New chapter for Mount St Benedict Centre

Elizabeth Brennan SGS (left) and Christine Manning SGS (Photo credit: Debra Vermeer)

When Good Samaritan Sisters Elizabeth Brennan and Christine Manning look back on their time at the Mount St Benedict Centre in Pennant Hills, it is with deep gratitude for the people they met and the partnerships they forged over the years, but they are also looking to the future with hope and excitement.

Christine finished her role as Deputy Director of the Centre in December and Elizabeth steps down from her role as Director this month.

Their departure heralds a new chapter in the long history of the 90-year-old site, which served for many decades as the Good Samaritan Sisters’ novitiate before taking on its new persona as a retreat, spirituality and conference centre.

From early June, the new Director of the Mount St Benedict (MSB) Centre will be Ms Natalie Acton, the first lay person to hold the position. For the past four years, Natalie has been working for the Mercy Ethos Office of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea. She was previously the coordinator of the Broken Bay Diocesan Synod and has a close connection with the MSB Centre, having been a member of the Advisory Committee in planning for its future.

“It’s been a wonderful 11 years, but we are certainly excited and hopeful about the next stage for the Centre,” said Elizabeth.

Elizabeth and Christine took on their roles at the MSB Centre in 2006 and 2007, following a review of all the Congregation’s centres.

“The Congregation made a deliberate decision at that time to redirect Mount St Benedict and we were very blessed to be a part of that,” Elizabeth said.

Their first task was to work on a new vision statement for the Centre, in which they identified that it would offer hospitality, education and support for life’s journey by sharing its Benedictine traditions and resources.

Since then, the Centre has become known as an oasis of hospitality and peace for a huge range of groups and individuals who’ve passed through its doors.

“We have certainly been able to welcome many different groups of people,” Elizabeth said.

“Generally, they have been people seeking and searching for something, for a deeper spirituality, for something more in life.

“For me, that’s been the most enriching thing, meeting these people who are yearning and searching and thirsting for the ‘more’ of life. They come to the Centre to reflect on their lives and nurture their spirits so that they can live life to the fullest.”

Among those who come to use the Centre are Catholic Education Offices from various dioceses, who hold teacher and staff formation days. A special partnership also exists with Good Samaritan Education (GSE), whose teachers, mission leaders and others make use of the Centre for their formation.

The Centre is home to reflection and planning days for parishes (including Anglican and Uniting Churches and Asian Christian Communities), school boards and an enormous range of spiritual and community groups.

Religious congregations make good use of the Centre, including the Sisters of the Good Samaritan themselves, who hold formation and reflection days, retreats, renewal, planning and governance days there. The well-stocked theological and spiritual library also attracts regular visitors.

“We have developed many good partnerships and have really tried to foster an atmosphere of hospitality and peace in the place,” Christine said.

“There’s something about the beautiful grounds and the beauty of this building, something stable and grounded that can hold the prayer, commitment and fidelity of all these years here, all the lives that make up our 90-year history.”

Along with the groups and individuals who use the Centre, both Elizabeth and Christine said they valued the excellent working relationship with colleagues and volunteers.

Congregational Leader Sister Clare Condon said Elizabeth and Christine had brought a wonderful spirit of hospitality to the Centre.

“There is always a welcome at the door and then beyond,” she said. “Both women carry a deep spirituality in the Benedictine tradition which overflows to those who experience time at the Centre.

“I have great confidence as the Centre moves to a new phase because of the grounding and atmosphere that Elizabeth and Christine have given to their ministry of sharing spiritually and how they have welcomed those who hunger for more.”

Elizabeth and Christine said they would still have plenty to keep them occupied in other areas of ministry. Elizabeth will continue her work in liturgical consultation and Christine will continue teaching the Rule of St Benedict to Good Samaritan novices, coordinating an Oblate group, as well as contributing in formation and governance for GSE.

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The Good Oil, April 18, 2017. If you would like to republish this article, please contact the editor.

20 Responses to “New chapter for Mount St Benedict Centre”

  1. Gerry dalton says:

    Dear Christine & Elizabeth
    So many have been the beneficiaries of your kindness & intellects. Your joyous welcomes to MSB have been so delightful over the years. We pray that we have further opportunities to grow from your scholarship of Benedictine wisdom and the richness of the Psalms.

  2. moconnor says:

    Elizabeth and Christine, this array of comments is sure and certain testimony that the goals of hospitality, education and support on life’s journey have surely been met in your ministry at Mount St Benedict Centre. Since been a member of the Good Samaritan Community at Pennant Hills over recent years, I’ve had the opportunity to observe at first hand the investment of time and energy that such an enterprise costs. Thank you for the professional way you have approached every endeavour. As a participant in the programmes at times I have been enriched in my own faith journey and enjoyed the opportunities to be with fellow pilgrims along the way. Marie O’Connor

  3. Jeanie Heininger sgs says:

    Dear Elizabeth and Christine, you both probably have mixed emotions as you hand over your roles after a long and noble ministry. I’ll be praying for you both as you adjust after your long and “brilliant career” at Mt St Benedict Centre.

