For six Good Samaritan Sisters, 2015 marks the beginning of a new chapter in their community living. Each sister has responded to a call to be part of one of two new Good Samaritan intentional communities – one with a focus on prayer, the other with a focus on asylum seekers and refugees.
Sisters Anita Brennan, Carol Tomlinson and Therese Marie Fleming moved into their new community at Windsor, north-west of Sydney, in late January, and are still negotiating the practicalities of their life and ministry.
The Sisters of the Good Samaritan have had a long association with the people of Windsor, having travelled to the area from 1859 with Archbishop Polding to assist in catechesis, and lived there since 1875.
While Anita, Carol and Therese Marie say it’s too early to outline how their new community venture will operate, the name of the community – Polding Place: a place of listening and stillness – reveals much about the vision for it.
The sisters are keen to let Polding Place evolve according to the needs of people in the local area and beyond. They believe there is a “great hunger for intimacy with God” among people generally, and that Benedictine spirituality has much to offer others.
“The collective hope is that our way of living with a contemplative spirit will be inviting to others – anyone – to come and join us, and to want to be part of it, and that we will be able to respond to whatever we need to respond to as we become aware of what is needed,” Sister Anita Brennan explained.
Anita recognises that all Good Samaritan communities try to balance prayer and work, but the Windsor community has “a wonderful opportunity” to focus specifically on prayer.
She said the proposal to have a house of prayer emerged out of last year’s Congregational Assembly but “the idea had been floating around for many years before that”.
“The Congregation was saying we really want to have a place of prayer where that is the ministry of the place. It came up again at the Assembly and was taken forward,” said Anita.
Meanwhile, members of the second Good Samaritan intentional community – Sisters Elizabeth Murray, Veronica McDougall and Sarah Puls – are still yet to find a house to accommodate their new venture. They are hoping to rent a five-bedroom house in western Sydney where a high percentage of asylum seekers and refugees are living.
The desire for the Congregation to respond to the needs of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia was also voiced strongly at the Good Samaritan Sisters’ Assembly last year.
“The whole purpose [of the new community] is to be working among or being able to offer hospitality to asylum seekers and refugees when they need it,” said Sister Elizabeth Murray.
Like the Windsor community, Elizabeth, Veronica and Sarah feel strongly about allowing their community to evolve according to the needs of the local people.
For Elizabeth, who has a background in music and liturgy, the decision to be part of the community was not easy because of her existing ministry commitments, but in the end, she felt “I couldn’t say no”.
What drew her to the community was hearing that asylum seekers and refugees need “a listening ear. I thought, well, maybe I could offer that”.
Elizabeth also hopes that her background in music and liturgy might assist people in some way.
“The call has certainly come from the Congregation but we are all of one mind in seeing this as the Lord’s venture, and in a sense, our ad-venture with him,” said Elizabeth.
“You don’t know where this is going to lead, but if it’s of the Lord, it will go where it’s intended.”