Extended Plenary Council affirms ‘Good Samaritans all’

Good Samaritan Sisters, Oblates, staff and partners in mission gathered online recently for an Extended Plenary Council, to check in with the Statement of Directions from the last Chapter and refocus on the practical steps needed to achieve them.

The Sisters have a Plenary Council three times a year where representatives of the Congregation meet to consider matters of significance.

Natalie Acton, Director of Operations for the Good Samaritan Congregational Centre, said the Extended Plenary Council expanded on these gatherings.

“A Plenary Council is a place for the giving and taking of counsel,” she said. “This was an extension of that regular gathering that happens in the life of the Congregation. It lasted for a whole week and involved 116 people.

“It was an opportunity for all Good Samaritans to come together, to hear from each other and to be together in prayer and conversation about matters of importance.”

Those gathered looked at the Statement of Directions, which emerged from the last Chapter in 2017, and asked what needed to be done to bring them into sharper focus.

“We were asked to think about how we’re travelling with the Statement of Directions, what’s emerging and ask, what is it we’re being invited to now in our current circumstances, within the boundaries or aspirations given at that Chapter,” Natalie said.

The Extended Plenary Council arrived at six goals to work on in the period leading up to the next Chapter in 2023.

The goals are:

  • To deepen our Good Samaritan identity in all its fullness and diversity through face-to-face and virtual community.
  • Take practical steps to deepen our Good Samaritan connection in a variety of ways.
  • Develop an eco-action plan using the Laudato Si’
  • Foster our ecological consciousness in liturgy and in everyday life.
  • Enhance relationships and connections with/in Oblate communities.
  • Review the Oblate structure/framework and promote leadership and interdependence.

The focus for the next Plenary Council, to be held in October 2021, will be Goals 1, 2 and 5.

Monica Dutton, Spirituality and Mission Animation Leader for the Congregation, said she found the Extended Plenary Council a valuable and uplifting experience.

“It was really excellent,” she said. “The facilitator, Mary Tobin, was very gentle and gave everyone a lot of time to talk and reflect and consider things.

“So much work went into it, managing the transition from a face-to-face meeting to an online one – the organising committee did a wonderful job. The prayers were beautiful and the use of videos for the Daily Wrap and telling various aspects of the Good Sam story connected everyone to the story and were lovely.

“The online nature of the gathering also meant that everyone could be present together, whether from Australia, Kiribati, Japan or the Philippines, and that was a real strength.

“It highlighted the diversity of the group in culture, age and ministry. It is a very diverse group and being able to come together and come away with clear goals about how to work together as a group was amazing.”

Monica said that one of the key takeaways for her was the strong commitment to partnership among the broader Good Samaritan Benedictine community.

“There was a serious commitment to partnership and to broadening the tent as we move forward, to really embrace the Good Samaritan charism, which is living in all the different people and different ministries,” she said.

“There was a sense that partnership is a real gift and blessing and that by the Sisters sharing their charism with their partners, those partners are enriched and then, in turn, we hope the Sisters are enriched by those who give back and really live the Good Samaritan charism.”

In her closing remarks to the Extended Plenary Council, Congregational Leader Sister Patty Fawkner said the opening line from the last Chapter’s Statement of Directions, ‘We, Good Samaritans All’ had come through strongly.

“To all of us, Good Samaritans all, we share a precious gift in the Good Samaritan Benedictine charism,” she said. “May each of us be faithful stewards of this charism. Our diversity is such a gift.”

She said that during the breaks of the gathering she had read a book consisting of 45 brief interviews with Sister Hiro Kageyama, a 90-year-old Good Samaritan Sister from Japan who has been on mission in the Philippines for many years.

“In this book, Hiro quotes a Japanese saying: ‘The water continuously runs in the river and the water is always new’,” Patty said.

“The Good Samaritan Benedictine charism continuously runs in the river of God’s life and love, and the charism is always new.

“Thank you one and all who wish to be part of this graced journey.”

To watch videos sharing various aspects of the Good Samaritan story, click here.