by PATRICIA BROOKS

The Tauranga parish of St Thomas Aquinas recently said farewell to a  most remarkable parishioner,  Beverley Roberts.

Mrs Roberts was a woman of many talents. Her voice enhanced the liturgy and for more than 50 years she organised the choir, encouraging others to sing and play the organ. Long hours were spent transposing and copying music so that there was always liturgically appropriate music for Sunday Masses.

She regularly  sang at requiem and nuptial Masses, bringing comfort and joy to many over the years.

The church community benefitted from her artistic talents. Painting and embroidery featured in the liturgical wall hangings she designed and executed for the wall beside the altar depicting  the liturgical seasons.

In the late 1950s, Fr Ronald McKendry organised a Christian Art Exhibition in Tauranga exhibiting borrowed works of religious significance. He asked Mrs Roberts to paint two murals on the  walls of the  church hall. Both were copies of esteemed art, one was a traditional stained glass scene the other a modern black and white replica of the crucified Christ. The former met with universal acclaim but the latter did not. So aghast were some parishioners that one asked the parish priest Monsignor Ryan whether or not Mrs Roberts was still able to receive communion.

About this time I recall seeing her walking along Cameron Rd  with her three pre-schoolers in a push chair. She had been painting the murals while caring for her three young children before walking 16 blocks home.

Beverley served the parish by chairing the liturgy committee and the parish council.   In 1970, she represented the parish on Cardinal Delargey’s Commission on the Laity, implementing Vatican II initiatives. In Tauranga, under Mrs Roberts’s competence the changes went smoothly.

Des Roberts, her beloved husband, died suddenly in 1970, leaving her and the children.

In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI bestowed a Benemerenti medal upon her.

The last ten years of her life were limited by cognitive decline, but she never lost her gracious manner.

After she died, at the vigil prayers many parishioners gave warm tributes for her mentoring and support for people.

At the Requiem Mass, parish priest Fr Philip Billing said in his homily, “Beverley has been a woman of many talents, and achieved much to be proud of throughout her life, but none of it would be memorable or enduring without the love that was at the heart of all she did. Beverley has been a gracious, selfless, kind and supportive daughter, wife, mother, grandmother and friend to many.””

”The secret of Beverley’s life was her Catholic faith; Beverly has, throughout her life, been a woman of great faith, who loved her God, believing in the promïses made to her at her baptism that this God who loved her into existence will never abandon her, will always sustain and nourish her throughout her life.”

Father Billing concluded: “Beverley, on behalf of the many priests you have supported and loved, on behalf of the Catholic community, thank you for all that you have done and been for us.”

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