Religious life is alive and well in the women and men who serve others with listening ears and a generosity of spirit, writes Good Samaritan Sister, Clare Condon.
BY Clare Condon SGS*
Over the past number of weeks I have had the privilege of sharing in the lives and ministries of some of my Good Samaritan Sisters, both here in Australia and in Japan. I’ve been profoundly affected by the impact of their loving service in simple and ordinary ways. When people are respected and loved, goodness abounds. The best in the human spirit flourishes as individuals reach out to one another in their common humanity.
In my travels I’ve encountered the 85-year-old sister who is intimately connected to the refugees living in her locality. She attends court with a young confused refugee woman; she is her English voice and friend. She is a learned lady, so she studies the relevant laws and helps to interpret court decisions for this young woman. The particular day I was with her, she was making sure two young refugee lads had enrolled for secondary school next year. She accompanied them herself for an interview with the school principal.
Then in another place there is a sister who is teaching English to an Iraqi woman in her home. Learning the language is fundamental. Being befriended during the aloneness and isolation in a strange country is equally important. This lady is known by name and is not categorised by race or religion.
In a country town, I visited an aged care facility with one of our 80-year-old sisters. She regularly visits the residents of this facility and knows them all by name. Each person’s face lit up when his or her name was announced with affection.
Another place for creating companionship and friendship is the shopping mall. Here in a very multicultural suburb, a couple of sisters, by lingering in the mall, get to know new arrivals as well as long-time locals. A welcome smile and a chat slowly builds up relationships and familiarity with one another, and breaks down any perceived barriers.
In a more remote town, I heard stories where listening ears had rescued newly arrived migrants from despair and loneliness when they had no extended families to rely on. This gathering of people, over a long period of time, has built a local parish community where there is genuine care for one another so hope can prevail whatever the circumstances might be.
Finally, I spent a few days in Japan celebrating 60 years of a Catholic school for teenage girls. This celebration involved the current school community as well as the local city community. Founded in 1953 by some Australian Sisters of the Good Samaritan, when Japan was vulnerable and in greatest need of rebuilding, this community of Australian sisters and Japanese people created a community of mutual respect and friendship. Here, I witnessed the human spirit at its best.
This is religious life today. I believe it is alive and well in the women and men who serve others with listening ears and a generosity of spirit. One to one they build relationships of mutual understanding and respect. There is no fanfare, nor the necessity for large institutions. They are committed to Gospel faith. The love of Christ radiates from their being as they encounter other human beings with compassion and friendship.
Surely this is the essence of a Gospel-led life. Surely this is what good citizenship is also about. This is a life well lived! These women and men capture what our Governor-General said recently in her Boyer Lecture series: “an ethic of care that involves a connection, mutuality with others, a process of individuals engaging their inner strengths with the help and encouragement of those around them.”
The women whom I have encountered in my visits witness to me and to others life-long dedication to goodness in the Christian tradition. Their relationship with God guides their every moment.
Perhaps there are young women out there who are interested in living such a rich and fulfilling life? If so, we Good Samaritan Sisters are hosting a “Come and See” weekend from November 29 to December 1 (Check out www.goodsams.org.au for more information).
God can make a difference to your life. If there is a yearning within you for a spirituality which in prayer seeks to find God at the heart of life, then come and explore its potential. Such a longing leads one to reach out in loving service of others. If this resonates with you, come along and find out more.
* Sister Clare Condon is the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict.