SHE’S the woman of Meltham and she may soon be the UK’s Catholic woman of the year.
Jean Sykes was stunned to discover that parishioners and community members had nominated her for one of the Catholic church’s top awards.
The 73-year-old was one of the founding members in securing a Catholic mass in Meltham.
That was 30 years ago – and she’s been involved ever since.
Maggie McLean, chairman of the Meltham Catholic Forum, rallied the community to nominate Mrs Sykes.
And she had the backing of members of the three Anglican churches, Baptists and the Methodists.
Maggie said: “She is one of those people who holds everything together. She helps run Crossroads, she’s involved in every church activity and she’s always doing what she can to help. She remembers and considers everyone, she’s thoughtful in that way.”
Mrs Sykes said she was overwhelmed by the nomination.
She added:: “The reason I accepted it was because people had put so much into nominating me.
“I don’t do it for myself, it’s all very much a team effort that I’m involved in.”
Mrs Sykes, a parent of three along with her late husband Jack, is a longstanding member of the Meltham community.
She said: “About 30 years ago a few of us wanted a mass in Meltham but there wasn’t a Catholic church.
“There were no buses before lunchtime in Meltham back then and with three children it was difficult to get out on a night.
“A few of us went to see the bishop to ask for a mass and within a few months he’d arranged for a priest to come and give mass in the civic hall.”
They secured the Meltham branch of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Huddersfield, which later moved to St Bartholomew’s Church, where it continues to this day.
Her work has also seen her be involved in Churches Together and the Crossroads charity shop, which uses its profits for community use.
She also helped at the Sunshine Club, which provided activities for children who didn’t have holidays, and organises the annual old people’s party.
Mrs Sykes got a phone call one Sunday night informing her of the Catholic church nomination.
She said: “It’s overwhelming for me and a great surprise. I hadn’t realise everyone in the village was working away on this.”
But she’s not ready to put her feet up just yet. “I haven’t the time to slow down, I’m far too busy,” she added.