The Sisters of The Good Samaritan Sat, 30 Apr 2016 12:32:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 My friend Lee Mon, 18 Apr 2016 14:15:08 +0000 Asther Bascuna-Creo

Asther Bascuna-Creo

“It was obviously a big step for Lee to make friends outside of her ethnic circle,” says Asther Bascuna-Creo. “There are some migrants who have been in Australia for many, many years but have not yet made acquaintances outside of their families.”

BY Asther Bascuna-Creo*

Lee was a small woman whose eyes disappeared whenever she smiled, which was always. In fact, our acquaintance began with her smiling in my direction a lot, at first shyly as we picked up our daughters from the local primary school, and then becoming more at ease and familiar, until the day she said the words: “They very exciting, ha?”

She was referring to the children who were gathered noisily in the school common area for the monthly assembly.

I smiled generously myself. “Yes, they seem very excited.”

That was the start of our many conversations as we waited for the school bell to ring. It was obviously a big step for Lee to make friends outside of her ethnic circle. There are some migrants who have been in Australia for many, many years but have not yet made acquaintances outside of their families.

I remember reading an article in the local paper about a Vietnamese woman who became the victim of a hit and run driver and was left for dead on the streets. A police investigation revealed that she had no relatives and friends, and that the only people who knew of her existence were the people she had worked with in a Footscray factory. Since there were no relatives to mourn her, the community lit candles one night to mark her passing. It is so easy to slip into oblivion if nobody cares.

We Filipinos differ. I have always believed Filipinos can adjust to whatever environment we find ourselves in and reinvent ourselves according to the situation. We try so hard to adapt that sometimes, we lose our own ethnic identity.

I treated my acquaintance with Lee with care. When I became active in the community I could not overtly invite her to our events. A “no” meant a no; and an “I see, ok?” meant she was not going to come.

So I felt triumphant when she finally said yes to participating in a community survey and then later on in a community-sponsored business course at the local university. We attended these together and our acquaintance grew into friendship.

After some time in the course, Lee’s confidence grew. Four months into the course, she suddenly spoke to the whole class and told her story as a refugee from Vietnam.

She escaped on a boat with her sister and mother when she was a small girl. They only had the clothes on their back and begged for food whenever the boat would reach land. After some time on the boat, they were all taken to a detention camp where they stayed for a few years.

“Very, very hard,” she said in her limited English, a smile ever present on her face. Food was scarce and rationed. At one time her mother hid some bread between her breasts to bring to her and her sister. The guard found out and her mother was gravely punished.

Lee and her family were finally able to come to Australia. Her mum could not speak a word of English. The whole family still lives under one roof, even though both daughters are now married with their respective families.

“How do you sleep?” one student in the business course asked.

“One bed, one family,” she said with that smile you cannot wipe off her face. The students’ eyes widened slightly. But I understood Lee. I understood how “one bed, one family” can actually be like heaven.

Lee failed to hold the class’ attention for long that day. After she told her story, there was a long and uncomfortable pause. It is hard to deal with matters unfamiliar, especially if they are stories outside the ‘no worries’ culture of Australia.

Later on, I asked Lee when her birthday was so that I could greet her on her special day. “Dunno,” she said, shaking her head. “How old are you, Lee?” was my follow up question.

“Dunno. Mum forgot,” she said, a small laughter escaping from her chest.

I very rarely see Lee nowadays. The last time we crossed paths at the local church she seemed happy to see me. A granddaughter in Singapore was undergoing a surgery she said, for an illness that didn’t seem fit for children. “You pray, ok? You tell your mum, pray, ok?”

“Ok, Lee, ok.”

“You different, I see. You good girlfriend.” And she smiled that smile of hers, with a trust that, as everything else in her life thus far, all will turn out right.

* Asther Bascuna-Creo is a communications professional based in Melbourne. She is a mother of three children and wife to a recently ordained permanent deacon. She writes short stories and poetry and feels passionate about how they can promote a better understanding about people’s different realities.

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A professional role that’s deepened Marie’s spirituality Mon, 18 Apr 2016 14:12:18 +0000 Marie Mohr

Marie Mohr

Marie Mohr says her role as Health and Well-being Coordinator for the Sisters of the Good Samaritan is one of the best jobs of her life; it enriches her professional life and nourishes her spirit.

BY Debra Vermeer*

After a distinguished career in nursing and health administration, Marie Mohr was looking for a change when she took on the role of Health and Well-being Coordinator for the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, a change which she says has given her one of the best jobs of her life – enriching her professional life and nourishing her spirit.

Born in the Queensland Darling Downs, Marie grew up with her five sisters and one brother in the small town of Taroom, about 463 kilometres north-west of Brisbane. She attended the local Catholic primary and high schools, until her senior schooling, when she boarded for two years at St Saviour’s College Toowoomba.

After leaving school, Marie completed her nursing certificate at Toowoomba General Hospital in 1977 and then gained her midwifery qualifications at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide from 1978 to 1979.

“After that, I spent a couple of years working and playing in Taroom, which had a 28-bed country hospital, before my sister and I travelled around Australia for nearly two years. We bought a panel van and 14-foot Millard caravan and just headed off,” she says.

Marie with a group of Good Samaritan Sisters at the Yarra Valley

Marie with a group of Good Samaritan Sisters at the Yarra Valley

After working at Peak Hill in western NSW for a while, the two sisters ended up at Uluru, known then as Ayers Rock.

“I took a job as the number two cook and Chris was pot-scrubber, I think,” she laughs.

“We happened to be working there when Azaria Chamberlain went missing, which was an amazing time,” she says. “When the word went out that the baby was missing, we went out looking for her that very cold night. Everyone was out there looking.

“It was always my personal belief that a dingo did take the baby, because I’d seen how the dingoes were, how they acted.”

After leaving Uluru, Marie and Chris headed across the Nullarbor Plain, working in a roadhouse for three or four months. When they arrived in Perth, Marie took a job in a nursing home.

