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Salute to Parish Secretaries: Kathy Yates, Holy Spirit St Clair

Fr Brian Fitzpatrick OSA (left), Fr Baltazar (Jun) Belocura OSA, Fr Jonah Kim OSA, and Kathy Yates.
On the Holy Spirit, St Clair parish team are (from left): Fr Brian Fitzpatrick OSA, Fr Baltazar (Jun) Belocura OSA, Fr Jonah Kim OSA, and Kathy Yates.

By Virginia Knight

A country girl at heart who is equally at home in the city, Kathy Yates has been the Parish Secretary at Holy Spirit Parish, St Clair since 2003.

Born in 1958 to Clare and Frank Yates, Kathy is the second eldest of five children (two brothers and two sisters). She grew up in another Holy Spirit Parish, this time at North Ryde.

Kathy attended St Charles’ Primary and then Marist Sisters’ College Woolwich and Chatswood Catholic Girls High for her secondary education. Upon completion of her Higher School Certificate, she went on to study at the Good Samaritan Teachers’ College at Glebe, before reassessing her goals and choosing to work in a different field, settling in retail.

On her career journey, Kathy has worked in many industries, including jobs as a cosmetics consultant and a swimming instructor. Her work choices have always been people centred, offering her opportunities to meet people from a diversity of backgrounds.

Through her experience and further studies, Kathy has developed the communication and listening skills that were to stand her in good stead in a parish office.

When Kathy first arrived, Holy Spirit was undergoing renovations. “There was a film of concrete dust over everything and workmen were popping in and out,” she said.

“There were tarpaulins all over the church, which was gutted, and Mass was being celebrated in the school. It was like a wartime bunker situation and that was the way I began working here!”

Kathy said the parish secretary was like a tube of glue who tries to hold everything together. They are the first point of contact and a shoulder, if not in the physical sense at least over the phone.

“I have sat with people and cried with them over the phone, listened to them share what has happened, or even prayed with them.”

On the flipside there is much joy in the parish, with people wanting to share their good news stories. “There is a sense of journeying with people because you get to share the good and the bad.”

It is this contact with people that Kathy highlights as the best part of working in a parish office, because there is so much life unfolding around her.

However, as Kathy lives in the parish in which she works, sometimes the biggest challenge comes in finding the balance, identifying where the work ends and the parishioner begins. “Being a parish secretary becomes your life.”

She can find herself at celebrations such as the Parish Jubilee and during World Youth Day subconsciously looking about to ensure things are running smoothly and helping out if needed.

During WYD08, Kathy said she had “the time of her eternal life”. The parish adopted an open working policy with everyone working shifts to look after the Italian pilgrims.

“In my own naive way I expected all of them to speak English to some degree. Wrong! It was hilarious. But they were such wonderful people, I cried when they left. It was a brilliant, life-changing experience.”

One of the biggest changes she has seen is the growth of email and the internet. “It has become a very big part of how we do what we do now. When I started, the website was not functioning and email was dial-up. If you used dial-up, you couldn’t get faxes and so email was not used very much at all. Now things can come in by email twice and fax three times!”

Kathy has two children, Emma and Ben. Ben and his son Harry (her grandson) live in country NSW. She has strong ties with the land, having spent much of her formative years on holiday in rural Australia with her maternal relations.

In her spare time Kathy trains ‘working’ dogs and competes in sheep dog trials. She travels throughout NSW three or four times per year and has won ribbons and medals.

In the future, Kathy would like to further her professional and personal development and ‘dabble’ in multimedia and learn more about it.

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