Recently, we came together to celebrate and farewell Cate Sydes who dedicated six years to Loreto Ministries in the role of CEO. It was a day of mixed emotions, gratitude and good wishes as we bid farewell to Cate, who had been such an integral part of the Loreto team.
It is my privilege to say a few words to celebrate, thank and farewell Cate on behalf of the Institute: the Sisters, Province Council and myself.
Cate took up her position very early in the history of Loreto Ministries and faced the many challenges associated with establishing a new governance body. Yet, she met them with tenacity, professionalism, and unfailing good humour. In her early days, Cate was involved in shaping our Loreto Code of Conduct, and I believe the elements of that Code sum up Cate’s commitment to Loreto Ministries and Loreto in general. Cate is a leader who has integrity, strives for excellence, is collaborative, respectful, and committed to the safety of children.
During her time as CEO, Cate put considerable energy and expertise into establishing sound governance systems and practices. Her grasp of the nature and complexity of governance has strengthened our network in many areas, including legal, financial, HR, property and risk. Cate has always approached these governance and compliance responsibilities with the mission of Loreto in her heart and has always kept the vision and mission of Loreto at the core of Loreto Ministries. Cate also represented the Province on the Board of John XXIII College in Perth. Cate’s immersion in both Mary Ward and Jesuit education found a natural home in this particular governance role.
Under Cate’s leadership, Loreto Ministries generated a wide range of resources related to the mission and vision of the Institute that are now used across the Province. Loreto Ministries has worked collaboratively with the Loreto Schools of Australia Committee (LSAC) and Province members to develop a Formation Framework and led many successful conferences, a pilgrimage, a Board colloquium, a national speaking tour, and formation experiences for new staff and board members.
Cate’s passion for those on the margins was never more evident than in her support of Loreto Vietnam. Her regular meetings with the Executive Officer, Viet Dung Nguyen, the staff and the Loreto Vietnam Board, her pre-COVID visits to Ho Chi Minh City and isolated regional schools, and promotion of Loreto Vietnam’s vision and mission all speak of her strong commitment to providing educational opportunities to those living in extreme poverty.
Excellence in education and educational leadership was a priority of Loreto Ministries under Cate’s watch, with induction processes strengthened, Principal review processes formulated, and the Board Handbook compiled.
In her role as CEO, Cate also spent considerable time networking across the Province, providing in-person support to Principals, Board Chairs and the Loreto Vietnam staff and board. Cate continued this support online when travel was no longer possible, thus ensuring that our network continued to develop and deepen during a time of dramatic change and uncertainty. Cate further prioritised contact with Loreto Ministries team members and kept Loreto Centre projects on track. Like Mary Ward, Cate had to keep connections alive under very challenging circumstances.
Spearheaded by Peter Garling, the Loreto Ministries Board and Cate, the 2019 Colloquium must stand as one of Cate’s proudest moments. The Colloquium brought together Board Directors of Loreto, together with the Province Council, local Sisters and Principals, to dialogue with international and local experts in the fields of Institute history, Loreto educational legacy, the vision of Mary Ward and Gonzaga Barry and governance issues challenging Catholic organisations and ethical realities facing Boards in every field of life. It was a wonderful example of Loreto Ministries, Province, Mary Ward International Australia (MWIA) and school staff working collaboratively at the service of all our ministries.
Cate’s impetus to bring Elaine McDonald to Australia after hearing Elaine in York in 2017 also energised our network, especially as Elaine visited all States and shared the depth of her research into Mary Ward and other IBVM educational leaders.
On a human level, Cate’s sense of humour, warm humanity, and personal and professional support have been deeply appreciated by her many colleagues, members of our diverse network and by me personally. We have always valued her sincerity, professionalism, integrity and, above all, her care for people. It is not always been easy working under our complex province structures, yet Cate kept moving forward with grace and goodness, balancing all the different and often competing priorities and stakeholders.
In one of Cate’s LML newsletter editorials, she cited Mary Ward, “With real strength and courage, do what is seen to be good in all circumstances in which we are placed.” To me, this sums up Cate’s character and contribution to Loreto, and I return those words now to Cate, hoping that they resonate within at this time of transition.
We have been truly blessed by Cate’s leadership and vision and wish her good health and happiness as she continues life’s adventure.