The death of Paula Brettkelly on August 31 brought to an end a long period of living courageously with cancer.
In leading the eulogy at her funeral Mass, on September 2, Sr Catherine Shelton passed on Paula’s wish to thank the members of her four ‘families’—her blood family, her religious family, the gay family including the NZ Aids Foundation, and her family of friends.
Paula’s death brought eulogies of her involvement with the wider community in the field of HIV/Aids and human rights including some 20 years as an Aids Foundation volunteer at a time when her church struggled to support sufferers of HIV, as well as being an ardent advocate for justice and care of the earth.
NZ Aids Foundation executive director Rachael Le Mesurier said Sister Paula fought discrimination and stigma faced by those with HIV and Aids.
‘She was the one who stood beside them and held their hands. A truly remarkable New Zealander. She worked with extraordinary humility.’
‘She showed great warmth, courage and wisdom throughout long years of illness,’ said her friend Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan. ‘I would put her down as one of New Zealand’s great human rights campaigners.’
‘Her love was driven by a powerful faith—she had no tolerance for discrimination, for injustice, for inequalities,’ said Māori Party co-leader, Tariana Turia.
Sr Marcellin Wilson RSM spoke for her friends and asked mourners to reply to each of her statements with a hearty ‘Amen’ which they did.
‘What admiration is due to a person who could empathise with so many.
‘What level of commitment was required to concentrate her energies, the whole range of personal gifts to be present to her many friends.
‘We her friends have various levels of gratitude. Through her influence some have had hopes restored, fears dispelled, joys and sorrows shared, sunsets with food and wine at Pukerua Bay. She has known our births, deaths marriages and unions.
‘We may have agreed to accept challenges to overcome personal and societal prejudice and to work for social justice in New Zealand.
‘I speak simply in gratitude for the gift of friendship freely given.I am also listening attentively for a “Woof! Woof!” from her canine ‘walkies’ companion Bess.
‘Bess a black Labrador, is not known for being a docile or submissive creature, then again neither was she.
‘Your friends Paula farewell you on your great cosmic journey to fullness in Christ.
‘Go with speed and excitement, go in anticipation, you are at rest in our hearts. Amen, Alleluia, amen.’