St John the Evangelist parish in Orewa, Auckland, lost its “matriarch” when Valerie Ann Bennett passed away in her home on January 24, at the age of 85.

Mrs Bennett was one of the first policewomen in New Zealand and was a former president of the Auckland branch of Voice for Life.

A requiem Mass was celebrated at Orewa by St Patrick’s Cathedral dean Pa Peter Tipene, parish priest Fr Emile Frische and former parish priest Fr Peter Gray on January 30.

“She was quite a special lady, a remarkable woman. In so many ways, she was able to connect with people. She inspired people to a deeper faith. She was always here for adoration and for Mass. Nothing was a problem for Val, particularly when it came to faith. She was always available to do anything and everything,” said Pa Tipene, who used to be parish priest at Orewa.

Her son, Jonathan, spoke of her love for Christ and Mary.

“She was a woman of deep faith. Her love of the Catholic Church and its teachings had been an unwavering constant in our lives. Her life was governed by love of Christ,” he said.

Mrs Bennett’s love for the unborn was also noted at the Mass. She was not only formerly Auckland VFL president, she was also a member of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child.

Mrs Bennett was also featured in NZ Catholic a few years ago in a story that recalled how Fr Gray, as well as Mrs Bennett and her late husband Michael
“Mick” Bennett, helped Cambodian refugees fleeing from Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime find a new life in Orewa.

Mrs Bennett left the police force to support her husband, who was then establishing his business. At one point, she ran the Christian bookshop in

“She was the love of our lives back then. And I’m not ashamed to say, she is
very much still the love of our lives today,” Jonathan said.