They came from nearly every state and territory in Australia, and internationally, from the Philippines. Their life experiences varied, as did their ages. But they all came together with a common focus – a keen interest in the Good Samaritan charism, that distinct spirituality that has animated the Good Samaritan Sisters for over 150 years.
This third Good Samaritan Partnership Gathering, held in Sydney from October 5 to 7, brought together an 80-strong group of Good Samaritan sisters, oblates, associates, colleagues, and staff from schools founded in the Good Samaritan tradition to explore how the Good Samaritan charism can best be carried into the future.
The weekend-long gathering included a variety of experiences, such as presentations and workshops, prayer and liturgy, reflection and discussion, and a taste of community life.
According to Good Samaritan Sister, Bernardina Sontrop, one of the organisers, the Gathering was a “wonderful experience of partnership”. She paid tribute to the contribution of all involved, especially the team of organisers, the facilitator, Penny Carroll, an oblate from Brisbane, and a number of Good Samaritan Sisters who gave presentations.
Bernardina also noted participants’ openness “to the experience and [to] one another”, and the “tremendous energy in the group”, sentiments echoed by others who spoke to The Good Oil.
“The energy and enthusiasm of the whole group was evident throughout the weekend,” said Liz Nimmo from Wollongong, NSW.
Liz, who will make a public commitment as an oblate next month, attended the last Gathering in 2010 and “loved it”. Eager to attend again, she wasn’t disappointed.
“The rhythm of each day at the Gathering was a lived experience of the Good Samaritan Benedictine way of life. The experience was one of community, of real partnership with the Sisters, and of working together to steward the charism into the future.
“The hospitality, friendship, mutual affection and support felt were quite incredible,” she said.
Andrew Esposito, Assistant Principal (Religious Education) of St Columba’s School, Wilston, a school established by the Good Samaritan Sisters but now operated by the Archdiocese of Brisbane, found the experience “very positive and affirming”.
“It was great to meet other Good Samaritan schools’ personnel and be challenged to make the message of the Good Sams and Benedictine spirituality relevant and active. I came away with some wonderful ideas and look forward to implementing them,” he explained.
For Brett Pollard, Principal of St Francis de Sales School, Clifton, another school established by the Good Samaritan Sisters but now operated by the Diocese of Toowoomba, the highlight of the Gathering was the presentation on the history of the Good Sams in Australia.
“This gave me a fantastic insight to what this charism is all about and how the early pioneers never gave up. A lesson in resilience!” he said.
Brett was struck by “the welcoming and friendly attitude” of the group. “I found it wonderful that so many complete strangers made such an effort to open discourse with both my colleague and myself and welcome us into the Good Sams family.”
Good Samaritan Sister, Pam Grey, from Melbourne, who gave a keynote address on how St Benedict calls us to be in community and on mission together, said “the energy around the conversations went unabated. Such freedom of expression was both empowering and enlightening. We enjoyed each other just as we are – flawed and graced.
“I’d say that no one went home hungry.”