“Then we travelled to Derby where we stayed for a period of time. That was a real country place, a little hospital with about 20 beds. We delivered babies there and did other small things. For car accidents or bigger medical emergencies people either were flown to Darwin or to Perth via the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

“That was an interesting time. In the early 1980s it was very much the early days of tourism around Australia and the roads had no bitumen or anything like that.”

After reaching Darwin, the sisters returned home to Queensland for a while when their parents were selling their house, but before too long, Marie returned to Western Australia, to Kununurra and worked there, before returning to Perth and then finally heading across the Nullarbor to Victoria in 1986.

In Melbourne, Marie worked at St Vincent’s Hospital and completed her intensive care course. She stayed at St Vincent’s for about 15 years, completing her nursing degree and working in different roles, including 10 years as unit manager for the cardiothoracic ward at the hospital.

In 2001 Marie left St Vincent’s to take up the role of Director of Nursing at Broadmeadows Health Service in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

“It was a brand new facility which was something different for the people of Broadmeadows, which is in a low socio-economic area,” she says. “And it was an interesting role because there was a lot of change happening across health services in Victoria at that time.”

In 2011, Marie completed her Masters in Public Health and it was then that she found herself looking for something new.

“I was just ready for a change,” she says. “The hospital and health care sector is very frenetic and resource-poor and I was looking for something that was more in the community, and that’s when the role of Health and Well-being Coordinator with the Good Samaritans came up.”

Marie was no stranger to the Good Sams, having been on the board of the Good Samaritan Inn in Melbourne for some years. Her aunt, Josie Logan, is also a Sister of the Good Samaritan.

“It was following the AGM for the Good Samaritan Inn in 2011 that Sister Veronica Hoey, whom I had known through a local parish connection previously, suggested that I might be interested in a new role that had been created for the congregation and which was soon to be advertised. It was serendipitous really.”

“It was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for where I could utilise my background and experience in the health industry and my connection with the congregation – a fantastic opportunity.”

Marie says the Good Sams had already employed health care consultants to work with the sisters in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, but this new role had a broader brief, to support the congregational leader and her council around future planning for health and well-being, including the demands of an ageing congregation.

“So the health consultants support the sisters on a day-to-day basis and I’m their go-to person, with support from Sister Veronica Hoey who has responsibility within the congregation for health and well-being,” says Marie.

“It’s an evolving role, and that evolution is challenging and stimulating in itself.”

“There are, of course, significant issues around ageing and the physical diminishment that comes with that, but what’s good about the congregation is that there is a health care framework to ensure that the best processes and support structures are set up for the changing needs of each sister.”

Among those structures is the Good Samaritan Ministry of Care, where sisters, known as primary carers, take on the role of pastoral support for older sisters who have transitioned to aged care. These sisters work closely with the health care consultants in meeting the needs of the sisters.

“So there are layers of care and support, which is wonderful,” says Marie.

“And my job is to ensure that all avenues of communication are open and relevant people are linked into the issues that arise.”

“It’s a very complex, but very satisfying job, and the relationships that happen with individual sisters and with communities make it very special.”

Marie says the Good Samaritan Sisters have been very welcoming to her and supportive of the role.

“I’ve been humbled by the trust that comes from it,” she says.

“You have your moments, of course, and tough situations, but predominantly the sisters are very gracious in their capacity to allow you in to their lives and to their vulnerability and it’s that trust that means so much.

“Sometimes the sisters who are vulnerable in their ageing or poor health begin to open up and have deep conversations with you. It’s that element of care and support which makes nursing such a fulfilling profession and you’re able to do a bit more of that in this role.”

Marie says that in the five years that she has been in the role, she has noticed an increase in the frailty of some of the sisters as well as an increased demand for the nurses’ care and support.

“So that raises issues for us going forward, such as making sure we can tap into the resources, and connections, and support that we need,” she says.

“And we always have to remember the particular environment in which we’re working so that we are accessing and providing services in the context of the religious women that we’re supporting.

“In the future with fewer young sisters, we will need to look at broadening these caring roles with lay people as we continue to grapple with and discuss plans for the future.”

Marie says ageing is not the only challenge facing her and her team though, with different issues facing the sisters in Japan, Kiribati and the Philippines, many of whom are younger.

Having been brought up in a Catholic family, Marie says she has always had a “robust spirituality”, but her role with the Good Sams has deepened her spirituality even further.

“I’ve been linked in with the Christian Meditation Community for some time, which has Benedictine roots, and I was exposed to Good Samaritan Benedictine spirituality through my work with the Good Sam Inn,” she says.

“But in the context of this role and the formation that comes with it, it has certainly deepened that aspect of my spirituality somewhat. One of the big things in Benedictine spirituality is humility, and I’m constantly amazed at the simplicity and humility displayed in the daily life of the sisters and to be exposed to that daily does have an impact on your own life.”

About 18 months ago, Marie and her colleagues took a small group of elderly sisters away to the Yarra Valley in Victoria for two nights.

“We had some of the most precious moments there with these fine women,” she says. “It was wonderful to sit back as they reminisced and talked and laughed. It was just beautiful.

“I felt really privileged to be there with them. These experiences are what make this role such an enjoyable one.”

* Debra Vermeer is a freelance journalist working in both Catholic and mainstream media.

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Tributes flow in for former Good Sam leader Mon, 18 Apr 2016 14:11:28 +0000 Mary Ronayne SGS

Mary Ronayne SGS

The death last month of Sister Mary Ronayne, former Superior-General of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, elicited an outpouring of tributes from people far and wide who remembered Mary as an outstanding leader not only in her congregation, but also in the wider Australian Church and beyond.

“Elected Superior-General in 1969 at the age of 42, Mary led us in embracing a Vatican II vision of the Church and its place in the world,” Congregational Leader Sister Clare Condon told those gathered for Mary’s funeral Mass on March 31 at St Scholastica’s Chapel, Glebe, Sydney.

“She was fearless in her ability to speak clearly about the signs of the times, particularly for women’s religious orders and for education. She did this in many arenas, especially as the regional representative of women’s religious orders in Rome at the International Union of Superiors General [UISG].”

