One of the great challenges in modern religious life is how we best support one another as we grow into community and ministry life. In January this year, Sisters of the Good Samaritan Congregation in Temporary Profession gathered to talk, learn and develop their sense of belonging and commitment to the way of life.
Donna Belle Ferrer from the Philippines joined Juniko Toaua, Kawi Arebonto and Tenta Maritino from Kiribati for a three-week program in Melbourne, which took as its theme the ‘Feeding of the Four Thousand’ as told in Matthew’s Gospel.
Sister Marella Rebgetz, who is the Member of Council responsible for Initial Formation, said that as a Congregation, the Sisters prioritise ongoing formation at every stage of the religious journey and the program for the Temporary Professed is part of that overall priority.
“Formation is critical to becoming the people that we’re called to be as Christians and as Good Samaritans,” she said. “But it’s also about coming together to support each other in our journey.”
The sisters come from diverse cultures and have diverse ministries – prison work, counselling, teaching children with disabilities and early childhood teaching – so it is always a challenge to put together a program that assists them in their community and ministry life.
Many are the only Good Samaritan sister in their place of ministry and live in small communities. It takes time to grow into being Good Samaritan. Sharing formation experiences is thus a community and confidence-building undertaking.
The program was varied and included personal development, stress management, Scripture, moral theology, prayer and liturgy, intercultural transitions and the current Good Samaritan Code of Conduct. The sisters also reflected on their stage in their vowed commitment to Good Samaritan life.
Sister Marie O’Shea is the Coordinator for the Temporary Professed Program. “One of the issues the sisters identified was the structure around life in the Novitiate and how, during the period of Temporary Profession, things become less structured and more individual,” Marie said.
The sisters also enjoyed many visitors including Sr Patty Fawkner, the Congregational Leader, who spoke on the themes of ‘Sowers of Prophetic Hope’ and ‘Images of God’. Each of the sisters in Temporary Profession has an accompanying sister and the gathering was a rare opportunity to meet face to face. Leisure activities included a visit to the beach, the zoo and a trip to the city to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks.
As always, the success of the program was based on the content and the experiences of the participants. As Marella concluded, the theme of ‘Loaves and Fishes’ encouraged the Temporary Professed to consider that “none of us have all the loaves or all the fishes”.
“It’s only by working in collaboration, and with God’s blessing, that we can meet the various needs of our society. How can we contribute and what skills do we need to further develop to be able to offer those gifts in the different situations to which we are called?”
This is a challenge to each of us – regardless of our vocation!