The Sisters of The Good Samaritan Tue, 28 Jun 2016 04:22:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Iran experience “an opportunity of a lifetime” Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:25:38 +0000 Lorraine Victorsen SGS Photo: International Institute for Islamic Studies, Qom

Lorraine Victorsen SGS
Photo: International Institute for Islamic Studies, Qom

Many women might feel a little daunted by the prospect of travelling solo to Iran to participate in an international, inter-religious dialogue among mostly male Muslim scholars and Benedictine monks; but not so for Brisbane Good Samaritan Sister Lorraine Victorsen.

For many years Lorraine has remained steadfastly committed to learning about and engaging in inter-religious dialogue. So when an email arrived in her inbox “out of the blue”, suggesting she consider participating in a Benedictine-Shi’a Muslim dialogue in the Iranian city of Qom, the largest centre for Shi’a scholarship in the world, it was a “gift” she couldn’t refuse.

“I considered this an opportunity of a lifetime to learn more about Islam from a Shi’a perspective, to really experience dialogue in a totally different environment where I was not part of the dominant culture,” explained Lorraine.

She also felt it would be “a great privilege” to be part of “such a vital, contemporary Benedictine project”.

Lorraine travelled to Iran last month to participate in the seventh Benedictine-Shi’a Muslim Conference – and the experience did not disappoint her.

Speaking to The Good Oil earlier this month, Lorraine said it was “an amazing opportunity”, “extraordinarily beneficial” and “very enriching”.

“It was also intellectually very challenging because the other participants were scholars and international leaders in inter-religious dialogue,” she said.

In the true spirit of inter-religious dialogue, Lorraine said she returned with a stronger appreciation of her Catholic tradition, and greater reverence and respect for Shi’a Muslims.

Photo: International Institute for Islamic Studies, Qom

Photo: International Institute for Islamic Studies, Qom

“Hopefully, I’m also a better human being, having experienced such amazing hospitality, respect, friendship, acceptance as ‘the stranger’ – all qualities we aspire to as Good Samaritans who follow the Rule of Benedict,” she said.

“The experience of being with this monastic group gave me greater appreciation of our Benedictine heritage. I thank God that the Benedictines took the initiative to engage in this particular dialogue.”

The only female Benedictine in the group, Lorraine was also the only Australian. Other nations represented among the seven Benedictines, were France, Germany, Kenya, the UK and the USA. And while the Iranian members of the group were mostly men, there were also women participants, some of whom were theological students.

During the six-day gathering, Shi’a and Benedictine scholars, drawing on their respective sacred texts, delivered a series of lectures that explored the theme “The Dignity of Being Human”. Discussions in small groups afterwards, according to Lorraine, were honest, respectful and fruitful, and the participants – Lorraine included – didn’t avoid difficult issues.

“If we’re talking about human dignity and people’s human rights, we must deal with some of these difficult issues,” said Lorraine.

Religious and spiritual issues discussed included the place of prayer in daily life, spirituality, mysticism and pilgrimage, while broader societal issues included human trafficking, freedom of religion, honour killing and capital punishment.

Lorraine said on most topics there was agreement, but not surprisingly, there were also differences of opinion at times.

“Everybody was happy that we agree on some things, we are similar in some areas, and there are some things we will probably never agree on, but we are still able to respect each other’s position,” she said.

Photo: International Institute for Islamic Studies, Qom

Photo: International Institute for Islamic Studies, Qom

While in Qom, the group visited important national sites, museums, shrines and some of the 300-plus educational institutes that comprise the Qom Seminary.

After three days in Qom, the group then travelled to the pilgrim city of Mashhad, about 1,000 kilometres north-east of Tehran, to visit the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza, the largest shrine and mosque in the world.

It was here that Lorraine experienced a “really magic moment” that has remained with her strongly.

“We were leaving the mosque area when the call to prayer was announced – and naturally, all Muslims in the area prepared to pray, including our host Mohammod and his wife. We Benedictines also turned towards Mecca and just stood in prayer,” said Lorraine.

As she prayed Lorraine thought, “We’re all praying in the way we know. We’re not praying in the same way, but we’re praying together”. For her, this experience exemplified what inter-religious relations are all about.

Generally held every two years, the Benedictine-Shi’a Muslim gatherings began in England in 2003 as Christian-Shi’a Muslim dialogues under the leadership of Benedictine Abbot Timothy Wright of Ampleforth Abbey in England and Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali, Director of the International Institute for Islamic Studies in Qom and the Head of the Islamic Centre of England.

From 2011 the gatherings became specifically Benedictine-Shi’a dialogues and have been held in Rome (2011), Qom and Isfahan (2012), and Assisi and Rome (2014). The next gathering is planned for 2017 at the monastery of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing in Nairobi, Kenya.

“They’ve worked together to develop a wonderful relationship,” said Lorraine. “This is really a very successful inter-religious initiative.”

A short video filmed during the group’s visit to the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza, Mashhad, which includes interviews with Sister Lorraine Victorsen SGS and Abbot Timothy Wright OSB, can be viewed here.