Mary in the 1960s

Mary in the 1960s

In an email message to the Sisters, retired auxiliary Bishop of Canberra-Goulburn, Pat Power, said that Mary (formerly known by her religious name, Sister Mary de Lourdes) “was a great figure not just among the Good Samaritans but in the whole Australian Church”.

“I remember her as a formidable woman, articulate and forthright in presenting a Vatican II model of the Church,” he said.

“I was Archbishop Thomas Cahill’s secretary from 1975 till his death in 1978. I had a great love for Tommy but he could be forceful if he thought he could get away with it. But I remember on a couple of occasions him reporting meetings he had with Mother de Lourdes and he had clearly met his match. Yet I think he admired her for her courage in not bowing unquestioningly to a bishop.”

Similarly, Dr Peter Tannock, Vice Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame Australia, described Mary as “one of the great women of the Australian Church” who had “a big influence” on him.

“I first heard her speak as a formidable leader in 1972 at the Armidale Catholic Education Conference. She captured that large audience completely,” said Peter.

“Over the years she demonstrated great leadership at a time when it was desperately needed in the Church and in Catholic education. Her wisdom, strength, faith, practical common sense, fearless honesty, and instinctive understanding of the right course of action shone through. As did her humility and sense of humour.”

The second of three children and only daughter of Irish immigrants, Mary was born in 1927 in Kingaroy, north-west of Brisbane, Queensland. She was educated by the Good Samaritan Sisters at St Mary’s Primary School, Kingaroy, and later at Lourdes Hill College, Brisbane.

In July 1945, 18-year-old Mary entered the Good Samaritan Sisters and commenced her novitiate and teacher training in Sydney. She was given the name Sister Mary de Lourdes, but later reverted to her baptismal name.

Mary’s early teaching years included short placements in New South Wales at St Brigid’s, Marrickville and St Mary’s, Wollongong, followed by two years in South Australia at St Joseph’s High School, Gawler.

In 1954, Mary was transferred to her alma mater, Lourdes Hill College, where she remained for eight years. It was during her time here that she began a Bachelor of Arts degree, studying by correspondence through the University of Queensland.

With Mary’s appointment as the inaugural principal of St Margaret Mary’s College, Townsville in 1963, a number of other leadership roles followed in quick succession. In September that same year, Mary was elected to her congregation’s leadership council, and in 1964, she was appointed principal of St Scholastica’s College, Glebe in Sydney.

Five years later, in September 1969, Mary was elected Superior-General of the Good Samaritan Sisters and went on to serve as leader for two terms until 1981.

Sister Rita Hayes, speaking at the vigil service for Mary in Melbourne on March 28, said that Mary was leader for “the two very critical chapters of 1969 and 1975”.

“These were the chapters in the immediate aftermath of Vatican II. For many, it was difficult to see how to interpret religious life and to live it faithfully while at the same time adopting so much that was new,” said Rita.

“It was evident that Mary had an insightful understanding of what the Council Fathers envisaged as revealed in the Council documents… When congregational chapter proceedings became bogged down or debate became heated, much was resolved due to Mary’s incisive interventions.

“During the chapter process itself and in her letters and exhortations during these years, she saw clearly what was of the essence of our life and what could be changed and/or discarded. She expressed clearly that this was not a time of fear but a time for renewal and a deepening of our charism. In this, as in so much of what she did, she looked fearlessly towards the future.”

During Mary’s time as leader and beyond, she made significant contributions to the life of other religious in Australia and on the international stage. She was the national secretary, and later national president, of the Conference of Women Major Superiors and the newly combined Conference of Women and Men Major Superiors, now known as Catholic Religious Australia.

In the mid-1970s, Mary was chosen as one of two Australian delegates to attend the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) meeting in Rome, which had been established in 1966. She continued as a UISG delegate for a number of years, representing Australia, and later Oceania. This responsibility took her back to Rome on a number of occasions but also to Manila (when the Philippines was operating under martial law), and to Mumbai, India, exposing her to the realities of life in developing countries.

Following her years in congregational leadership, Mary continued her ministry in education, mostly in the governance of Catholic schools and the formation of lay teachers. In particular, she led a taskforce which reviewed Catholic education in Western Australia, and served as Executive Officer of the Good Samaritan Education Council, working closely with her congregation’s ten colleges.

“Her influence in our formation and her forward thinking and action enabled Good Samaritan Education to travel new paths,” said Sister Margaret Keane and Mater Christi College Principal Mary Fitz-Gerald at the vigil service.

“Mary took pride in responding to the ‘signs of the times’ yet did so with gentle determination and prayerful purpose… Mary was a prophetic voice, well ahead of her time, outlining new possibilities for governance and lay leadership in education.”

Mary resigned from her role with the Good Samaritan Education Council in 2004 for health reasons, but remained interested in, and connected with, the life of the colleges. Her work with the Council paved the way for Good Samaritan Education, the ecclesial community established in 2011 to oversee the ethos, mission and stewardship of the ten incorporated Good Samaritan Colleges in Australia.

In 2008, Mary received the Australian Catholic University’s highest honour, Doctor of the University (honoris causa), “in recognition of her outstanding contributions to Catholic education in Australia”.

For Sister Michelle Reid, who also spoke at the vigil service, Mary was always focused “on all who knew her”.

“She did this as a wonderful visionary leader of our congregation and as a representative in the wider Church, but she also did it for the ordinary person she met as neighbour wherever she lived. She worked to be inclusive of all, especially those who were marginalised, unknown, or in the background,” said Michelle.

Mary died peacefully in Melbourne during Holy Week on March 22, 2016 and her funeral Mass was celebrated in Sydney during Easter week.

“It does seem to all of us, that in this Easter week when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, it is fitting that we commend Mary to her God; the God in whom she lived and had her being,” said Sister Clare Condon at the funeral Mass.

“She was indeed a true witness to the Gospel and is now more fully in relationship with the person of Jesus.”

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One family’s story of war Mon, 18 Apr 2016 14:10:56 +0000 John Leslie Johnson, Margaret-Mary Flynn's grandfather, served in WWII

John Leslie Johnson, Margaret-Mary Flynn’s grandfather, served in WWII

Love Letters from a War “is my family’s story, the story of my people”, writes Margaret-Mary Flynn. “But it is a story shared with so many Australian families, so many little country towns.”

