Richard Puanaki: a shining light and a great composer

Eulogies at a Requiem Mass for Richard Puanaki – pictured – described him as one of the nation’s great composers and a shining light in the Māori Catholic church.

Rihari Tiki Te Aroha Puanaki (72) died last week of cancer in his home town Wairoa.

After many years away he returned there to teach at his old school, St Joseph’s Primary, and to reconnect with his Ngāti Kahungunutanga.

He was a pivot in the Wairoa parish community.

One of Puanaki’s relatives and friends, Pā Karaitiana Kingi SM, shared in much of the prayer at Puanaki’s requiem, often with a tewhatewha to support him and plentiful Holy Water from a sacred spring.

Long time friend, Danny Karatea-Goddard, says Puanaki composed many himene and songs, with the most famous being Ka Waiata Ki A Maria.

The prayers chosen for the Requiem followed Puanaki’s composition, approved by the New Zealand Bishops. The composition is now used in different Miha around the country.

At his Requiem Mass Puanaki had a pre-recorded message for his whānau saying: ‘If my tombstone has my name and simply “composer of Ka Waiata” on it, that would make me very happy!’

He explained that his love for Mary led to putting that prayerful reflection together.

Now the hymn has universal appeal for both Catholic and non-Catholic and has been sung on various occasions including by the Silver Ferns and the National Youth Choir.

For 30 years Puanaki was part of an annual pilgrimage from Wairoa to the Carmelite Sisters’ Convent in Auckland.

Despite being ill with the cancer that would eventually kill him, Puanaki again joined this pilgrimage this year.

Those speaking at Puanaki’s funeral say he leaves a rich heritage for so many, both Māori and others.

Humour and music, reflection and culture, family and devotion, faith and resilience are part of his legacy.

As Pa Karaitiana Kingi emphasised in his homily, Puanaki lived up to his largely unknown name ‘tiki te aroha’, ‘seek out and spread love’.


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News category: New Zealand.

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