November 2014

A radical commitment to goodness

Being radical doesn’t have to be connected with evil and violence; it can be very positive, writes Good Samaritan Sister Clare Condon.

BY Clare Condon SGS

Every now and then one has an experience that goes well beyond the ordinary. Such was my experience recently at the funeral of one of our sisters.

At the age of 95, our Sister Julian McKenna died on October 19 in Melbourne. Sixty-six years ago she, with five other Good Samaritan Sisters, travelled for the first time outside Australia to post-war Japan to assist in the rehabilitation of Nagasaki. Julian had set out on the adventure of her life, full of energy, youth and enthusiasm. During her rich, long and selfless life, she went on to spend 46 years in Japan and had become one with the Japanese people in so many ways.

What struck me forcefully was the realisation that Julian was just 29 years of age when she went to Japan in 1948, expecting that she would never return to Australia and to her large family of eight siblings. It was 16 years before she returned to Australia on a visit. And yet, those bonds with home and family remained. At her funeral most of her 30 nieces and nephews and extended family were present. She was remembered by the Japanese women she had served. She was loved deeply by them all.

What was it about her life that made such an impact?

At the end of the Second World War, Julian went to Japan – the enemy – to do good and to be a friendly neighbour. Sister Glenda Bourke, in her reflection about Julian’s life at the funeral Mass, noted that when Julian was asked about going to an unknown country at 29 years of age with the expectation of never returning, she would reply: “Glenda, that is religious life and that is being neighbour. That is to what I had committed myself.”

This was a radical commitment to goodness which had not only served others, but had brought great love and joy into her own life in ways not expected – because she confidently risked her all.

In our Australian media these days we keep hearing about young people committing themselves to a radicalised movement of hatred, violence and death. Julian, on the contrary, is a wonderful example of the energy and commitment of a young person contributing to goodness, peace-building and life. Being radical doesn’t have to be connected with evil and violence; it can be very positive.

In my ministry of meeting students in our Good Samaritan colleges, I come across many young women and men who are fired up to change the world from the darkness and despair they see around them; they want to serve others and make the world a better place, a more just and peaceful place.

Yet, aspects of our Western culture constantly convey to them that they ought to be concerned only for themselves. The messages are clear: to be self-focused; to acquire material goods (for they will bring you happiness); to seek individual fulfilment.

Today there are not a lot of opportunities available to young people to explore the radical nature of religious life as a way of life that captured the heart and soul of Sister Julian some 73 years ago. But one such opportunity exists for young women from November 28 to 30 at Mount St Benedict Centre, Pennant Hills in Sydney.

The invitation is to come and experience the energy and excitement of a life of commitment and dedication; to check out if there is something more to life for you and if God can make a positive difference to your life. Perhaps you or someone you know might be interested? Why not take the plunge and spend a weekend exploring your own search for a radical and positive way of life? Find out more here.

Clare Condon

Sister Clare Condon is a former Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. She served as leader from September 2005 until September 2017. In 2013, Clare was awarded a Human Rights Medal by the Australian Human Rights Commission in recognition of the Good Samaritan Sisters’ work with asylum seekers, Indigenous Australians and the victims of domestic violence.

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