BY Margaret-Mary Flynn*

The little town of Walwa nestles in a valley carved by the Murray River as it makes its way from the high country to the sea, far away in South Australia. It has a church, a bush nursing home, a general store, a pub, a school, and a memorial hall. These days, cars make light work of the 100 kilometres from Albury-Wodonga, but when my great-grandparents took up their selection in the nineteenth century, it was as far as you could get before the wilderness of the mountains.

The little community was tight-knit. Still is. They knew everyone’s stories, and they kept them. One of the stories is of their boys who marched away to World War II, and who never came back. One of those boys was my grandfather.

He was Johnny Johnson, like his father before him. He was married to Josie, my grandma. They had come back to Walwa to live because the Depression had forced them out of their home in Melbourne, and he could find work as a carpenter in his home district. His six sons and two daughters could grow up in the rich pastures, and under the clear, bright sky of his home town, in and out of their grandparents’ home, a tiny bush cottage with chickens, a house cow, a horse and buggy, and the soft light of lamps and firelight in the evening.

Life for the young family was not easy – my Dad, Johnnie, and my Uncle Alec, the two oldest boys, trapped rabbits for the family pot, and learned from their father to shoot and fish. Grandma could turn her hand to any domestic task, and was a tiger for work. Nothing was wasted, and life, though simple, was rich and peaceful.

But even in that remote valley, the rumbling of faraway guns of war warned of a world on the brink; an unstoppable German army, tyrants bent on world domination, the end of democracy and decency – ordinary little people forced from their homes; even the seas and oceans, theatres of war. My grandfather went to fight, and his life-long mates, Alan Hunt and Pat Joy, went too.

They were a love-story, my grandparents. They adored one another. My grandma taught me a song when I was little: “There’s something about a soldier”. You can hear Cicely Courtneidge singing it on YouTube if you’ve a mind. It’s a jaunty little march, and includes the lines,

“there’s something about his bearing,
there’s something about his wearing
There’s something about his buttons,
how they shine, shine, shine…”

In the pride of his manhood, her tall, laconic bushman marched away with Albury’s Own 2/23rd to Tobruk, and never came home. A sniper’s bullet smashed his spine as he was climbing back into a gun carrier they had taken out under cover of darkness to bring in the wounded. He died in the field hospital amongst the dunes.

She was carrying their last baby, her eighth child. He was 36. His oldest son, my father, was 14. He became the man of the family for his brothers, and especially his sisters.

I look at my grandfather’s photo in uniform. His face is strong and beautiful. He has his mother’s high cheekbones, and high-bridged nose, and his expression is peaceful, enduring, the lips slightly curved – as if he is pleased and pleasantly surprised to see the viewer. He looks like my Uncle Don, and my Uncle Barry – great-hearted men whom, in the end, nothing could surprise or disappoint. The grief of his loss was never far from any of them. They had worshipped their Dad, and their lives were in so many ways a tribute to him, consciously and unconsciously.

After his death, his effects were returned to Grandma. They included a collection of letters. He had kept every one of those that Josie and the kids had written to him, and Josie had kept all of his. She put them all in a calico flour-bag which remained in the chest of drawers for many years. As one of my aunts said, “We knew they were there, but they were too sad to read.” An edited selection featured in a book, Love Letters From A War, written by my uncle, Len Johnson.

The brothers and sisters realised the value of this unique collection, and they were presented to the Australian War Museum as a gift to the people of Australia. In 2002, film-maker Wain Fimeri discovered the collection and approached the family to use the material. It became the movie, Love Letters from a War, which was screened in 2003, to wide acclaim.

It is my family’s story, the story of my people. But it is a story shared with so many Australian families, so many little country towns. Pat and Alan didn’t come home either, and the rent in the fabric of their families is just as present as it is in ours. Memories are long for what might have been.

Recalling the announcement of the end of the war, my Uncle Len wrote in 2002:

“I walked out of school and went home to Mum. The sun shone on flags flying from rooftops, chimneys, gateposts and fences… I turned the corner into Newmarket Street, and looked up at number 23, our house. Mum had pushed a small, tattered paper red ensign into a crack between bricks beside the front door. I could see that she was trying her hardest to celebrate with the rest but I knew it was just a brave display. Other husbands might well be returning, but she would be alone for the remainder of her life… For us the war would never end.”

Lest We Forget.

* Margaret-Mary Flynn is a proud past pupil of Santa Maria College, Northcote in Melbourne. Her background is in education, teaching English, literature, history and religious education. Since 2004 she has been studying and working as a spiritual director at Campion Centre of Ignatian Spirituality, and in her home Diocese of Sandhurst. Margaret-Mary lives in Bendigo with her husband, has three adult children and three grandchildren, and enjoys reading and writing, the domestic arts, yoga and gardening.

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Do protest marches help any more? Mon, 18 Apr 2016 14:10:07 +0000 Natalie Lindner L’Huillier

Natalie Lindner L’Huillier

While some argue that protest marches “don’t… help any more”, Natalie Lindner L’Huillier is not convinced we can throw them away just yet.

BY Natalie Lindner L’Huillier*

Lately I’ve been thinking about the dynamics of public protest and refugee advocacy in Australia. I’m part of a generation whose entire adult life has been marked by successive Federal government actions that have treated people seeking asylum with increasing harshness and cruelty.

In the face of the spiralling injustice, protesting, signing petitions and writing to Federal parliamentarians has felt necessary – a civic duty to voice my rejection of the policies and to act with others who believe we must find a better way. The power of my vote on election day has felt too small and democracy too blunt a tool to cut through the layers of fear and hostility holding sway over public opinion.

So it was with some confusion I read Moira Rayner’s recent article in Eureka Street claiming that change on refugee policy is possible but protest marches “don’t… help any more”. I usually warm to Rayner’s opinion pieces and find her work encouraging. Was I reading right? Did she say protest marches don’t help anymore? At all? Maybe I was mistaken.