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Celebrating 25 “Spirit-driven” years in Kiribati Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:20:12 +0000 Sisters Clare Condon and Ameria Etuare during the Mass of Thanksgiving

Sisters Clare Condon and Ameria Etuare during the Mass of Thanksgiving

The Sisters of the Good Samaritan marked 25 years of presence and ministry in Kiribati recently, with a joy-filled Mass and traditional community celebration, a Botaki, at South Tarawa in the tiny Pacific island nation.

The celebration was a time of thanksgiving, both for the Kiribati community who have welcomed the Sisters into their lives, and for the Congregation itself, which has embraced its mission in Kiribati, and, according to Congregational Leader, Sister Clare Condon, been greatly enriched by it.

From small beginnings, with the arrival of just one sister, Veronica McCluskie, in 1991, there are today two communities of Good Samaritan Sisters, engaged in a variety of educational, pastoral and community development ministries in Kiribati. These include running the Good Samaritan Early Childhood Learning Centre, teaching English at the local primary school, offering pastoral care to patients at the psychiatric hospital and those in prison, and supporting people with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Religious vocations from Kiribati have also been rich over the 25 years. There are currently six professed i-Kiribati sisters, three novices studying in Australia, and a number of inquirers who are exploring their interest in Good Samaritan life.

The Mass of Thanksgiving in South Tarawa was celebrated by Bishop Paul Mea MSC, the same bishop who originally invited the Good Samaritan Sisters to take up ministry in Kiribati to help with the educational and pastoral needs of the people of his diocese.

After preaching on the parable of the Good Samaritan, Bishop Mea said “our love for God is truly evident when we show our love towards others”.

“And so it’s today that we celebrate and commemorate the 25th anniversary of the arrival of the Good Samaritans to Kiribati,” he said.

“They have demonstrated that the primary purpose of their congregation is to love God with all their hearts and to love people from all walks of life.”

Kiribati community of Good Sams deliver the prayers of the faithful

Kiribati community of Good Sams deliver the prayers of the faithful

Among the contingent of Good Sams who travelled to Kiribati was Sister Sonia Wagner, whose association with Kiribati goes back even before 1991.

Sonia was asked by the Congregational Leader, Sister Helen Lombard, to travel to Kiribati in 1989 to assess the feasibility of the Good Sams responding to Bishop Mea’s repeated requests to establish a presence there.

“It was an amazing experience,” she recalled, “landing on this coral atoll in the middle of the Pacific and meeting all these wonderful people.”

Sonia said her first impressions of Kiribati were of “the simplicity, the uncluttered lifestyle, the great faith of the people, but also the precariousness of life there, with soil which was not fertile and little useable water”.

“I met a range of wonderful people during my stay, all of whom said, ‘do come!’ and I came away having formed the view that it would indeed be wonderful if we could go there.”

The Congregation’s leadership agreed with Sonia’s assessment and, after answering a call for volunteers to take up the ministry, Sister Veronica McCluskie arrived and began working at the Kiribati Pastoral Institute.

Sonia said the 25th anniversary celebrations in Kiribati were a joyful, but emotional time.

“It was a time that gave me a real sense of the way that God has guided us and called us and also that there was a great sense of partnership in this,” she said.

Visiting Australian Good Sams cut the cakes

Visiting Australian Good Sams cut the cakes

“There were so many people there who have been connected with us over the years, like a big family. It was a very brave move by the Congregation to go to Kiribati, perhaps even foolish in lots of ways, but being there for that celebration and seeing how it’s grown and developed with the local community, you can see that it’s been Spirit-driven.”

Sonia said that as a result of the Good Sams being in Kiribati, other people have also shared their gifts with the island nation. For example, in July, 14 teachers from Catholic Education in the Diocese of Port Pirie will travel the 7,000 kilometres to Kiribati to share their knowledge and experience and also to learn from the local people.

“It’s a commitment which will extend over a few years between the Diocese of Port Pirie and Kiribati, and it’s a mutual learning situation,” she said.

Sister Ameria Etuare, who was the first i-Kiribati woman to become a professed Sister of the Good Samaritan, says the anniversary celebration was an important occasion.

“For me, it signifies the great achievement of all the Sisters who have been working hard [in Kiribati] from the start until now,” she said.

“It has been a great journey for us local sisters travelling through the ups and downs, through the curving corners and the straight line pathway.”

Ameria said the local people give thanks for the life and joy the Good Sams have brought to their community and says the anniversary is also a time to look forward.

Traditional dancing during the Botaki

Traditional dancing during the Botaki

“It is really significant for me, as we are moving to a new stage of our life, from the nurturing stage to the producing stage, where we are able to stand on our own two feet, taking on responsibilities and leadership within the Kiribati context.”

Sister Clare Condon told the anniversary gathering that the Congregation’s presence in Kiribati has enriched it.

“As an Australian-founded religious congregation, we are now different because of our experience of the people of Kiribati,” she said.

