Sisters of the Good Samaritan, together with staff, partners in mission, friends and supporters were honoured guests at Admiralty House in Sydney recently for a reception hosted by the Governor-General David Hurley and Mrs Linda Hurley.
The reception marked the 165th anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan by Archbishop John Bede Polding OSB.
Mrs Hurley is a Patron of the Good Samaritan Foundation and a warm supporter of the Sisters’ ministries in Australia, Kiribati, the Philippines and Timor Leste.
“The Sisters of the Good Samaritan celebrate 165 years of community service this year,” she said at the reception.
“The Good Sams have a rich and proud history. A history that all of you, as members of the Good Samaritan Foundation, and those who came before you, are part of.
“The work you do with disadvantaged women and children is inspiring and uplifting. You make a difference in education, in housing, in health care, and in the support of women in remote community pastoral roles.
“You are amongst the kindest and most good-hearted people in our society. Compassionate, caring, dedicated, dependable, selfless. People who give, give again, and keep on giving. That is why I am proud to be your Patron.”
Mrs Hurley recalled her visit with General Hurley to Kiribati in June this year when they toured the Kiribati School and Centre for Children with Special Needs.
“We danced and sang with the children. It was an experience that David and I will never forget.”
In an interview with The Good Oil following the reception, Mrs Hurley said the visit to the school had made a big impact on her.
“It was interesting that when the Good Samaritans came to the reception and we talked about the school in Kiribati and the children at the school, I got very emotional,” she said.
“It was the first time this had ever happened to me in this role. I just got overwhelmed with emotion thinking about one of the little children we met there.
“That visit was definitely one of the highlights of my being in this job. We had the most wonderful day with them, singing and dancing. The whole place is just a beautiful place. And the children were happy, so happy and cared for. It just had a big impact on both our feelings.”
One of the staff members working at the school for children with disability that day was Sister Kawi Arebonto, an i-Kiribati Sister of the Good Samaritan.
Kawi said the school was a non-government school, with some funding from the Government of Kiribati, but all employees are paid by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as part of Australia’s aid to the Pacific nation.
“We felt very lucky when Mrs Hurley and the Governor-General came,” she said. “There are a lot of schools, so it was an honour that they chose to visit our school.”
Kawi said the school community spent “ages” preparing classrooms and decorating the school for the visit as well as practising their dancing and singing.
She said the Vice-Regal couple stayed for about an hour, visiting classrooms, interacting with staff and students, and were especially taken with the cultural performance.
“The people in Kiribati love singing, they love dancing,” Kawi said. “So, we did our local dance for them, and Mrs Hurley sang the song You Are My Sunshine with everyone.
“But I was very busy on the day and didn’t get a chance to talk to her, so I was very happy to receive the invitation to the reception at their home in Sydney and have the time to talk to them and have a photo with them.”
Speaking at the reception, the outgoing Congregational Leader, Sister Patty Fawkner SGS, thanked their Excellencies for hosting the gathering and for acknowledging the work of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.
“Even in a highly secular society like Australia, everyone knows what it means to be a Good Samaritan – a stranger who sees someone in need and goes out of their way to respond,” she said.
“We Good Samaritan Sisters aim to do that because we have been inspired by Jesus’ parable, which concludes with the words, ‘Go and do the same.’ We interpret this as go and be a compassionate neighbour to whomever is the needy one we meet along the way.”
Patty said she was pleased that Mrs Hurley and General Hurley had experienced first-hand “our Good Samaritan life in action” when visiting Kawi’s classroom at the school for children with disability, and also during a visit to Santa Teresa, an Indigenous community in Central Australia, where they were hosted by Sister Liz Wiemers SGS, a trip Mrs Hurley said had also been a wonderful experience. Previously, Mrs Hurley had organised a blanket collection among Government House staff members to send to the women of Santa Teresa during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We are proud and grateful, your Excellency, that you are the Foundation’s patron. Thank you and God bless you,” Patty said.
Mrs Hurley, who is known for her love of singing, penned a song for the Sisters, recalling their “unique history” as the first women’s religious congregation established in Sydney, in 1857.
The song also paid tribute to the various ministries carried out by the Sisters over the years, mentioning the House of the Good Shepherd for women in Pitt Street, the Catholic Orphan School in Parramatta as well as current ministries including the Good Samaritan Inn, a specialist service providing crisis, short-term and transitional accommodation and support for women, children and young people who are experiencing family violence or homelessness.
Following the rendition of her song, Mrs Hurley invited those present to join her in a singalong of old-time songs.
“It was a lovely event,” she said. “They are just salt of the earth people, and I love them.”
If you would like to support the ministries of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan you are welcome to make a donation via the Good Samaritan Foundation. Donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia.
This article was published in the September 2023 edition of The Good Oil.