The Rev Dr Evonne Paddison died on July 14 after a year-long battle with a brain tumour. Born on March 23, 1950, she grew up in Guildford where, at Sunday school, she remembered singing, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world” and decided she wanted to be a missionary.

Dr Paddison trained as a teacher and taught in a range of schools for a decade before heading to Tanzania in 1979. After ill health brought her home two years later, Bishop Paul Barnett (then Master at Robert Menzies College) created the position of assistant chaplain at Macquarie University for her. She also became dean of female students at RMC, and later Deputy Master of the college.

“…many, many people owe their love of Jesus to her”.

Bishop Barnett gave the sermon at Dr Paddison’s funeral last month, in which he drew on the “living hope” of 1 Peter 1 and the Apostle Paul’s thoughts of “home” in 2 Corinthians 5.

“Evonne had that [living] hope from her teens,” he said. “She clung to that hope always – even in difficult times… many, many people owe their love of Jesus to her.

Teacher, pastor and learner

Despite serious bouts of sickness that caused breaks in her ministry, Dr Paddison spent eight years at Macquarie University and RMC and two years at Sydney Missionary & Bible College lecturing in New Testament. She worked for the Diocesan Board of Education and established and ran Eagleswift Press and Aquila Press. 

Amid this work she obtained a Diploma of Religious Education, a Bachelor of Divinity, a Master of Letters in English Literature and, in 1997, began a PhD at the University of Sydney focused on the Gospel of John. She graduated in 2001 and moved to Melbourne to be warden of Ridley University College and lecturer in New Testament at the college itself. She was ordained in Melbourne in 2004.

Former principal of Ridley College, Peter Adam, said of Dr Paddison that “she was a wonderful lecturer in New Testament… She brought to this ministry a wide sympathy for people, a passion for world mission, a background in education, and a dedicated and servant-hearted life experience”.

In 2006 Dr Paddison became CEO of the Council of Christian Education in Schools in Melbourne (now Access Ministries) – a job she held until her retirement in 2014, when she returned to Sydney. She joined the staff of Christ Church, Lavender Bay as an assistant minister in 2016, resigning due to her failing health at the end of last year.

“she was always encouraging the nurses to have fun”

Dr Paddison was known for her sense of humour and fun, and her particular joy in nieces, nephews and godchildren. Her close friend the Rev Di Nicolios described her as “a great gift to God for all of us”, saying that in her final illness, during “two long stints in hospital, she was always encouraging the nurses to have fun….[There was] always time for fun with the kids, but she loved nothing better than a good conversation that was real”. 

Miss Nicolios added that Dr Paddison had “particularly insightful teaching in matters of faith”.

“She was a visionary, always making plans for the future… either personal or ministry. [At] Access Ministries she reshaped the whole of religious education across Victoria, so that what was being taught was theologically sound and engaging for children.”

In finishing his sermon at the funeral service Bishop Barnett said, “What would Evonne have me say? ‘Don’t be like those who grieve without hope. Hear the word of God. Become a believer in Jesus. Place yourself in the hands of Jesus who loved you and gave himself for you’.”