“We have learnt much from you. We have experienced your family life and community, your faith and your care for one another, and your care for your island home and the precious fragility of this atoll environment.

“Today we give humble thanksgiving and ask God to bless us all, so that in the spirit of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we can together love our neighbour and go and do likewise in the future.”

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One vote is all we have Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:00:51 +0000 With the Federal election looming in Australia, Good Samaritan Sister Marie Casamento offers us all – but particularly politicians, candidates and voters – a prayerful poem to ponder.

BY Marie Casamento SGS*

we know you are
a man of impartiality.”
Impartiality –
so simple,
so clear,
so profound.
No slogans.
No promises unkept.
No platitudes.

“Render to Caesar.”
To whom?
To Caesar.
Who are the Caesars today?
And what do they want in return?
The overseas multinationals
building empty apartments in the air?
The mining giants raping the earth
and destroying the ecosystems?
The upper echelons
of the wealthy,
whose taxes are tabulated
at a minimum?
“And the widow
a few small coins
into the bowl.”

A mother tries to pacify
three young children
in a crowded
emergency room.
Whatever became of Medicare?

The waves engulfed
the shore,
swallowing the houses
built on sand,
while the reef,
as if embarrassed by the greed,
the complacency,
turned even whiter.

Flights criss-crossing the continent,
buzzing frantic bees
looking to harvest one more vote,
carrying desperate Caesars
of all persuasions.
Women in helicopters fade
from memory
as these Caesars
fight for our votes
at our cost!

By 2010
no child
will live in poverty!
Indigenous and refugee children
imprisoned by Caesars’ partiality
wait upon their will.

We have
but one vote,
one talent.
Will we
use it wisely?

I wonder?
We have but one vote.
Will we use it wisely?
For this we pray.

* Marie Casamento is a Good Samaritan Sister who works as an art psychotherapist.

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It’s time to draw the line: justice in the Timor Sea Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:00:50 +0000 Susan Connelly RSJ

Susan Connelly RSJ

It is amazing that Australian tax-payers’ money is being used to fight a small neighbour over where the fence-line should be. And it’s a bit of a laugh that with all the talk about “border protection”, there isn’t a border between Australia and Timor, says Josephite Sister Susan Connelly.

BY Susan Connelly RSJ*

If you own a home, you know how important the fence-line is. Even if there’s no actual fence, neighbours are better off knowing where the line is, so that there is no dispute about who owns what.

It’s puzzling to find that there is no boundary, no fence-line, between Australia and East Timor (Timor-Leste). No boundary! Who’s supposed to know who owns the oil and the gas under the sea?

The saga of how this unfortunate situation came about is not a pretty one. And up until now, both major political parties have had similar policies concerning it.

So many Australians are generous friends to the Timorese people, and it’s not hard to understand why. In World War II, the Timorese were the great friends of the 700 Australian soldiers who were there. Our men wouldn’t have stood a chance against the thousands of Japanese military if it wasn’t for the Timorese.

Australia agreed on a boundary in the Timor Sea with Indonesia in 1972. Timor was then under the control of Portugal which would have nothing to do with the setting of boundaries. So there was no border between Australia and Timor. The part where it should have been was left blank, and became known as the “Timor Gap”.

Source: Maritime Boundary Office, Timor-Leste Click on image to see larger version

Source: Maritime Boundary Office, Timor-Leste
Click on image to see larger version

When Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, Australia did not help the Timorese. Our leaders had already decided that it was best for Timor to be under the control of Indonesia. In that way, they said, it would be easier for Australia to cut deals about the oil and gas in the Timor Sea. And so it was. In 1989, Indonesia and Australia signed the “Timor Gap Treaty”, which concerned the area of the Timor Sea down to half-way between Australia and Timor. We agreed with Indonesia to split the oil and gas resources of this area 50/50.

In 1999 Australia went in to help after the Timorese had bravely voted to be free of Indonesia. The “Timor Gap Treaty” was re-negotiated with the new nation of Timor-Leste as the “Timor Sea Treaty”. Australia got 10 per cent and Timor got 90 per cent. We were told this was “generous”, but it doesn’t seem too generous when you realise that the whole lot is all on Timor’s side of the half-way line.

Unfortunately, just before this Treaty was signed, Australia quietly withdrew from the two international bodies which oversee boundary disputes. The whole process was left without an umpire.

In 2006, Timor-Leste then signed a Treaty with Australia over the resources of a rich field named “Greater Sunrise”, which again, is all on Timor’s side of the Timor Sea. The agreement was that Timor could have 50 per cent of the revenue, and Australia 50 per cent, on condition that Timor did not even mention the boundary, the fence-line, for 50 years, until 2056.

But Australia had bugged the Timorese government offices before the negotiations, so that listening in, Australia had access to private and important information about how the Timorese would conduct the talks and on what they would agree. The bugging operation was carried out by Australian agencies using aid money sent to help the Timorese after the destruction of 1999.

