Tributes flowed at a special dinner in Sydney last Friday night to honour Terry Creagh, who recently finished her term of office as the Foundation Chair of Good Samaritan Education.
In their words of thanks during the evening, Good Samaritan Sisters Catherine Slattery and Clare Condon both acknowledged Terry’s significant contribution to the life of Good Samaritan Education (GSE), the ecclesial community established in 2011 to oversee the ethos, mission and stewardship of the ten Good Samaritan Colleges in Australia.
After retiring in 2010 following a long and distinguished career as a teacher, principal and senior administrator in Catholic education, Terry was appointed Chair of GSE in 2011 and went on to serve two three-year terms.
Sister Catherine Slattery, who has worked closely with Terry over many years and is currently Deputy Chair of GSE’s Governing Council, described Terry’s leadership of GSE as “pivotal” and her contribution as “extraordinary”.
“Terry knows herself well – both her gifts and her limits, although she is more articulate about the latter,” Catherine told those gathered for the farewell dinner.
“You may not be surprised then if I tell you that initially she was very reluctant to make herself available to lead GSE. She understood the dimensions of the Chair’s role and considered herself wanting. Those around her, however, had another view that thankfully prevailed and tonight we honour her generous, responsive heart, her skilled leadership and her deep sense of service.
“There are present in this room tonight people who have worked closely with Terry over many years and know her value as a woman absolutely committed to Catholic education and its service of God’s mission,” continued Catherine.
“We know her as a leader who can hold the big picture, whose sense of justice is finely honed, who has the courage to speak out even at great cost to herself, who does not allow untruths or half-truths to remain unchallenged.
“Terry is regarded widely with respect and affection and has been a graced companion to GSE in so many arenas of church and civic life.”
Sister Clare Condon, who served as Congregational Leader from 2005 until 2017 and worked closely with Terry during that time, described her as “a woman of pioneering spiritual and educational leadership”.
“Terry, it is appropriate that this evening, even though it is a Good Samaritan Education event of gratitude to you, that you are particularly thanked on behalf of the Sisters [of the Good Samaritan],” Clare said.
“You have been involved directly with us for the past 13 years and I have witnessed first-hand 12 of those years. Firstly, I witnessed you as a member of the Good Samaritan Education Council as an arm of the congregation’s governance, and then from 2012 as the inaugural Chair of GSE, a separate canonical and civil entity – an entity derived from consultation and discussion with all those involved in leadership in the colleges and with the Sisters.”
Clare went on to speak about the skills Terry brought to her role, including a “totally professional” approach to her work, a capacity to “hold the detail within the broad canvas”, experience as a “skilled and competent negotiator”, and an understanding of “working in partnership”.
“Most of all you bring these qualities together as a woman of deep faith and commitment,” said Clare.
“All of us here tonight and many others have been enriched by your presence and your guidance. Particularly, I count myself greatly privileged to have worked with you… You have set a solid foundation for GSE so it can now set out on the next phase with confidence and sure-sightedness.”
For Terry, being appointed Chair of GSE was an “unexpected” and “amazing opportunity” that has “enriched” her life professionally and spiritually.
“It was nothing less than privilege, nothing less,” she told The Good Oil.
“I treasure the confidence that was put in me to bring alive the words of our statutes and the development of the structure according to the statutes.”
Terry paid tribute to those with whom she worked, particularly the “strong, faith-filled and dedicated” Members and Governing Council of GSE.
“They’re all volunteers, and it just humbles me to have been able to work with people such as [them],” she said.
Terry also praised the commitment of the GSE Services Team and those working in GSE Colleges. “They are the day-to-day face of GSE. They bring to life the Good Samaritan story and Benedictine spirituality,” she said.
Terry believes the establishment of GSE was a “significant” development for both Catholic education and the Catholic Church in Australia.
“The structure is a unique structure for Catholic education ecclesial entities and it’s one that we have worked very hard to really build,” she said.
“I really congratulate Sister Clare [Condon] and her Council, and the Sisters on their brave and courageous decision [to establish GSE] and the very measured and well-formed structure that they provided us as our framework for developing. I think that never can be forgotten.”
Terry said that “one of the outstanding aspects of the foundation is that from the very beginning the Sisters handed to GSE the governance responsibility for the schools”. At the same time she recognises “the importance of [GSE] continuing to have a strong relationship with the Sisters and with the work of the Sisters”.
Terry completed her second term of office as Chair at the end of 2017, and while she could have served another term as a member of GSE, she felt it was time to move on and allow “for new people, new ideas”.
Terry said she was “absolutely delighted” that Moira Najdecki, who has been a member of GSE since 2013, accepted nomination as Chair of the Governing Council and was “unanimously elected”.
“Moira brings an amazing background in education, a solid background in Good Samaritan tradition and is a person who’s known nationally in the education scene,” said Terry.
“She’s a hard worker, she’s a great researcher and she’s a person with vision, unafraid to try new things, but understands structure and understands the importance of maintaining that which is the essence of our organisation.
“So Moira’s acceptance of the Chair’s role is a god-send in my opinion!”
Moira Najdecki retired as Director of Catholic Education in the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese at the end of 2016 after 10 years in the position. Before this, she worked for 30 years in Catholic secondary schools in the ACT as teacher, assistant principal and principal.
Currently Moira is a Senator of the Australian Catholic University and a member of its ACT Chapter. In 2017, she was invited to join the Board of Catholic Schools NSW and is the GSE nominee on the Initial Council of the Association of Ministerial Public Juridic Persons.
Moira began as Chair in January this year and is looking forward to “consolidating” the “phenomenal” work of those who have established GSE.
“I am delighted to be part of GSE and I look forward to working with colleagues on the Assembly and in schools,” said Moira.
“It is an honour to be able to Chair the Governing Council and to follow on from the wonderful and seminal work of the retiring Chair, Terry Creagh.”