A highly regarded church leader known for her deep compassion and concern for others, Catherine Adelaide Hollister-Jones, has died aged 94.

Miss Hollister-Jones had been living independently in Tauranga until her health started to decline in the week before her death on Sunday.

Nephew Greg Hollister-Jones said Ms Hollister-Jones was born in Wales in 1919.

She left school at the age of 13 or 14, and worked on her family's farm through the Depression. Her family migrated to Tauranga in 1939.


She went to Dunedin in 1947 to train as a Presbyterian deaconess and then moved to Auckland to establish new Presbyterian churches in Tamaki.

In 1953, Miss Hollister-Jones left New Zealand for India and lived in the Punjab region where she worked with women and children. She went on to open a Christian-based curriculum school, which started with only six students, and within 10 years she had more than 800 students.

"She considered this one of her major achievements as she only had seven years of education herself," he said.

"Whilst in India she also wanted to learn how to love people so she went to Calcutta and visited Mother Teresa."

In a statement from her diary she said: "It was then that I saw what unconditional loving really was".

Mr Hollister-Jones said: "It would have been a profoundly influential experience that changed and deepened her love for fellow human beings.

"She was always very accepting of people and always wanted to know their stories."

In 1988 Ms Hollister-Jones came back to New Zealand, where she was an active member of the Presbyterian community.

She was regularly seen at both local council meetings and parliamentary prayer meetings in Wellington.

"Her great work in retirement was encouraging people, praying for New Zealand, its local councils and governments," he said.

She also regularly talked to strangers in the street about their lives.

"She always wanted to know people's story, one example is when she met an ex gang member on a park bench in Mount Maunganui."

Ms Hollister-Jones received the Queen's Service Medal in 1991 for her commitment to public service.

Mr Hollister-Jones said his aunt possessed numerous strengths.

"She had a robust physical constitution, she was very determined and had a great positive attitude to life, and was deeply spiritual.

"And when you put all of this together you can understand and see what she had done.

"At the end of each day she would always say 'I had the most amazing day or experience today' and then she would recount the people she would have met and their stories."

A service to celebrate her life will be held at St Peters Presbyterian Church, Spring St, Tauranga at 1pm on Friday.