A Treaty agreed on in such circumstances is very suspect indeed, and the Timorese believe that Australia did not act in good faith, as do many Australians. So the Timorese are saying they want the boundary agreed on now, not in 50 years time. And they want it agreed in a fair and transparent manner, so that each side can know with certainty which resources are theirs and which belong to their neighbour.

In 2016 the Timorese Prime Minister formally asked the Australian Prime Minister for discussions to begin on the matter. Unfortunately, the Australian government has declined this request.

Therefore, the Timorese government has introduced a United Nations “compulsory conciliation” process. This means that five commissioners are appointed to consider the matter for 12 months. Regrettably, Australia has indicated that it will try to stop the commission from proceeding by arguing that it doesn’t have jurisdiction. This process is an embarrassment for Australians. It is the first time any nation has taken another nation through this process over sea boundaries.

If no agreement is reached, the commissioners will provide a report and recommendations to the United Nations Secretary-General and the Australian government will be required to negotiate in good faith on the basis of that report.

To avoid this protracted and expensive process, Australia could agree at any time to commence negotiations with Timor-Leste on maritime boundaries. The Labor Party changed its policy last year, and now agrees that such negotiations should take place.

It is amazing that Australian tax-payers’ money is being used to fight a small neighbour over where the fence-line should be. And it’s a bit of a laugh that with all the talk about “border protection”, there isn’t a border between Australia and Timor! That’s all that’s needed – a fair border.

This is about justice, not charity. The Timorese aren’t asking for handouts. They just want to decide on a border, for stability and security. And Australians have the same right.

Where’s the border? It’s time to DRAW THE LINE.

For more information check out the Timor Sea Forum, the Timor Sea Justice Campaign and the Maritime Boundaries Office Timor-Leste.

* Susan Connelly is a Sister of St Joseph and has taught in Catholic and State schools. She has worked with the people of East Timor and is particularly concerned about the injustices suffered by the West Papuan people, and with Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.

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Do we need women deacons? Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:00:41 +0000 Mary McDonald SGS

Mary McDonald SGS

Why ordain women as deacons to stand forever on the first rung of the hierarchical clerical ladder, asks Good Samaritan Sister Mary McDonald.

BY Mary McDonald SGS*

At a recent meeting in Rome of almost 1,000 leaders of the world’s congregations of women religious, Pope Francis was asked if he would consider establishing an official commission to study the question of women deacons in the Church. His response, as reported by the National Catholic Reporter, was: “I believe yes. It would do good for the Church to clarify this point. I am in agreement. I will speak to do something like this”.

To what purpose, I asked? Women are already carrying out the key functions of the service diaconate, which are ministries of the liturgy, the word and charity. The exercise of these gifts is already evident in our parish communities, more so in remote and rural parishes that rarely have a priest in residence.

And anyway, why ordain women to stand forever on the first rung of the hierarchical clerical ladder: deacon, priest, monsignor, bishop, archbishop, cardinal, pope? They will never put foot on the next rung.

The key issue for me in this conversation is the exclusion of women from authority, decision-making and power (in the best sense of the word) in the Church. Yes, women can exercise authority through their expertise, usually in the disciplines of theology and scripture, but they are given no real access to decision-making in the Church. Currently this resides exclusively in the ordained male priesthood.

In 1988, I was invited, as president of Women and the Australian Church (WATAC), along with Mercy Sister Elaine Wainwright, a scripture scholar, to give a paper to the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. In that paper I said: “Within the Church, there is need for structural change. The question of ordination is central. In the Catholic Church, authority and power reside within the priesthood which is hierarchical… If women were admitted to the ministerial priesthood they would have equal access to both power and authority”.

In conversation after delivering the paper, one of the bishops said to me, “I would prefer that you omitted the reference to power and authority before you print the papers”. I replied: “With respect bishop, I cannot do that because what I said is central to the issue of the ordination of women in the Catholic Church”. Almost 30 years later my view hasn’t changed.

The discussion and debates on the ordination of women came to a definitive end with the promulgation of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, “On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone”. The reason offered was that the Church cannot reverse Jesus’ decision to choose male apostles, the predecessors to priests and bishops. Sacramental power and juridical authority come with priestly ordination and episcopal consecration. Barred from these roles, women can cooperate with, but not share, authority.

Of course there could be a hypothetical exception – women cardinals, who might get access to some power in high-level decision-making in the Church. While we associate cardinals with ordination, their appointment has not always been connected with priestly or episcopal ordination. In the Church’s history non-ordained men and women have been named as cardinals. According to the Italian newspaper, La Stampa, Teodolfo Mertel, who died in 1899, was “the last cardinal who was not ordained a priest”.

Writing almost 25 years ago in the July 1992 edition of US Catholic, Greg Pierce presented what seems to me an enlightened way forward for the appointment of women cardinals. He said: “To show the Church’s commitment to the equality of men and women and to prove that his reluctance to ordain women has nothing to do with the question of power in the Church, the Pope [Pope John Paul II] could announce that he will name only women as cardinals of the Church until their number in the college of cardinals equals 50 per cent of its membership”.

