Eight new scholars participate in women’s leadership program

The Good Samaritan Study and Mentoring (SAM) Leadership Program is back for its third year in 2023, with eight women receiving support to undertake studies aimed at promoting women’s leadership within the Church.

This year, the popular program will feature a face-to-face gathering of participants in April – the first time this has been possible since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sisters of the Good Samaritan Spirituality and Mission Animation Leader, Dr Monica Dutton, said the program had grown and developed over time, with a great range of women now applying to participate.

“It’s always hard to choose among applicants, because the quality of the applicants is so high,” Monica said.

“And the kinds of applications have broadened over time, as women hear about the program and come to it from their own unique place and perspective.”

Monica said that right from the start it had been the vision for the SAM Program that it include a face-to-face gathering but COVID-19 had intervened.

“Until now those gatherings have been online, which has been great, but there’s nothing like the relational aspect of being all together in person,” she said.

This year’s April gathering will take place over a weekend, beginning on Friday with evening prayer and social interaction. On Saturday, there will be guest speakers and opportunities to further connect and speak with one another.

“There will also be opportunities for the women themselves to look at ways in which they might be able to team up and support each other through the program,” Monica said.

The popular spiritual direction and mentorship aspect of the program will continue, following positive feedback in earlier years.

“It’s probably one of the major points of difference with this program that the participants are teamed up with mentors and spiritual directors with whom they can hopefully form an ongoing relationship,” Monica said.

“A lot of the participants and mentors and directors have formed really lovely relationships with each other and the spiritual directors and mentors have themselves given feedback about how much they enjoy being involved and how much they get from being a part of the program.”

Monica said another of the fruits of the program so far has been that some of the women have gone on to find employment with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, while others have moved forward in their own professional sphere.

“It seems that through the spiritual nourishment and the contact with the Congregation, some of the participants have developed a real affinity with the charism of the Sisters,” she said.

“There has certainly been a desire from most of the participants to stay connected, which we do through a mailing list, so there is a community forming there, which is wonderful.”

Cecilienne-Mae Matienzo. Image supplied.

One of the 2023 SAM Program participants is Cecilienne-Mae Matienzo, from western Sydney, who is a Religious Education Coordinator (REC) in a primary school. She said she was looking forward not only to the financial support for her studies, but to being a part of that community.

“Besides the financial support, I wanted the opportunity to learn from women who are in different leadership positions, who can impart their knowledge and mentor me as I begin my journey in senior leadership,” she said.

“Being part of the program is also a way for me to enrich my faith by learning from the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and learning more about their charism.”

Cecilienne-Mae said that having access to women who were in leadership roles with a strong commitment to their faith was essential to her own personal journey and career.

“I’ve recently been appointed as REC, which is a significant senior leadership role that entails learning how to be a leader and manage others, but at the same time requires me to build the faith of those I encounter on a daily basis,” she said.

“I hope to be able to gain mentorship and spiritual direction to develop my own faith.”

Renee Fleeton. Image supplied.

Renee Fleeton from Melbourne has recently taken up a new job as Director of Faith and Mission at Catholic Ladies College, Eltham and is studying a Graduate Diploma of Governance and Canon Law.

She said she hoped that participation in the SAM Program would provide an opportunity to deepen her knowledge of and commitment to her Catholic faith.

“I see this as an invitation to engage my heart and hands in a profound way that I hope will enhance my capacity as a woman and a religious education teacher to live my faith with more confidence,” she said.

“I engage in further study as a way to be a visible example of and for women in our Church.

“I am committed to seeking God in all things, and upholding a 2008 oath I made ‘to be on earth the heart of God’ as a lay member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. This experience offered by the program opens a door to explore a deeper sense of what defines me as a Catholic woman and mother.

“The SAM Program is an exciting opportunity and it offers a space that connects my personal and professional commitment to girls’ education and the mission of the Church.”

Davina Francoise. Image supplied.

Davina Francoise also lives in Melbourne and is originally from Mauritius. She is a Christian Life Coach and also works as a personal carer.

Davina said the SAM Program aligned with who she is and her vision for women in ministry.

“When I saw what they were offering in terms of spiritual direction and mentorship, I wanted to be part of it, as there are not many platforms like these for women to be able to share their experience and be supported,” she said.

“My hopes for the program are to have a network of like-minded women to link arms with and be supported in our respective ministries.”

She said she also hoped the studies being supported by the SAM Program would help her to become a good spiritual director and pursue a PhD in that field.

From the other side of the country, Jessica Kenny is joining the SAM Program from Perth. Over the past 14 years, she has worked as a lay chaplain in educational settings and with youth in detention. Jessica is currently employed at Alta-1 College as a ConnectEd Chaplain.

Jessica Kenny. Image supplied.

She said she applied for the SAM Program because she wanted to share the joy she experienced in her faith and the talents she’s been entrusted with.

“The scholarship is unique in that it provides mentoring, tutoring, spiritual direction and financial support,” she said. “In relation to this program, the words ‘renewed vigour and determination’ come to mind as I move forward to complete my Master of Arts, Theology and consider the future.

“Studying theology expands the way I experience Scripture, it deepens my relationship with God and affects the way I relate with people.”

Jessica has a Bachelor of Arts in Writing, Editing and Performance Writing and said she wanted to be able to combine the two to write meaningful prose for a secular and a religious audience, young and old.

“I also want to be able to participate in progressing the equal dignity of women and men in my Church, to explore the full potential of what that means. The scope of moving forward is wide, and the scholarship has instilled in me a sense of hope that I might draw closer to what I am called to do.”

The popular SAM Program has been expanded thanks to financial assistance from a number of religious congregations.

This article was published in the February 2023 edition of The Good Oil.

Read about fellow 2023 SAM Program scholars Jaren Malales, Mandy Hayward, Anne-Maree Wilsmore-Smith and Kathryn Pettersen in the March 2023 edition of The Good Oil.