Good Samaritan communities in Australia, the Philippines, Kiribati and Japan gathered in prayer recently for the Call to Chapter, the beginning of a 12-month process of discernment leading to next July’s Chapter Gathering.
Congregational Leader Sister Patty Fawkner SGS said the Call to Chapter was an important time in the life of the Congregation.
“We are so lucky that every six years we have this pivotal moment where we have the opportunity to pause and reflect on who we are as Good Samaritans,” she said.
“It’s a time to ask ourselves, ‘Where is our charism of compassion needed in our world today?’ And, of course, the truth is it’s needed as much as ever.
“But the thing about charism is that it’s always on the move, so we need to keep asking ourselves, what might be new paths for our charism, while being realistic about who we are and what we can offer. The one thing that we know is that until our dying breath we can offer compassion.”
During the Call to Chapter liturgy, held on Good Samaritan Sunday, Patty issued the formal proclamation of the 27th Chapter Gathering.
“On this day, 10 July 2022, Good Samaritan Sunday and the Vigil of Saint Benedict, I call all members of the Congregation to prepare for our 27th Gathering in Chapter in July 2023. Our Gathering in Chapter is a sacred and significant time for our Congregation, for our Church and our World,” she said.
“I invite each one of us to be mindful that by our profession we become members of the Chapter and therefore ‘we each assume responsibility for listening to the Spirit and sharing wisdom as we endeavour to discern God’s preference for the Congregation and to elect Sisters to the service of authority’ (Constitution 7:2).”
Patty said that during the time of Chapter, the Sisters would “continue to collaborate with all who are committed to Good Samaritan life and mission”. She urged all to “enter into prayerful discernment as to how the Spirit is inspiring the Good Samaritan community today.”
Sister Catherine Slattery SGS, Chair of the Chapter Planning Committee, said the Call to Chapter was a significant occasion in the Chapter journey.
“It’s a way of coming together to mark this moment, sharpening our awareness and focusing us on this period of communal discernment,” she said.
“This year is a time of deep listening to each other and the world around us. Formed by the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we’re a Benedictine group, charged with ‘Listening with the ear of the heart’ (RB Prologue) and taking a communal approach to discernment and decision-making.
“That listening will take place at so many levels. We bring our lives, our experiences and we listen to those elements with a view to where are we being called now?”
The Chapter Gathering will be preceded by three Plenary Councils during the year, which will each form their own pivotal marker on the journey to the Chapter Gathering.
“Gradually, as we engage with the question ‘Where is our charism of compassion needed in our world today?’ new Directions will emerge,” Catherine said.
“It’s about creating a narrative, telling a story about who we are as Good Samaritans at this point in time. One thing we know is that Good Samaritans are going to look different to who they are now, because we are always moving forward. The old will inform the new, but the new will not look like the old.”
Catherine said some aspects of the Chapter would chiefly involve the Sisters and look at the internal life of the Congregation.
“But our discernment will always involve our Oblates, partners in ministry, staff, friends and fellow travellers as well, because we have always ministered with others. Without those partnerships we can’t do much at all,” she said.
Sister Sarah Puls SGS, a member of the Chapter Planning Committee, said the Call to Chapter liturgy was prepared by a group of Sisters from each of the four countries in which the Sisters reside.
“As a committee we have been very aware of promoting inclusion and participation, from right across the four countries where we are present,” she said.
“We want to be asking, ‘What is the present-day reality where we live?’ and ground ourselves in that reality.
“It’s an important moment to recognise that Good Samaritan life is not just about the Sisters I encounter in my daily life, but it’s spread around the four countries, offering diverse experiences in language, culture and ministry. All of that diversity is gift and we want to ensure that it is heard, shared and honoured.”
“The challenge for each of us is to listen with openness,” she said.
Sister Grace Marcelo SGS, who lives in the Philippines and is also on the Chapter Planning Committee, said she and the other Sisters in the Philippines have appreciated the focus on inclusivity in the Call to Chapter.
“For me, I’ve found that this inclusivity is very much a part of all Good Samaritan culture already. I appreciate this a lot. With so many restrictions in the past couple of years due to COVID-19, especially with our travelling, I am more aware of our geographical distance, and that can lead to feelings of isolation,” she said.
“So, this Call to Chapter, despite our distance, helps me to feel very close to all our Good Sams – that we are One in Spirit, praying together for the same purpose. I find this exciting.”
Grace said key to the period of discernment in the lead-up to the Chapter Gathering would be an openness to the Spirit “in all our meetings and conversations, prayer and discernment”.
“This requires each of us here to be responsible in taking part in the whole Chapter Process, and committed to intentional listening,” she said.
“By this, I mean that we each choose to participate in an active and creative and enthusiastic manner, open to the Spirit’s movement in each of our hearts and in the whole Congregation and the wider world.”