In 2013, the Vatican’s spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that women becoming cardinals was “theologically and theoretically” possible. But in the same interview, in response to speculation at the time that Pope Francis was about to appoint some women cardinals, he said the idea “was nonsense”. To clarify the situation, Pope Francis, himself, ruled out the idea when he said: “I don’t know where this idea sprang from. Women in the Church must be valued not ‘clericalised’. Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism”.

Speaking to media recently in response to the Pope’s comments about introducing a commission to study the question of women deacons, Lombardi was quick to caution that Pope Francis “did not say he intends to introduce a diaconal ordination for women”. He added, it “is a question that has been discussed much, including in the past”. In other words, don’t get your expectations up.

So if the hope of women becoming cardinals is slim, so is the hope of expecting the inclusion of women to the ordained diaconate. Both seem highly unlikely.

Catholic scholar Phyllis Zagano seems to think so too. Writing in The Tablet last month in response to Pope Francis’ comments about studying the question of women deacons, she said: “He said celebration of the Eucharist and preaching during Mass are restricted to the priest, who is acting ‘in persona Christi’. If, by extension, no woman can act ‘in persona Christi’ then he would have to determine that no woman can be ordained deacon”.

So my question remains: Why do we need women deacons? To me the answer is self-evident. We don’t. What is more, women will probably not be allowed!

* Good Samaritan Sister Mary McDonald has had a long involvement in and commitment to education, the environment and social justice issues. She holds degrees in arts, education, environmental education and theology. Mary lives in Brisbane where amongst other things, she gardens, plays croquet and tutors at TAFE in ESL (English as a Second Language).

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Laudato Si’ continues to inspire Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:00:39 +0000 Tess Corkish "walking the talk"

Tess Corkish “walking the talk”

It’s a year since Pope Francis’ ground-breaking encyclical Laudato Si was released. Catholic Earthcare Australia’s Tess Corkish outlines the impact of the Pope’s eco-manifesto, particularly here in Australia.

BY Tess Corkish*

The year 2015 marked a turning point in the global response to climate change. It was a year when Pope Francis wrote extensively about the need for Catholics – and all people of good will – to respond to the ecological crisis. It was also the year the UN Climate Change Conference was held in Paris, the twenty-first such meeting since 1992.

In 2015 the conversation about climate change shifted from a target of 2 degrees Celsius global warming to 1.5 – a target which will better protect the world’s most vulnerable. Pope Francis’ ground-breaking encyclical Laudato Si’ has inspired millions of Catholics all over the world to better respond to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. In Australia, the conversation has even seen a shift towards a compassionate response.

Whilst we in Australia have seen minimal responses from our politicians, and even deliberate obstruction on the part of some of them, average citizens and organisations are heeding Pope Francis’ call. Catholic Earthcare Australia has been inundated with invitations and requests for support, with hundreds of schools, parishes and Catholic organisations exploring ways to bring Laudato Si’ into their lives.

In my role as Youth Engagement Officer, I have personally engaged with over 4,000 students across Australia, with more requests coming in every week. Recently I had the pleasure to visit four schools in the Diocese of Sale and was delighted to see the way that teachers and students had embraced the message and the call in Laudato Si’. They, like so many others I’ve met, spoke about their love for creation and their desire to protect it. It’s been fantastic to see how children and young people are making connections between the world around them and their faith.

Since the release of Laudato Si’ I’ve also witnessed a strong thirst for knowledge and support to act on climate change from all parts of society. While participating in a non-violent direct action training session with the refugee support group “Love Makes a Way”, I met a woman from Catholic Social Services Australia who then came to Catholic Earthcare Australia for support in preparing their organisational response to Laudato Si’. I also met an Anglican minister who was subsequently arrested with my mother while blocking coal trains in and out of Newcastle last month.

Laudato Si’ has not just called Catholics to respond to the ecological crisis; it has been a call to every living person on the planet. Inspired by Pope Francis’ leadership, friends I made during the Emerging Leaders Multifaith Climate Convergence in Rome last year went on to develop climate declarations from their own faith traditions, including the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change and the Hindu Declaration on Climate Change.

Undoubtedly, Pope Francis’ clear moral voice on the ecological crisis has affected the global response. While most civil society groups went into the Paris climate talks in December hoping that world leaders would not step back from the limit of 2 degrees of warming, most had not dared to hope that we would seek to limit it further.

Pope Francis’ call to defend creation and each other has resonated in even the hardest of hearts, helping to create a climate agreement designed to protect those living on low-lying islands, as well as my generation and generations to come. Anecdotally, I have heard that Australia was instrumental in lobbying for this change to a limit of 1.5 degrees, surprising many. While Australia’s target is much lower than is necessary to keep to this limit, the fact that this limit has been created is a testament to the importance of love and compassion in the conversation.

Since the release of Laudato Si’, Catholic Earthcare Australia has been at the heart of the Australian response. We have been involved in planting seeds and are eager to see them grow over time. We’ve held formation programs for adults in 23 diocese across Australia, inspiring and encouraging people to care for our common home. As some people are only just beginning their journeys as advocates for the earth, it will be exciting to see the changes that they make in their local communities.

