The Sisters of the Good Samaritan celebrated a day of great joy recently when two novices made their First Profession. Debra Vermeer spoke to the young women, both from Kiribati.
Sister Katarina Kabiriera and Sister Taabeia Ibouri made the traditional Benedictine vows of stability, conversion of life and obedience on September 26 in front of a smaller gathering than usual, due to the COVID-19 restrictions. The ceremony in St Scholastica’s Chapel, Glebe, was livestreamed to other Sisters, Oblates, friends, and family members in Kiribati.
Director of Novices, Sister Maree Nash SGS, said it was a beautiful occasion made more special by knowing that that Katarina and Taabeia’s families could be a part of it.
“Amid the pandemic it was nice to celebrate something joyous and it really was a special day,” she said.
“When I looked back at the livestream video, it was very noticeable that there were far fewer people present because of the pandemic restrictions, but I’m also very conscious that so many more members of the Congregation and Oblates, friends and others could join and see it, and that’s very exciting.
“Because of the livestream, members of Taabeia and Katarina’s families were able to take part as well as members of our two communities in Kiribati and members of the Marist community there.”
Maree said the two women had arrived at the point of making their First Profession as Sisters of the Good Samaritan after two years in the Novitiate at Lawson in NSW and a number of years before that as pre-novices and enquirers with the Good Sams’ communities in Kiribati.
In her official Admonition at the First Profession liturgy, Congregational Leader Sister Patty Fawkner said that the taking of first vows was a serious step in the two women’s lives.
“Katarina and Taabeia, what you are doing and what we are witnessing today is very significant,” she said. “You are deciding what you wish to do with your precious life.
“By the act of religious profession you are saying that you wish to truly seek God, and that you wish to seek God within a community, this community of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict.”
Patty said Katarina and Taabeia were being asked to give their all to God.
“God asks everything of us, especially our love,” she said. “Over the years our love can become lukewarm. God is a passionate lover and wants you, Katarina and Taabeia, to love God with all your mind, with all your heart and soul, with all your strength. God wants your best love, not your left-over love.”
She concluded the Admonition with the formal invitation: “Taabeia and Katarina, behold the Law under which you are choosing to serve. If you can keep it, enter. If not, you are free to leave.”
Both Katarina and Taabeia said they were nervous on the day and in the lead-up but were strengthened by God’s love and by the support of the Good Sams’ community.
“I had been nervous and excited for a week before Profession,” Taabeia said. “However, during Profession, I was nervous, excited but also peaceful in my heart and mind.”
She said the highlight of the occasion for her was singing the Suscipe, the ancient song of monastic self-offering, which translates: ‘Receive me Lord, as you have promised, and I shall live. Do not disappointment me in my hope.’
“I found these words very powerful,” Taabeia said. “Also, I believe that it is my life commitment to God and to the community. I had known the words and how to sing the Suscipe by heart in Kiribati. When I was singing it during the Profession, I was thinking, ‘Finally’. It made me emotional.”
Taabeia said that when she reflected on the long road from her life on a small island in the Pacific to her First Profession as a Sister of the Good Samaritan in Sydney, she felt thankful.
“First of all, I am thankful and grateful for my (late) Dad. He was the first person who planted the seed of me becoming a Sister. Not just that, but his continuous support, interest and encouragement when I was feeling discouraged in my life’s journey. I’m thankful and grateful for people who have been involved in my precious life.”
Taabeia said she was looking forward to moving even more deeply into the life of the Good Sams.
“I’m looking forward to being in a community as a Good Samaritan Sister. I am also looking forward to my ministry, being involved with people. I am super excited for that. And I am also excited to learn new things and have new experiences in life as a Good Samaritan Sister.”
Katarina said she was also nervous during her Profession and found it “hard to breathe” but overcame that “when all the Sisters clapped their hands to welcome me” and she felt surrounded by love.
“As I look back on the journey so far, I’m most thankful for the help and support from everyone,” she said. “I’m looking forward to being neighbour to my Sisters and to everyone.”
In Sydney, Katarina will now join the Benet community of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan in Glebe and Taabeia will join the Meadowbank community.
The pandemic restrictions mean that ministry opportunities are still somewhat limited, but hopefully will open up in coming months.
Maree said ministry was still a bit limited due to COVID-19, “but they will have the opportunity to do more of the study that’s required of the Temporary Professed”.
“I believe there is the possibility of them volunteering somewhere and hopefully there will be increasing opportunities for them to be involved in some ministry.”
Katarina and Taabeia will be in Temporary Vows for four years, after which they may request to take their Perpetual Vows or request to renew their Temporary Vows for two years.
To watch a video of the celebration, click here.