But I do think I understood correctly. For Rayner, the change refugee advocates seek is only possible through “deep democracy” which rests in the work of “local activism on local issues and generational organisation from the grassroots up”. In other words, local collectives thinking about and acting for the common good in their context are effective; protest marches are not. Certainly, she is very suspicious of the kind of help Brisbane protesters were able to offer at the Lady Cilento Hospital in February this year. It’s a provocative stance. And she went further: churches can do grassroots for the common good well, so churches should worry less about the marches and grow mature, engaged citizens.

I do find parts of Rayner’s perspective appealing. It reflects a wisdom born of experience in the field. She values local community as a site of human relationship and transformation – a reality so easily overlooked in our globalised world with its tendency to identify power within the halls of centralised structures and institutions. Her perspective takes seriously the capacity which each of us – and our parish communities – have to nurture a healthy democracy and pursue the common good.

In a Catholic imagination, Christian participation in “deep democracy” is nothing if not an expression of the Gospel lived and proclaimed. Our capacity to live a locally engaged solidarity is most definitely an ideal I hold to. But I’m not convinced that we can throw away protest marches just yet.

In comparative terms, I’m but a whippersnapper in the places I connect into my community. Intelligent, competent and faithful folks have been at this “deep democracy” stuff for decades. Indeed, deep democracy is happening. It is perhaps even growing. And few would dispute we need more of it.

To my mind, Rayner’s exhortation to “deep democracy” underestimates the role that protests have in animating “deep democracy” – and vice versa. When it comes to the treatment of refugees, we take to the streets with our painted placards from our many sites of local engagement because the status quo is unacceptable. Despite our long-held efforts to “think globally, act locally”, the plight of those who ask for safe refuge within our nation continues to worsen. Governments are returned, rewarding their cruelty. And our national consciousness seems to slip further into a parochial paradigm in which arguments such as ‘deterrence’ gain credibility and further traction.

Spurred on by the conviction that another national narrative is both possible and necessary, we move from the local and private spaces of conversation and debate to the public sphere – the space where social imaginations are formed and influenced. There we tell our stories and we invite others to imagine differently, too.

I have been drawn more deeply into the divine drama of salvation as it is lived in my faith tradition, and my local community, through public invitations to consider counter narratives as proclaimed by protest speakers. Who could forget, for example, Tim Winton’s Palm Sunday speech in 2015?

And I’m not the only one. Jesuit priest Andrew Hamilton, in his response to Moira Rayner’s article, argues that direct policy changes are not the only, nor the most adequate way of assessing the effectiveness of marches. Marches, he says, are valuable as public rituals; “they are important because they enact a full, vibrant and humane vision of society in the face of a narrow and vicious version”.

The point is, when it comes to the treatment of refugees in Australia, our capacity for “deep democracy” is hamstrung by a social imagination that is deficient and fails in its ability to hold both respect for the human dignity of ‘the boat person’ with the need to protect our borders. Drawing on philosopher Charles Taylor’s language, we need what theology might term a conversion of our Australian social imaginaries in order for our “deep democracy” to be truly effective on refugee rights.

I recall too many conversations with intelligent people who would qualify as being engaged in “deep democracy”; the emphasis of concern is the difficulty of Australia’s circumstance in protecting human life and the need to deter boat arrivals at all costs.

Our admittedly complex circumstances have ceased to be an invitation to persist in the search for compassionate and equitable solutions, and have become instead a justification for the inhumane. And so, we justify detaining vulnerable people under models of border protection that we know cause certain harm. And we continue to do untold violence to all involved – our national consciousness and democracy included.

Perhaps Rayner and I have more in common than I initially thought, when she writes: “I no longer believe that broad marches for huge national issues have any effect on local powerbrokers”.

At this point in our national conversation the change I seek as we march lies in how we Australians imagine ourselves and our world – the way we imagine our humanity, and the humanity of refugees who ask for safety in this place we call home. When we do that, I suspect the local powerbrokers will change, along with our own hearts.

* Natalie Lindner L’Huillier is a Brisbane-based theologian whose areas of special interest are ecumenism, dialogue and the intersection of ecclesiology and ethics. She is a PhD candidate at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin and teaches sessionally at Australian Catholic University.

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Much to admire about Amoris Laetitia Mon, 18 Apr 2016 14:09:56 +0000 Pope Francis (Photo credit © Mazur/

Pope Francis (Photo credit © Mazur/

One of the great achievements of Pope Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, is its emphasis on inculturation and appropriate devolution of decision-making, writes Garry Everett.

BY Garry Everett*

Last night I received a text message from a 30-something close friend of mine. In it she poured out her heart about how her two-year-old “ideal marriage made in heaven, blessed with twin boys aged nine months”, had collapsed. She was at a loss as to what to do, with no income, debts, and two babies to feed, clothe and protect. Her family is one of the many kinds of families that Pope Francis discusses in his latest apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.

There is much to admire about Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). The title is at once subtle and powerful, and contains more significance than first meets the eye. The Pope’s first exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), uses a different word for joy. One of the wonders of the Latin language is its capacity to use a single word in order to signify a major difference. I think the Pope made a deliberate choice not to use “gaudium”, but “laetitia” this time.

In Latin, and my knowledge is fairly rudimentary here, “laetitia” is a feminine form, and “gaudium” a masculine form. The connotation here is that “gaudium” conveys the image of the joy that goes with good news: a new job; the footy team won; lotto paid out.

amoris-laetitiaOn the other hand, “laetitia” connotes a joy that is more felt than described: the joy of nurturance; of intimacy; of love. This “love in the family” that Francis writes about, gathers everyone in: across generations; across genders and sexualities; across economic and ability levels; across cultures. It is a joy in love that Francis regards as touched by “un-merited, unconditional and gratuitous mercy”.

The opening two words of the exhortation then, create for us an expectation that the remaining contents will be conveyed in the language of “contact”. In 2015, when the Pope addressed the newly-installed cardinals, he told them: “The true language of communication is contact, the same endearing language that brought healing to the leper”. This exhortation does not disappoint. It is classic Francis.