  4. cnorman says:

    Thank you to both Elizabeth and Christine for making Mt St Benedict’s a place of warmth, welcome and friendliness. The place mirrored the care and dedication of both of you: Two gracious ladies.

  5. Marie (Lavis) Weatherall says:

    Many thanks Elizabeth and Christine for the many years of service and dedication. It was always good to go back to the Mt St Benedict Centre to experience hospitality, always a warm welcome, and a real sense of peace that seemed to be part of the Community and place. In recent years, for me , it was a return to my Good Samaritan roots and the riches I received over the years. It was wonderful to go back and be married in the Chapel. Wishing you both many blessings as your ministry continues to unfold.
    Marie Weatherall

  6. Frances Warner says:

    Elizabeth and Christine – what a wonderful contribution you have made – to the Centre, to the Order, to GSE and to all the individuals and groups you have welcomed – Grail women, among many others, are very grateful for the hospitality and beauty you have always facilitated – Fran Warner

  7. Bec Beisler says:

    Thank you Srs Elizabeth and Christine for the precious gift of your warm hospitality at Mt St Benedict during our stays with the Young Catholic Women’s Fellowship (2013-2014). You created a space for us to be nurtured. Wishing you the very best for the next steps.

  8. Marie Casamento says:

    To be able to stand before the door in those early days, stand back, look back reflectively and hand on the keys is indeed that which makes you both true Benedictine Good Samaritans. Christine and Elizabeth as you stand at new doors that are opening now before you. May you go forth confident that the ‘little plant has indeed become a noble tree’. Thanks Marie

  9. Dear Elizabeth and Christine,
    Thank you both for the wonderful hospitality you have provided BBI over these past several years. It is always a joy to return to the Centre, a place that has become very significant in the life and growth of BBI. On behalf of all the BBI staff who have experienced your care and attention, a huge thank you. We look forward to continuing our connection long into the future. Abundant Easter blessings, Gerard Goldman

  10. Edwina says:

    Dear Elizabeth and Christine, thank you both for the wonderful hospitality and example you have always given. For many such as myself, the influence of your kindness, teaching, encouragement, leadership etc etc has been truly has been life-changing. A gift that lives on. I am sure it is something that can be passed on, though I am not convinced any could do it quite the same as you have.

  11. Julie Allen says:

    P.S. Thank you to Christine and Elizabeth for the ways in which you have contributed to the great solace such oases have provided in difficult and empty times, and particular thanks to you, Chris, for mentoring me all those years ago as a young teacher at Lourdes Hill. Your many kindnesses to me will never be forgotten. Good Sams are such good women. I pray for you and Elizabeth as the next stages of your journeys of generosity unfold.

  12. Julie Allen says:

    Mount St Benedict has a special place in my heart as a soul space which deepened my engagement with the Good Samaritans and the Rule of St Benedict. Now that I have left my teaching vocation behind (after three retirements), I continue to be enriched personally by memories of my spiritual journeying in such places and through such encounters.

  13. Janine Spiteri says:

    On behalf of the Young Catholic Women’s Interfaith Fellowship 2015-16, thank you so much for your warmth, hospitality and generosity of spirit, and best wishes to both of you for the next phase of your journey.

  14. Andrea Dean says:

    Best wishes to you both. What a blessing it has been to have you there over these past years. Formally and informally Elizabeth and Christine made a wonderful contribution to the Young Catholic Women’s Fellowship Program over the past four years. Blessings!

  15. Terry Clout says:

    Christine,
    Congratulations on the success you have made to this chapter of your mission/career and the best of blessings and good luck on your continuing and new endeavours.

  16. Monica Dutton says:

    Congratulations Elizabeth and Christine on the extraordinary work you have done at the Centre over so many years! Over 1500 Good Samaritan Education participants have been welcomed to the Centre by your warmth of hospitality and generosity of spirit over that time. So many have commented on the calmness and beauty of the space – a reflection of how well it has been so lovingly cared for. I am indeed blessed to have been able to share part of that journey with you both. With grateful thanks, much love and many blessings xox

  17. Pat Malone rsj says:

    Christine it is wonderful to read of this wonderful ministry you have had since leaving ACU. I hope the next phase of your life is equally fulfilling.

  18. Pat Power says:

    Christine, it was nice to hear of what you have been doing in the past ten years. I have fond memories of your time in Queanbeyan. The Good Sams are missed there but your great spirit lives on

  19. Carmel Dunne says:

    Ah! Two who have given so much clarity and beauty. Thank you both. Many years ago I so tentatively returned to Mount St Benedict. I immediately found a place of genuine holiness and wisdom. You each have provided both dimensions with generosity and deliberative awareness and care. You each respect privacy and enable learning and reflection. You are scholars and welcomers.

  20. Lucy Molony says:

    Thank you so much for the warmth and hospitality you have offered. Nothing ever seemed to phase either of you, and you emanated a wonderful sense of peace. Thank you.

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