Gathered in Sydney for their twenty-fifth general chapter from September 25 to October 2, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan elected a new leadership team and discerned a new vision statement for the next six years.
The new five-member team responsible for the pastoral governance of the congregation until 2017 comprises re-elected superior, Sister Clare Condon, and councillors, Sisters Veronica Hoey (also re-elected), Bernadette Corboy, Catherine McCahill and Bernardina Sontrop.
“It’s both a privilege and an honour to lead a great group of women who serve the Church and society in Australia, Japan, The Philippines, Kiribati and Timor Leste,” said Clare.
“It is also a daunting responsibility in these times of great change.”
In accepting the role of superior for a second term, Clare told the 187 sisters gathered at St Scholastica’s, Glebe, that it was a new time with a new vision statement, and not a case of continuing on with ‘business as usual’.
“This is now day one of year one, not day one of year seven,” she said.
During her closing remarks of the chapter on October 2, Clare thanked the sisters for their spirit and extraordinary participation in prayer and dialogue. She acknowledged those among the group who had ‘stayed the distance’ of the week-long gathering despite significant health and physical challenges.
Clare noted that the daily Gospel readings for the days after the gathering were Luke’s parable of the Good Samaritan and the story of Martha and Mary. She said both stories highlighted aspects of the congregation’s new vision statement which states: “As Sisters of the Good Samaritan we seek God who impels us to be neighbour. Therefore we commit ourselves to: the Work of God, partnership, creation.”
Clare continued: “We are to seek God by both sitting at the feet of Jesus every day in our lectio, listening as Mary did, and by tending to our neighbour as the Good Samaritan.
“Monday’s Gospel [October 3] is that of the Good Samaritan – our parable of being neighbour. We seek to befriend the stranger. That stranger may be at times the stranger within ourselves or across the table, the stranger who knocks on the door or the stranger from other lands. Our seeking God impels us to be neighbour.
“Today, five of us who you’ve called forth for the pastoral governance of the congregation will do our best to be neighbour to you and to all with whom we come in contact.”
During the chapter gathering, members of the outgoing leadership team – Sisters Clare Condon, Veronica Hoey, Patty Fawkner, Kerin Caldwell and Carmel Pattinson – were acknowledged for their commitment and service to the life of the congregation over the past six years.
It was with great sadness and shock that the sisters received news on the first day of the gathering that Sister Verna Holyhead SGS had died after suffering a stroke a few days earlier. Verna was well known and highly regarded by many in Australia and internationally as a scripture scholar, retreat giver and prolific writer. She will be missed greatly by many.
Clare Condon SGS was born in Jamberoo, NSW. After her profession in 1972, Clare trained as a teacher and ministered mostly in Queensland. She has tertiary qualifications in accountancy, sociology, education and social policy. Prior to her appointment as congregational superior in September 2005, Clare was Chancellor for Stewardship in the Archdiocese of Adelaide and a member of the Adelaide Diocesan Pastoral Team. From 2008 until 2010, Clare was also President of Catholic Religious Australia. She is currently a director of Catholic Church Insurances.
Melbourne-born Veronica Hoey SGS was professed as a Good Samarian Sister in 1978. She has tertiary qualifications in education, special education and religious studies, and extensive experience in disability and student services. Veronica has held consultancy positions in Catholic education, Victoria, and has served as a director and member of the governing bodies of a number of Good Samaritan Colleges. Since 2005, Veronica has been a member of the congregation’s council. She is currently a director of St Catherine’s Aged Care, Eastwood, NSW.
Catherine McCahill SGS is a native of Townsville. For the past 30 years she has been engaged in education ministry and is currently the Academic Dean at Yarra Theological Union, a recognised teaching institute of the Melbourne College of Divinity. Catherine’s doctoral thesis, “Making God Known: Jesus, the Teacher of the Fourth Gospel and the Contemporary Christian Religious Education Teacher”, enabled her to bring together her passion for biblical study and Christian religious education. Underpinning this work is her fundamental belief that the ultimate purpose of our biblical study is deeper knowledge and love of the God of Jesus.
Melbourne-born Bernadette Corboy SGS began her ministry with the Good Samaritan Sisters as a teacher, first in primary then in middle and secondary education. During this time she also held positions as principal and religious education co-ordinator. For the past 14 years, Bernadette has been the congregation’s Director of Initial Formation and Novices. Eleven of those 14 years were spent in Kiribati. In 2008, when the congregation’s cross-cultural novitiate was established in Lawson, NSW, Bernadette moved back to Australia and joined the community there.
Bernardina Sontrop SGS was born in Holland. At age eight, she migrated to Australia with her family where they settled in Seacombe Gardens, SA. According to Bernardina, some of the first people to welcome her family were the local Good Samaritan Sisters. Professed in 1975, Bernardina has ministered as a primary school teacher in Wollongong and Brisbane, and in pastoral ministry at Elizabeth and Seaford Ecumenical Mission, SA. She is currently Pastoral Mission Co-ordinator at St Benedict’s Pastoral Mission, Mango Hill-North Lakes, a rapidly growing new housing development on the outskirts of Brisbane.