Next month I will head to Poland for World Youth Day with the Global Catholic Climate Movement where we will be running an environmental festival for pilgrims. While I’ve already had the opportunity to admire and appreciate the Australian response, I’m looking forward to seeing how the faithful from all over the world are implementing the call of Laudato Si’ in their lives. I’m sure it will be a great experience of mutual learning and support.

There have been fantastic developments over the past 12 months, but we still have a long way to go. Science continues to tell us that we are still on a very destructive path. As you read this, I’ll be on the small island of Wagina in the Solomon Islands, a country which just last month lost five islands to rising sea levels. Still, Laudato Si’ provides a map for hope in the face of the ecological and social crises.

On this first anniversary of Laudato Si’, let us take time to mourn what has been lost, but also to rise once again to our feet and become ambassadors for creation. With our Federal election looming here in Australia, will you join me and others and pray for leadership that hears the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor? If you are in Sydney on June 25 please come along to the Climate Rally at Steyne Park, Double Bay, and show your solidarity with our Pacific brothers and sisters.

* Tess Corkish has been volunteering as part of the climate movement for six years. She is currently working as a Youth Engagement Officer with Catholic Earthcare Australia.

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Moving beyond “what’s in it for me?” Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:00:17 +0000 Clare Condon SGS

Clare Condon SGS

Two weeks out from a Federal election, may we all weigh up what is most important and precious to us as a people and as residents of this earth, says Good Samaritan Sister Clare Condon.

BY Clare Condon SGS*

Promises, promises and more promises! This is the rhetoric of politicians as we Australians move to a Federal election in two weeks. What is the average Joe or Joanne to make of it all?

There are the short-term promises, which will provide a few extra dollars in the pockets of some families now. But these people are left with uncertainty about what kind of future awaits their children and grandchildren.

There are the long-term promises, which only hang together with an optimistic but fragile hope in our increasingly globalised and fractured world.

It seems that the mighty dollar is presented as the only criterion for measuring a policy benefit or cost, rather than the validity and effectiveness of a policy’s capacity to improve the well-being of the nation as a whole.

I agree with the sentiments of Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, who recently called on politicians to speak for a “genuinely human economy” founded on policy rather than simply presenting short-term tactics which are superficial and unsustainable.

What would a “genuinely human economy” look like?

First of all, people and their environment would take precedence over the profit motives of, for example, multi-national conglomerates and their environmental destruction through open-cut mining and deforestation.

There would be sufficient financial resources to be shared among the populace. There would be enough for all to live at an acceptable standard of living. The gap between the extreme wealthy and the poor would be minimised. Perhaps homelessness and destitution could be a thing of the past in this first-world country of ours with its significant wealth.

The economic paradigm of constant growth would be challenged by the recognition that this earth is a limited resource and cannot keep giving up to an insatiable human demand for more. I would extend the Archbishop’s reference to a “genuinely human economy” to include a genuinely ecologically sustainable economy.

In this human and ecological economy, there would need to be change in the national language from “taxpayer” to “citizen”. The common good might just override the self-focussed question of “What’s in it for me?”

Rather than a constant litany of promises, perhaps our politicians could present some old-fashioned principles and values that are capable of creating: a society that includes all, even the stranger; a society where violence and racism are diminished; a society that reduces its prison population and provides rehabilitation programs; a society that cherishes its earthly home and environmental treasures; a society that places the first people of this land at the centre of respect and well-being.

Promises without values are empty and hollow, and are sure to disappoint.

Two weeks out from a Federal election, may we all weigh up what is most important and precious to us as a people and as residents of this earth. Let us seek to make our vote count for a genuinely human and ecologically sustainable economy.

As the Australian Catholic Bishops have said: “any society is ultimately judged not on how well it manages the economy but on how well it treats the thrown-away people… But it is not just individual people who are thrown away. The same can happen to the environment, both social and natural”.

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

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Good Samaritan for life Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:00:10 +0000 Mary Randle SGS Photo: The Catholic Leader

Mary Randle SGS
Photo: The Catholic Leader

Two little girls from Sudan have reminded Sister Mary Randle why, after 50 years, she is still a Sister of the Good Samaritan, writes Peter Bugden.

BY Peter Bugden*

Two little girls from Sudan have reminded Sister Mary Randle why, after 50 years, she is still a Sister of the Good Samaritan.

The reminder came through an experience she had been reluctant to agree to. Eventually she said “Yes” – a little “Yes”, compared with the one she gave at her profession five decades ago, but it’s one of the many that give meaning to the life she’s chosen.

Asked why she has remained a Good Samaritan Sister and what has kept her going, Mary said “it’s because it’s not about me”.

“You’ve been called, and the momentum is to get up and get going,” she said. “It’s not about Mary Randle, and there’s so much more to do.”

There’ll be plenty for her to do this year because she’s pastoral associate in Brisbane’s Bulimba parish which is celebrating its centenary.

