Planning for the international conference of the Benedictine Educators’ Network to be held at St Scholastica’s College in Sydney later this year, is well underway with an impressive line up of speakers and presenters.
BY The Good Oil
Delegates will be offered a unique and distinctly Australian experience over the five-day gathering (September 30 – October 4), with the theme “Benedictine wisdom beneath the Southern Cross”.
Held every three years, the global conference of the International Commission on Benedictine Education (ICBE) offers teachers and administrators who promote a Benedictine vision of education with a forum to learn, support and inspire each other.
Hosted by Good Samaritan Education (GSE), BENet19 Committee Chair, Gabrielle Sinclair, said planning is in the detail stage with “all hands at the plough”.
“We have a great team working over 18 months and representatives from all of our GSE Colleges have been involved in various ways to bring it all together.”
“We are expecting around 200 delegates from 15 countries as well as Australia including our GSE colleges, Sisters of the Good Samaritan, associated schools, and other Benedictine communities,” says Gabrielle.
GSE Chair, Moira Najdecki, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, Patty Fawkner SGS, President of the ICBE, Abbot Elias Lorenzo, and Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation, Abbot Gregory Polan will be attending, and Northern Territory Senator and Minister Assisting the Chief Minister on Multicultural Affairs, Malarndirri McCarthy will officially open the conference.
The program offers a mix of international and Australian keynote speakers, workshop presentations and an expo, as well as a “walking workshops” sharing some of Sydney’s stories and sacred spaces including Mary MacKillop Place, an Aboriginal Heritage Walk, Archbishop Polding’s Sydney tour, and an Historic Wivenhoe and Mater Dei Camden tour.
“We realise that delegates who come from overseas or interstate don’t want to be stuck in a conference room all day. Walking workshops allow delegates to see parts of Sydney, through a guided experience that connects with our conference theme and deepens their learning,” says Gabrielle.
Catholic educator and inaugural Chair of Good Samaritan Education (GSE), Terry Creagh OAM, will deliver the opening keynote address on the historical and contemporary context of Australian Catholic Education through the lens of the work of the Good Sams and the establishment of Good Samaritan Education.
From the pioneering days of the new colony of Australia, when Archbishop John Bede Polding OSB established the first congregation of religious women founded in Australia – the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict in 1857 – Terry will trace the 162 year story of Catholic Education and support for the poor and marginalised, which has been enriched by the work of the Good Sams.
Gabrielle says one of the reasons ICBE wanted to hold the conference in Australia was to get a deeper understanding of the unique ecclesial community model of GSE.
“We have a unique approach in Australia compared to other Benedictine educational bodies across the world. The ICBE is keen to learn from the way we collaborate and work together through the 10 GSE Colleges, so they might be able to apply that learning to their own contexts. Terry’s keynote will help to share that story.”
Visiting Research Scholar in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego, Kathryn (Kathy) Lilla Cox is a noted scholar on conscience formation. Her work concentrates on how human beings shape each other, and the complex role that faith plays in decisions and actions. Her time with the Benedictines at St Benedict and St John’s University shapes this work and theological reflection.
Kathy’s keynote will focus on collaboratively carrying forth Benedictine practices and wisdom, especially for those unfamiliar with monastic traditions, and the implications on practices such as prayer, listening and communal life. Drawing on her own experience as a lay person, Kathy will explore and reflect upon a process for more “deeply living into answers to questions of educating in a Benedictine manner”. Her interactive workshop will expand this focus and how participants can reflect upon their own practices in their own educational and personal context.
Father Michael Casey OCSC, who has been a Cistercian monk at Tarrawarra since 1960, has published extensively on different facets of monasticism and, during the past 40 years, has visited over 100 monasteries in different countries giving seminars and retreats. He is regarded as one of the most significant writers in the Benedictine and Cistercian tradition in the world.
His keynote address will focus on the evolutionary nature of a living tradition within the context in which it is found. He will explore how Benedictine history is a history of re-formation, sometimes self-generated, sometimes the result of external circumstances, and how living within the Benedictine tradition implies a double task: a return to the sources and a sensitivity to “the signs of the times”. Fr Michael’s workshop will pose the question, “Is there a Benedictine spirituality?”. He says if Google is anything to go by, 55,400 hits indicate there is. He will explore what “Benedictine Spirituality” means and how not everything marketed under the Benedictine label meets the conditions.
Conference facilitator and Executive Director of the Queensland Catholic Education Commission, Dr Lee-Anne Perry says she is looking forward to being the facilitator for the conference.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to explore and deepen our understanding of the Benedictine charism in education,” says Lee-Anne.
“The Good Samaritans have a long history in Australia of bringing this charism to our Catholic schools. As we adapt and change the way education is delivered, this conference will provide insights into how we can incorporate the Benedictine charism and continue developing it in 21st Century Catholic education.”
Gabrielle says a significant feature of the conference will be the opportunity for delegates to meet in regional and deanery groups.
“Each day there will be time for delegates to network in smaller deanery and regional groups to process and unpack their experiences, and to share and explore what they have learned in their own contexts,” says Gabrielle.
“The Benedictine Education Network includes such a diverse range of schools from different cultures and backgrounds. It is our hope that the BENet 2019 gathering will strengthen and support the network in our shared mission of education.”
Good Samaritan Education is the ecclesial community established by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan in 2011 to oversee the ethos, mission and stewardship of the 10 incorporated Good Samaritan Colleges in Australia.
Registration are still open for the full conference and day registrations.
For more information and bookings, visit the conference website