There are nine chapters in the exhortation, and each conveys a different emphasis and accounts for a different aspect of family life. In chapter nine, for example, Francis notes that: “no family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need to constantly grow and mature in the ability to love…”

This observation is also true of the family we call Church. While Francis says that human families should strive to achieve the perfection of the union between Christ and his Church, contemporary readers may question this perfection. The Church also needs to grow and mature in love. Its recent lists of imperfections might suggest that the Church needs more “guiding, discerning and integrating” (to use words from the exhortation), than it has displayed these last few decades.

Some commentators have noted that the Pope is grappling more with real aspects of families than the ideal. This should be enormously encouraging for all family members and for those involved in supporting families in any way. For too long the Church has emphasised the ideal, while shying away from addressing the real issues of family life. In this exhortation, Francis readily acknowledges that priestly formation in this matter has been inadequate, as has been the preparation of couples for marriage and family life.

I particularly warmed to Francis’ emphasis on the psychological aspects of formation and preparation – an emphasis rarely exhibited in papal documents, which have tended to accentuate the scriptural, the theological and the sacramental, at the expense of the secular sciences.

Pope Francis is to be commended for the manner in which he addresses the issue of divorce and civil re-marriage. He writes: “Such persons need to feel not as ex-communicated, but instead as living members”. In my experience, such people still feel a kind of excommunication; a sense of being punished for “failing”; a sense of not being fully welcomed in Church. This Pope has, more than many of his predecessors, tried to be attentive to the needs of the people in this category of divorced/re-married. This exhortation opens some doors but it seems there is still a long journey ahead for those who wish for full sacramental life.

There are several other outstanding qualities of this exhortation which will endear it to many Catholics. Firstly, there is the language – plain, homely, full of love and everyday images. This language differentiates this exhortation from most other papal documents. Then there are the images: “family is a trade carried out with tenderness”; marriage is “a dynamic path to personal development and fulfilment”; and again, “a shared and lasting project”.

However, one of the great achievements of Amoris Laetitia is its emphasis on inculturation and appropriate devolution of decision-making. Many Catholics may have wanted the Pope to declare some universal solutions to seemingly intractable problems. In this way, compliance needs would be clear and punishments for offenders could be devised.

Pope Francis has resisted this expectation and instead, invites us on a journey of contact, communication and charity so that together we can strengthen the bonds of marriage and its basis in love. He offers this sage advice:

“At times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our personal activity. We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance.”

If we all could live the essence of this advice, Amoris Laetitia will have achieved more than was ever expected of it.

I wondered whether Francis would have used this concluding saying had he known of it: “It is not what you look at that matters, but what you see”. I think so, because Francis, like Jesus, invites us to “come and see”.

* Garry Everett has spent all his professional life, as well as much of retirement, as an educator, and mostly of adults. Garry’s enduring interests lie in family, Scripture, theology and Church renewal. At a local level he is involved in social justice and ecumenism. He is also a member of his parish St Vincent de Paul Conference.

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How are we investing in the next generation? Mon, 18 Apr 2016 14:08:54 +0000 Clare Condon SGS

Clare Condon SGS

What do we mean when we say the next generation should be better off than the previous one, asks Good Samaritan Sister Clare Condon.

BY Clare Condon SGS*

Often I hear the comment that the next generation should be better off than the previous one. Parents want to leave their children better off than they were.

Usually I find that those advocating this mantra are simply considering material goods and wealth. They are usually the already wealthy or those aspiring to be so – those with a greater share of a nation’s wealth. Interestingly however, there doesn’t appear to be much consideration given to the next generation having a greater sense of well-being, health, peace, or a stronger spirituality and a more intelligent and cultured life.

In economic terms, one of the key indicators of progressive wealth is home ownership. Statistics recently cited in the UK edition of The Guardian indicate that “for those on low to middle incomes the situation has become particularly tough”. “As recently as 1998,” writes Larry Elliott, “more than half of those earning 10-50% of average national income had a mortgage. That figure has now dropped to one in four and will be around one in ten within a decade on current trends. Owner occupation is increasingly the preserve of the elderly and the well off.”

These are UK figures, but the trend is similar here in Australia. What stands out for me is that those who are marginalised in our societies are the ones who will not be better off than their parents. For the most part, they will never be able to afford their own homes.

So is it time to consider what other indicators could more accurately determine future betterment for the next generation if the Australian dream of owning one’s home is not going to be a reality, and increased wealth will not be achieved by those most marginalised?

The findings of a recent study from The Australian Child Wellbeing Project might offer some advice. The study, undertaken by a group of Australian universities and the Australian Council for Educational Research, engaged with some 5,440 young people, aged 8 to 14 years in 180 schools. Their final report, entitled “Are the kids alright?”, notes that “a significant proportion of young people in their middle years have low well-being, and are missing out on opportunities at this crucial time”.

This is manifested in: “High levels of health complaints, experience of bullying, low levels of engagement at school, low levels of subjective well-being and low levels of social support”. Those defined as marginalised were young people with disability, young carers, materially disadvantaged young people, culturally and linguistically diverse young people, Indigenous young people, young people in rural and remote Australia, and young people in out-of-home-care.

These findings indicate the opposite of healthy living, inner peace and intellectual and cultural achievements for this band of young people. What might offer future betterment for them is unclear.

As the report noted: such findings challenge the development of national policies in defining well-being and where resources are to be allocated for the achievement of longitudinal well-being for future generations. A simple economic indicator such as home ownership is inadequate. Our western secular societies require a broader understanding of what constitutes human well-being, fulfilment and happiness.

The project referred to a vague concept of “subjective well-being”. It considered social support networks such as family and friends. To my thinking there was no reference to a healthy spirituality which might contribute to inner contentment and peace at the heart of one’s being.

As the project included Catholic schools in various dioceses, a further study might be undertaken to determine whether a spiritual focus and formation within a school environment counteracts any of the disadvantages identified and experienced by children who are marginalised.

Do Christian schools have any impact on the future well-being of those young people in their care by integrating faith, life and culture, which is a stated aim of Catholic education? What are the well-being outcomes for students who are marginalised, and what impact does it have for their future well-being?

These are serious questions for Christian educational institutions to grapple with if they are to be true to their Gospel call.

* Sister Clare Condon is the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict.