The celebrations started earlier this year with a Mass marking the centenary of the arrival of the Good Samaritan Sisters in Brisbane. They’ve been active in the Parish of Saints Peter and Paul ever since, especially through Saints Peter and Paul’s Primary School and Lourdes Hill College.

Mary, who celebrated her golden jubilee at the parish centenary Mass on January 31, thanks people like the two little girls from Sudan for helping sustain her life as a Good Sam.

Members of Mary's family gathered with her earlier this year to celebrate her golden jubilee Photo: Alan Edgecomb

Members of Mary’s family gathered with her earlier this year to celebrate her golden jubilee
Photo: Alan Edgecomb

She and her fellow sisters at the Lourdes Hill convent have known “the beautiful Sudanese family” since they were asked to help them when they moved to the area about five years ago.

“They’ve become part and parcel of our lives, and of the community’s life,” Mary said.

The mother of the family so trusted Mary and the Good Samaritan Sisters that she asked if Mary could look after her three daughters, including a two-year-old, while she visited Sudan at Christmas.

“I said, ‘Anne [not her real name], there’s no way; I’m an old lady now, [and] I don’t think the baby could be without you’,” Mary said.

“Anyway, the kids kept saying to me, ‘Sister Mary, why can’t we come to you? We always come to you for Christmas…’ And I would say, ‘But that’s just for the day and this is for six weeks …’”.

Eventually Mary asked the other nuns if it would be okay to have the little visitors, and they agreed. At the end of the six weeks they’re glad they did.

“But what it is, you give a little but the outreach of those two beautiful girls saying ‘good night’ and ‘good morning’ to the nuns, and getting up to take the plates – because a lot of us are in our 70s and 80s – to see those two little girls give us so much life,” she said.

“So, what keeps me going? That’s what it’s all about; it’s that kind of thing – that you don’t get too much of the ‘poor me’ stuff and that you say, ‘there’s much more to do for each other on the journey of life’.”

Mary said it was experiences like that that “motivates me and keeps me going”.

Pondering when she feels and when she has felt closest to God, she again refers to the recent experience with her young guests.

“When the girls were there, I’d say, ‘It’s time for bed.’ And we’d say, ‘What’s the blessing of the day?’, and we’d all go round and share a blessing; and then I’d say, ‘What prayer?’ and we’d pray for their mum and family in Sudan,” Mary said.

“So it’s moments like that when I see people trusting God and learning to trust God that nourish me.”

Another particular moment she remembers is when her father Charlie was dying. Seeing the depth of his faith she felt close to God.

“We were saying the Rosary [as they had done every night when she and her six siblings were children], and he could hardly say it, and I said, ‘Oh, we’ll say it for you, Dad’,” Mary said.

“And he said, ‘No, it gives me strength’… So that’s one moment, because he could see God’s face…”.

The memory brought tears.

“There’s been moments of friendship with Good Samaritan Sisters when you’re so alive that you know God’s there, and there’s been moments with my family when you know God’s there.”

The Randle family’s Good Samaritan and Bulimba connections run deep, having moved to the suburb in 1946 and with a fourth generation there today.

Mary’s older sister Veronica, now deceased, was a Good Sam, and one of her younger sisters, Ellen, is in the order. One of her brothers, Charlie, became a Marist Brother.

Life with the Good Sams has taken Mary into teaching in schools in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales, catechetics in state schools and running a catechetical centre in Victoria, and teaching at a pastoral institute in Kiribati and ministry outreach there among the poor and mentally ill.

“I think the devotion to the Rosary every night [may have had something to do with the family’s religious callings],” she said.

“Dad used to say, ‘At the fifth mystery we’ll pray for vocations, this is vocations for the archdiocese and the parish, and especially for this family’. So I think we must’ve caught the bug.”

The Good Samaritan Parable (Luke 10:25-37) won Mary from an early age.

“The women I knew [as a schoolgirl at Bulimba] lived that parable of the Good Samaritan – to go out with compassion,” she said.

“I can even remember, as children here, they visited families after school. And, when [the Good Samaritan Sisters’] history was written, [it told of times] when the Good Sams didn’t have money, for food even, sometimes.

“They’ve always had that outreach to the poor, and I’ve seen them live it and learned to live it myself, and I think that’s the parable – to go the extra mile and not worry about the colour of skin or religion or whatever it is.”

Mary’s time in Kiribati was an experience of poverty like no other she’d encountered. When she was asked to teach pastoral ministry there she remembers thinking, “You can’t do this in a vacuum”, so she made sure she and those she was teaching were active in the field.

One of the places she reached out to was the mental health hospital.

“It really touched me,” she said. “It was the most impoverished place I’ve seen… The women were at one end and the men at the other, just on concrete – not a mat to lie on.”

She started visiting with the young women who were interested in becoming Good Samaritan Sisters and they gradually made a difference.

“I think [the Good Samaritan Parable] has sustained and nourished me; it’s key to living as a Good Samaritan – that you continue to reach out without fear or favour, or [no matter] who the person is,” Mary said.

