More than 20 sisters from Kiribati, the Philippines, Japan and Australia gathered recently for the inaugural Good Samaritan Sisters’ Asia-Pacific Leadership Forum to explore some of the cross-cultural aspects of leadership which will help guide the congregation into the future.
The forum was held in Tagaytay, south of Manila in the Philippines from January 11-15 and, according to Sister Bernardina Sontrop, who is on the Good Samaritan Council, it grew out of a desire to help sisters grow in their awareness and understanding of the different characteristics and styles of leadership in their cultures, communal lives and engagement in mission, so as to realise their own leadership capacity.
“We recognised that there is a growing maturity and engagement in leadership among our sisters in the Asia-Pacific,” Bernardina said.
“Our community in the Philippines celebrated 25 years last year and Kiribati will reach that milestone this year, while Japan has been responsible for their own leadership for many years now, so the council decided it was time to bring the sisters together to reflect on and share their experiences of leadership.”
Bernardina said the forum was a great success because of the deeper understandings of different cultures and leadership styles that were reached.
“We weren’t really looking for outcomes as such,” she said. “But rather for a depthing of our own experience and a greater understanding of both the differences and the things we hold in common. We also became more aware of the challenges of leadership across the cultures.
“For instance, we learnt that communication is important, but there are differences in how we communicate. And we identified that there are common characteristics of leadership across cultures, but how it happens is different in each culture.
“Identifying these differences and commonalities will hopefully enable us to develop our personal leadership skills and work more effectively in leadership across our cultures into the future.”
Congregational Leader Sister Clare Condon, said the forum fulfilled the council’s desire to support and develop local leadership amongst the small and young group of sisters, particularly in Kiribati and the Philippines.
“I was delighted with the experience of sharing so much together,” she said.
“The interactions were purposeful, energetic and committed. I sensed a growing maturity in our way of life and mission amongst the sisters.”
Sister Tuata Terawete from Kiribati said the highlight of the forum for her was the sharing on a deeper level with her Good Samaritan Sisters.
“This connected us with a strong bond, uniting us as sisters in the community and in the whole congregation, even though we are different,” Tuata said.
“I learnt that the way we do leadership is not about whether we are intelligent or have higher qualifications, but that all of us are unique people. We are all the same in this responsibility.
“The challenge for me now is how to incorporate the different perspectives of leadership within community life.”
Sister Germia Tocama from the Philippines said she found the forum extremely helpful in exploring the link between leadership and culture.
“It gives me more understanding of the ways others would understand leadership in their own culture,” she said. “It gave us the opportunity to be with the other sisters and to look at leadership in the context of our Good Samaritan tradition as well.”
Germia said she particularly appreciated a segment of the forum where the sisters examined the leadership style of Pope Francis.
“We saw that his way of leadership is about modelling and witnessing, which means that what you say, you do – it’s not just words. For me that is very important, to live what we are preaching.”
Sister Eiko Mukae from Japan gained a lot from the forum in terms of understanding one another in each sister’s personal and cultural contexts.
“Through these learning experiences, we live and bring the charism of our congregation in ourselves and this gives us confidence and encouragement in our various cultures for our life and mission into the future,” she said.
“I was very happy to know that everybody has leadership capacity and I understood clearly our various leadership styles in each cultural tradition. It helped me to learn various leadership skills and receive the opportunity to grow and mature more from my inner self to others.
“The forum brought me big hope and encouragement to walk to our God together with our sisters as a member of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, toward our future.”
Sister Ann-Maree Nicholls, who is based in Brisbane, said she felt privileged to be asked by the congregation to take part in the Asia-Pacific Leadership Forum, which she described as a “wonderful and rich experience of gaining a deeper understanding of who we are as a congregation into the future”.
“I was filled with hope with the depth of discussion and trust amongst the sisters gathered as we focused each day on an aspect of the story of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well,” she said.
“I came away from the week affirmed by the giftedness and commitment of those gathered together with a sense of courage and hope as we go forward with confidence as a congregation, rich in diversity as well as a willingness to explore the new whilst acknowledging the past.”