Around 120 Sisters of the Good Samaritan from different parts of Australia, Japan, the Philippines and Kiribati will come together in Sydney this weekend to begin their congregation’s 26th Chapter Gathering.
For the Good Samaritan Sisters, a Chapter Gathering is held every six years, and is a major time of discernment – a time for members to take stock, come together, set future directions and elect leadership.
In the Benedictine tradition, all professed Good Samaritan Sisters are eligible to participate in the Chapter Gathering, but some choose not to because of age, health or an inability to travel.
While the Chapter Gathering will be held for nine days from September 24, preparation for it began on July 11 last year, the Feast of St Benedict, when Congregational Leader Sister Clare Condon called all sisters “to a new place of personal and communal renewal and to be enlivened afresh by our charism and heritage”.
“Today I call each one of us to earnest and sincere preparation for our Chapter Gathering in September 2017,” she said.
Since that time, sisters have been engaged in a heightened time of dialogue and discernment under the guidance of a Chapter Planning Committee and the Chapter facilitators. That process has also included conversations with people beyond the sisters, including ministry partners, oblates and associates, colleagues, volunteers, friends and family.
Sister Patty Fawkner, Chair of the Chapter Planning Committee, said feedback about the preparation processes has been “overwhelmingly positive”.
“There is a positive spirit around and high energy. People are looking forward to coming to our Gathering. Even people who can’t make it to the Gathering have been really engaged because they say they feel as though they’ve been included.”
Patty said that four main issues had emerged from the various dialogue and discernment processes – “Outreach in partnership”, “Deepening communion: belonging and having voice”, “Being an ecclesial community”, and “Cosmology” – and that these issues will form the basis of the Chapter Gathering.
For the first time, a representative group of 22 lay partners will attend one-and-half days of the Chapter Gathering. There will also be a panel discussion on cosmology with four experts from the fields of theology, climate change, Scripture and Indigenous culture and spirituality.
The two facilitators guiding the Chapter Gathering process are Donna Fyffe and Sister Catherine Schneider OSF, both experienced process consultants from the United States, who have worked extensively with the Sisters over the last 15 months.
“We’ve been able to draw on the gifts of so many different people,” said Patty.
“I have great confidence in our facilitators, and I just feel very hope-filled, very grateful for the positive spirit of engagement that the sisters and others have contributed.”
“How privileged we are to have a say in our own future; I’m just mindful of so many women around the world who don’t have that,” she said.
“So I just hope that we honour that gift that we’ve been given and use that responsibly for the sake of that same world and those women.”
The 26th Chapter Gathering of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan will be held at St Joseph’s Retreat and Spirituality Centre, Baulkham Hills, in Sydney, from September 24 to October 2, 2017.