“And, have I failed? Sometimes yes… But that’s the forgiving hand of God then, isn’t it?”

* Peter Bugden is a journalist with The Catholic Leader, the newspaper of the Brisbane Archdiocese.

This article was first published in the February 7, 2016 edition of The Catholic Leader.

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Public statement from Sister Clare Condon Wed, 15 Jun 2016 09:18:18 +0000 goodsam_logo_264_158Public statement from Sr Clare Condon,
Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will conduct a public hearing in Sydney from Monday 11 July 2016.

The Sisters of the Good Samaritan have been advised that one of the case studies which will be the focus of that hearing will look at child safe practices and incidents from the 1990s at Mater Dei Special School in Camden, NSW.

Any incidents of sexual abuse are an absolute tragedy, especially for the children against whom the acts were committed.

Children and young people are by definition vulnerable. Abuse of a young person with a disability is beyond comprehension.

On behalf of the sisters, I express profound sorrow to victims and their families for the devastating consequences of the abuse they endured.

We are aware that for all victims and their families, staff and former staff, students and their families, a public hearing will be difficult and distressing.

Since 2012, Mater Dei Special School has been under the governance of Good Samaritan Education. The care and safety of all its students are paramount. Rigorous policies and procedures are in place, focused on doing everything possible to ensure the safety of the children and young people in its care.

Mater Dei School, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and Good Samaritan Education will work closely with the Truth, Justice and Healing Council in responding to the work of the Royal Commission.

Sr Clare Condon SGS
Congregational Leader

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Sister Patricia Satterthwaite (1926 – 2016) Fri, 27 May 2016 02:41:59 +0000 Patricia Satterthwaite SGS

Patricia Satterthwaite SGS

Patricia Mary Satterthwaite was born on August 25, 1926 at Waverly NSW, the eldest child of Favel and Mabel (nee Stevens) Satterthwaite. The younger children were John (to become Bishop of Lismore) and Joan. Both parents were born in NSW, Favel at Cobar and Mabel at Pyrmont, Sydney.

Favel was a civil engineer and for the first two years of Patricia’s life he worked on irrigation for the Murray River and then as shire engineer at Ashford, near the border of Queensland and NSW.

Patricia started school at Ashford Public School and in Grade 5 transferred to St Scholastica’s at Glebe Point where her mother was a past pupil. Her grandmother had been educated by the Good Samaritan Sisters at Pitt Street.

Patricia was fortunate to have Sisters Clare Slattery and Philomena Gallagher as her teachers in her senior years. She continued at St Scholastica’s to complete her secondary education in 1942 and was awarded a scholarship to Sydney University.

In 1945 Patricia graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and then did the NSW Training Course for the Public Library of NSW. She worked at the Mitchell Library until she decided to enter the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. Her home parish at this time was Forest Lodge.

At 24 years of age, Patricia entered the Good Samaritan Novitiate at Mount St Benedict’s Pennant Hills on July 2, 1951 and was given the name Sister Mary Scholastica. She made her first profession of vows on January 6, 1954. Later, when given the opportunity, she reverted to her baptismal name and was known as Sister Patricia.

After teacher training at St Scholastica’s Teachers’ College, Patricia taught primary students and had some secondary classes for two years at Marrickville. She then taught secondary students in Queensland at Lourdes Hill (1957-64), in Victoria at Hamilton in 1965, and then at the new St Monica’s College at Epping (1966-1972).

From 1973 to 1975 Patricia served the College as librarian. At that time she began part-time study in theology and was to go on and study in areas of interest, which included business law at Preston Tech, legal studies at La Trobe University and church history at United Faculty of Theology Melbourne.

In 1976 Patricia studied theology at Mater Dei Institute Manly. Returning to Victoria in 1977 as assistant librarian at Santa Maria College, she also taught ESL. From 1983 Patricia lived at Thornbury, but continued her library and ESL work at Santa Maria until 1987.

After a spiritual renewal program at Baulkham Hills, she ministered in adult literacy classes at Mt Druitt and lived at Windsor, NSW, until 1992. For the next four years in Moruya she continued with adult literacy and parish visitation.

Moving to Whyalla Stuart in 1996, Patricia was again involved in parish visitation until being asked to be assistant librarian at Mt St Benedict Centre Pennant Hills. Her scholarship inspired those who came to the library during the years she was at the Centre.

Patricia’s great love of learning throughout her life, her fidelity to the Gospel and her love of Saints Benedict and Scholastica had a profound influence on her life and her outreach to others. She encouraged and supported with great kindness and respect, many Good Samaritan Sisters, her family, colleagues and students, especially those who were new to this country and needed a patient and understanding teacher.

Patricia moved back to Melbourne in 2007 to retirement at Marian House Northcote until, with failing health and in need of more care, she graciously made the decision to move to Villa Maria Bundoora in November 2010.

Patricia died peacefully on May 20, 2016 after a short illness. She is survived by her sister Joan and family, and remembered with love, respect and gratitude by all her Good Samaritan Sisters.

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