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Boulevard environmental project off to strong start Mon, 18 Apr 2016 14:08:11 +0000 CLICK ON THIS IMAGE TO VIEW A PHOTO GALLERY


“Clean-up Boulevard”, a community-based environmental project initiated by the Good Samaritan Sisters in the Philippines, was officially launched last month with a community clean-up day at Boulevard involving some 400 volunteers, 50 of whom were children from the area.

The project has been initiated to address the increasing levels of garbage and pollution at Boulevard, a poor coastal community on the outskirts of Bacolod City.

According to Sister Grace Marcelo, Coordinator of the Good Samaritan Outreach Centre in Bacolod, because Boulevard has never had a regular garbage collection, the coastline has become a dumping site for rubbish.

“That’s been happening for years and years,” she said.

But not for much longer; the “Clean-up Boulevard” project aims to put an end to that practice.

Grace said the project has a two-pronged approach: mobilising the community to participate in monthly clean-up days; and implementing awareness-raising and education activities in the community about proper disposal of garbage and care for the environment.

Some 400 volunteers, 50 of whom were children from the area, participated in the community clean-up day

Some 400 volunteers, 50 of whom were children from the area, participated in the community clean-up day

“I am very happy and overwhelmed with the outcome of the launch,” said Grace.

“When we started planning, I was just thinking of 50 volunteers each month. I never thought that we could gather 300, not counting the children and residents that helped us. For April we already have 110 volunteers on our list.”

The launch, which was held on March 20 (Palm Sunday), began with Mass. “We had a lovely procession from Boulevard Chapel to the basketball court,” said Grace. “Residents and volunteers joined in.”

Then the labour intensive work of removing rubbish from the area began. By day’s end, 400 large garbage bags of rubbish were collected and transported by truck to a dump site.

“One of the positive results of the launch is that we are now having a rubbish collection in the area five days a week,” said Grace.

This regular collection service happened as a result of Grace’s advocacy work with a privately-owned company that has a contract with the government to collect rubbish in the city.

“I met them during one of my visits to the Department of Public Service, requesting a dump truck for the launch,” she explained.

"Because Boulevard has never had a regular garbage collection, the coastline has become a dumping site for rubbish"

“Because Boulevard has never had a regular garbage collection, the coastline has become a dumping site for rubbish”

“After the launch I went back to their office requesting a regular schedule which, to my surprise, they agreed to. Families are happy about this.”

Grace said most of the Boulevard residents are “very happy and grateful” for the clean-up.

“They believe that this will help them restore the cleanliness of their surroundings, particularly the coast. They are thankful to all the volunteers who joined in the cleaning up of Boulevard. But of course there are a few who think otherwise; they think that there is no point in doing it.”

Grace acknowledges that the work of changing people’s rubbish disposal habits is an ongoing process.

“We are now advocating for a rubbish container to be placed at the entrance of Boulevard. At the moment people are putting their rubbish on the side of the entrance,” she said.

A significant challenge that Grace and the team at the Good Samaritan Outreach Centre continue to face is getting local government authorities to support and work with them.

“We really have to do extra work meeting and dialoguing with them,” she said.

In the meantime, the team is moving ahead with preparations for next month’s clean-up day at Boulevard, which will include an extra dimension.

By day’s end, 400 large garbage bags of rubbish were collected and transported by truck to a dump site

By day’s end, 400 large garbage bags of rubbish were collected and transported by truck to a dump site

“This April 30, together with the clean-up, we will be distributing potted plants to children. This is to launch our ‘Adopt-A-Plant’ project, wherein each child will receive a plant to look after,” she explained.

To begin with, about 60 children at Boulevard, aged 9 to 11, will receive a potted plant which will be placed in the community’s gathering area.

“We do this to beautify the surroundings of the gathering area and to teach about the value of plants and how to care for them,” said Grace.

“We also hope that this inspires residents to grow plants in their front yards, even if space is limited.”

In the coming months, the team hope to introduce the concept of urban gardening to the people of Boulevard “to help them realise that it is possible to plant in a small space”.

“This is only the beginning; we’ve got a long, long road ahead of us,” said Grace, “…but we will continue and persevere.”

Grace is grateful to all who have supported the project – in the Philippines, Australia and elsewhere.

“Please continue to support us and pray for us, that we may continue the good work that God started in us,” she said.

View a photo gallery of the launch of “Clean-up Boulevard”

If you’d like to support the “Clean-up Boulevard” Project and the work of the Good Samaritan Outreach Centre in the Philippines, please contact the Good Sams Foundation by Phone: (02) 8752 5300, Email: or online.

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Elaine Walley: first Aboriginal Good Samaritan Oblate Mon, 18 Apr 2016 14:01:42 +0000 Sister Clare Condon (left) formally receives the new oblates: Bev Agar, Kathy Beeck, Jan Gorza and Elaine Walley

Sister Clare Condon (left) formally receives the new oblates: Bev Agar, Kathy Beeck, Jan Gorza and Elaine Walley

Elaine Walley, a Yamatji Elder from the Western Australian community of Three Springs near Geraldton, is the first Aboriginal woman to become a Good Samaritan Oblate.

During a ceremony in Perth last month, Elaine and three other WA women – Bev Agar, Kathy Beeck and Jan Gorza – formalised their commitment as Good Samaritan Oblates. In doing so, they made a public commitment to deepen their spiritual lives in the Good Samaritan Benedictine tradition and are now part of the almost 70-strong group of Good Samaritan Oblates across Australia.

“I know it’s a big thing and I’m very privileged that it’s me that has done it, Elaine told The Good Oil.

“I just hope some of the other Aboriginal people, whether they be in West Australia or over in the east, take up this course as well.”

Elaine first encountered the Good Samaritan Sisters about eight years ago when she met Sister Anna Warlow at the House of Welcome, a community outreach initiative in Three Springs, which provides care and support for Indigenous, rural and mining families.

Good Samaritan Sisters and Oblates at the WA ceremony

Good Samaritan Sisters and Oblates at the WA ceremony

Since then, Elaine has become a member of the Good Samaritan Rural Outreach Team. Together with Anna and fellow oblate, Kathy Beeck, the team provides support for the liturgical life of small, isolated communities in the wheatbelt of mid-western WA, as well as offering retreats and gatherings, especially for women.

