responded. Difficult as it was, this was an example of many people working together to make life a little less stressful for individuals and families. The preservation of people’s dignity was paramount. I can imagine the delight of Meri Hōhepa Suzanne Aubert seeing Divine Providence and Partnership in action. This delight was noticed in the eyes of the Teams providing the meal service during the lockdown period. So many groups, businesses and individuals provided for the needs of others, from the Wellington City Council to school children bringing their homemade biscuits.
Enjoy each new chapter as we remember the last 120 Years at the Compassion Soup Kitchen.
Together as we celebrate 120 years of the Compassion Centre join with me in a prayer for all the guests, volunteers, staff, supporters and sisters.
E īnoi ana mātou ka whai wā tōu tinana me tōu hinengaro ki te whakatā; kia whakhoungia tōu wairua. Kia whakapainga koutou i a Meri Hōhepa.
We pray that your body and mind be rested; your spirit refreshed.
May you be blessed by Suzanne Aubert.