The Sisters of the Good Samaritan have launched a new spirituality outreach project targeting rural Australian communities where Good Samaritan Sisters once lived and ministered.
Called “Jericho Journeys”, the project was launched recently (May 16-18) in the North Queensland community of Tully, following a successful pilot program late last year in nearby Innisfail.
“We commenced this initiative because we had requests from people where our sisters used to live and minister asking us to offer something. This was particularly so in rural and remote areas,” said Sister Clare Condon, Congregational Leader.
“We have sisters amply qualified in retreats and spirituality to be able to come and offer people an opportunity for prayer, reflection and input.”
Clare said the project will “evolve slowly” and “respond to requests from communities”.
The current core team members of “Jericho Journeys” are Sisters Kathleen Spokes, Carol Tomlinson and Patty Fawkner, but as the project unfolds in different communities, other sisters and lay partners may also participate.
“Where once we worked mainly with young people as school teachers, our interests and skills have diversified and we have many sisters experienced in the areas of adult faith formation, spirituality, liturgy, personal development, theological and biblical studies, retreat work and spiritual direction,” said Sister Kathleen Spokes, herself a spiritual director based in Melbourne.
“We are keenly aware that people – all people – are hungering for the more of life in their busy and at times fractured lives.
“In a small way ‘Jericho Journeys’ aims to meet this hunger by matching the spiritual interests and needs of a local community with the skills and expertise of the sisters,” she explained.
And that’s exactly what has happened for St Clare’s Parish, Tully, in North Queensland.
Good Samaritan Sisters first arrived in Tully in 1928, and in 1995, after 67 years of service in education and pastoral work, they withdrew from the community.
“It was quite sad when the sisters finally left the parish – an emotional farewell,” reflected long-time Tully parishioner, Betty Favier, who has known the Good Sams for many years.
Betty said that last year, when Sisters Patty Fawkner and Pam Grey visited Innisfail to offer the pilot “Jericho Journeys” program, Tully parishioners asked if they “could access what was on offer” too.
“Over the years, the parish has enjoyed various adult faith development sessions and workshops, and the parish council was desirous of our having at least one such spiritual or educational event each year if possible,” she explained.
“After the trauma of Cyclone Yasi, we felt the parish would benefit from what ‘Jericho Journeys’ could give.”
Betty said the Tully parishioners were “extremely pleased” with their recent “Jericho Journeys” experience, describing the two workshops and mini-retreat led by Sisters Pam and Patty as “reassuring, reflective and informative”.
“But,” she added, participants were also challenged “to understand where they were on their particular journey and to strive to go deeper in their faith, and so become more adult in their thinking and commitments to church, family and community”.
While bigger numbers of participants were expected, Betty said that one person felt the smaller group size allowed her to be “more relaxed and able to share more readily”.
“In all, it was a time of grace for the parishes of Tully and Silkwood. We are very appreciative of the time and energy given to us by Sister Patty and Sister Pam,” she said.
The “Jericho Journeys” team are currently negotiating programs for this year and next in other communities where the Good Sams once lived and ministered, including Whyalla in South Australia.