Elaine agrees that being a Good Sam Oblate complements her work with the Good Sam Rural Outreach Team.

“I really enjoy doing this with the Good Sams and I find peace by doing it,” she said.

Bev Agar, who recently retired with her husband to the WA coastal community of Dongara, having lived most of her life inland at Morawa (near Three Springs), has also come to the Good Sam oblate movement through a connection with Anna. The two met about 11 years ago in the early years of Anna’s ministry supporting remote parishes, like Morawa, without resident priests.

“She was great value for us, explaining the Gospels to us, and really opened our minds up,” said Bev.

“From there she introduced us to lectio divina – and that’s where my faith journey really took off on a much deeper level. The Gospels really started to speak to me in a deeper way and my spiritual life escalated from there.”

For Bev, discovering the Rule of St Benedict has been “awesome”. “When I started to read the Rule, I was just so absorbed by it; I couldn’t get enough of it. And you know, you’re supposed to slow yourself down and just read bit by bit – well I was going full bore ahead,” she laughed.

Bev said her faith journey has been “quite a lonely one”, but now she’s an oblate, she no longer feels that’s the case.

“I’ve got people on the same path who are accepting of me and my faith, and that’s pretty important as you’re getting older,” she said.

Both Bev and Elaine described last month’s oblate ceremony as a “beautiful” service. Among those gathered were family and friends of Bev, Elaine, Jan and Kathy, Good Samaritan Sisters, including Congregational Leader Sister Clare Condon, and a group of Good Sam Oblates who travelled from other parts of Australia.

“I felt so humbled that those other oblates from the eastern states came over for the evening,” said Bev. “We knew a couple were coming but I didn’t expect there to be quite as many as there was.”

Sister Anna Warlow is delighted about the recent celebration and the development of the oblate movement in WA, describing it as one of the best weeks she’s had during her 13 years of ministry in WA.

“I think it’s been great. I’d say it’s been happening over about 11 years. I think that the strength of it is that I’ve been meeting with these people in their little towns in different ways over the years, and then those who have been looking for something deeper and really seeking to strengthen their own faith life, have gravitated towards this,” she explained.

“Because I use our Good Sam history, our Good Sam way of life and the Rule of Benedict often in our programs, they’re struck by it, that’s what has encouraged them.”

Anna is moved by “the sincerity and the depth of the faith” of the women and the strength of their commitment – something she believes other women are drawn to.

For Anna, the oblate movement in WA is growing in a way that she would never have thought possible.

“It’s something that is just flowering absolutely beautifully,” she said.

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Sister Mary Ronayne (1927 – 2016) Wed, 30 Mar 2016 01:17:27 +0000 Mary Ronayne SGS

Mary Ronayne SGS

Mary Josephine Ronayne was born in Kingaroy on June 29, 1927 to Martin and Norah (née Cullins) Ronayne. Mary was the second child and only girl in a family of three. Growing up in an Irish Catholic family, she learnt early in life the value of her faith and she experienced the openness and generosity of her parents shown to the neighbours in the district.

Mary was educated by the Good Samaritan Sisters at St Mary’s School, Kingaroy and later completed her secondary education as a boarder at Lourdes Hill College in Brisbane gaining her Senior Certificate at the end of 1944.

After leaving school, Mary applied for admission to the Good Samaritan Novitiate at Pennant Hills and on July 2, 1945 she began a new phase in her life and was given the name Sister Mary de Lourdes, but later reverted to her baptismal name, Mary.

On January 6, 1948 Mary made her profession of vows and moved to St Scholastica’s Training College gaining her Certificate of Teaching at the end of that year. This enabled her to begin a ministry of secondary teaching in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.

In 1963 Mary was elected as a Councillor to the Superior-General and moved to Glebe Point, Sydney. As well as undertaking the role of Councillor she was also appointed Principal of St Scholastica’s College where she continued until elected Superior General of the Congregation in September 1969. Mary was re-elected in 1975 and carried out this office for a further six years.

Mary lived at Rozelle and South Hurstville for the next six years while continuing as Executive Secretary for the New South Wales Conference of Women Major Superiors. She then accepted a position in the Catholic Education Office in Perth where she remained until May 1997. North Balwyn became Mary’s home for the next 16 years before she retired to Marian House in 2013.

The citation for conferring on Sister Mary Ronayne the degree of Doctor of the (Australian Catholic) University, Honoris Causa, detailed her various achievements and responsibilities, referring to her “long and influential life… as a leader with unwavering conviction and foresight”.

As noted in that citation, one of Mary’s significant contributions has been to women’s religious orders, not just to her own Good Samaritan congregation. The citation goes on to say that:

“In the nineteen seventies, Mary began her leadership of women religious in this country and overseas. She has been the national secretary and later the national president of the Conference of Women Major Superiors. At the same time, she was a Councillor for the Oceania conference of the International Union of Major Superiors. She has represented Australian women religious at international meetings of religious – in Manila, Bombay and Rome.”

Mary envisaged a way forward for our Good Samaritan Colleges through a well planned process of incorporation as companies limited by guarantee. She did this through consultation and respect for the readiness of each college to embark on this journey. In the work of the Education Council, Mary was always able to hold the balance between having a vision and plan for the future and attending to the detail of current business. She set a clear direction which has resulted in Good Samaritan Education.

Good Samaritan Sisters and religious of Australia owe a tremendous debt to the dedication and leadership of Mary over many years. It would indeed be difficult to gauge the extent of Mary’s influence in the lives and work of the many who were among her contacts during the 89 years of her long life.

Apart from her immediate family, these contacts have included students, teaching and administrative colleagues, members of the Church hierarchy, members of various boards, leaders of religious congregations. No less significant for being less obvious, were those who, for whatever reason, sought the wisdom, support and kindness of one who could recognize and respond to the need in another.

Mary died peacefully on March 22, 2016. She is remembered with love and gratitude by all her Good Samaritan Sisters.

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