After 113 years, the Good Samaritan Sisters’ community life and ministry in the north Queensland community of Hughenden has come to a close. In that time, 99 sisters have lived in Hughenden, mostly engaged in education and pastoral work.
Sisters Ita Stout and Patricia Comerford, both in their 80s, are the last two sisters to live in Hughenden. They’re sad to be leaving the community they have called home since 2005 and so too are members of the school, parish and wider community.
For Glenda Scrase, Principal of St Francis Primary School, Sisters Ita and Patricia have been an “integral part” of the school community.
“Even though they no longer teach or work, they’re heavily involved in our Masses and liturgies; they attend our weekly assemblies,” said Glenda.
“Losing the sisters in general to the Hughenden community – I’ve got no words for it. It’s an emotional time for the whole community.”
To recognise the contribution the Good Samaritan Sisters have made to Hughenden, a number of celebrations were held over the weekend March 7 to 9, including a farewell assembly at the school, a parish Mass of Thanksgiving and a BBQ, a ritual of closure at the convent, and a civic dinner hosted by the Mayor of Hughenden.
Addressing an audience of more than 360 gathered for the civic dinner, Sister Clare Condon, Congregational Leader of the Good Samaritan Sisters, expressed gratitude to the people of Hughenden, both present and past, for their faithful support.
“On behalf of all [sisters] who have lived here, I say thank you to the Hughenden community. From day one in 1900, you and your ancestors have cared for and loved our sisters. At times you fed them, you gave them fresh water in droughts, you listened to their cries, you nursed their wounds, and you gave them courage,” she said.
Clare also acknowledged Sisters Patricia and Ita: “They are true missioners and Good Samaritans. I know that they would wish to stay. If only they were a few years younger! However we must look forward and not back.”
Nineteen sisters returned for the weekend celebrations, many of whom had lived and worked in Hughenden at some stage. Also present was Bishop of Townsville, Michael Putney, who paid tribute to the Sisters.
“They brought above all a witness to the love of Jesus because they’ve been real Good Samaritans. They’ve loved the children and they’ve loved the people in the town. And that’s why the people in the town love them,” Bishop Michael said.
Acknowledging the Sisters’ commitment and service to St Francis Primary School and Hughenden, a memorial space has been created at the school with pavers displaying the names of all sisters who have worked or lived in Hughenden.
A focal point of the garden is a memorial cross carved out of a dead Poinciana tree that was planted in 1954 by Sister Catherine Bell – who was also present for the celebrations – in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Australia.
“I thought it was just great to touch [the cross]; it’s so solid,” said Bishop Michael. “That says they [the Sisters] were solid and their legacy is solid.”
View a video clip (4:42) produced by Neil Helmore of the Townsville Diocese.