June 2016

Good Samaritan for life

Two little girls from Sudan have reminded Sister Mary Randle why, after 50 years, she is still a Sister of the Good Samaritan, writes Peter Bugden.

BY Peter Bugden

Two little girls from Sudan have reminded Sister Mary Randle why, after 50 years, she is still a Sister of the Good Samaritan.

The reminder came through an experience she had been reluctant to agree to. Eventually she said “Yes” – a little “Yes”, compared with the one she gave at her profession five decades ago, but it’s one of the many that give meaning to the life she’s chosen.

Asked why she has remained a Good Samaritan Sister and what has kept her going, Mary said “it’s because it’s not about me”.

“You’ve been called, and the momentum is to get up and get going,” she said. “It’s not about Mary Randle, and there’s so much more to do.”

There’ll be plenty for her to do this year because she’s pastoral associate in Brisbane’s Bulimba parish which is celebrating its centenary.

The celebrations started earlier this year with a Mass marking the centenary of the arrival of the Good Samaritan Sisters in Brisbane. They’ve been active in the Parish of Saints Peter and Paul ever since, especially through Saints Peter and Paul’s Primary School and Lourdes Hill College.

Mary, who celebrated her golden jubilee at the parish centenary Mass on January 31, thanks people like the two little girls from Sudan for helping sustain her life as a Good Sam.

She and her fellow sisters at the Lourdes Hill convent have known “the beautiful Sudanese family” since they were asked to help them when they moved to the area about five years ago.

“They’ve become part and parcel of our lives, and of the community’s life,” Mary said.

The mother of the family so trusted Mary and the Good Samaritan Sisters that she asked if Mary could look after her three daughters, including a two-year-old, while she visited Sudan at Christmas.

“I said, ‘Anne [not her real name], there’s no way; I’m an old lady now, [and] I don’t think the baby could be without you’,” Mary said.

“Anyway, the kids kept saying to me, ‘Sister Mary, why can’t we come to you? We always come to you for Christmas…’ And I would say, ‘But that’s just for the day and this is for six weeks …’”.

Eventually Mary asked the other nuns if it would be okay to have the little visitors, and they agreed. At the end of the six weeks they’re glad they did.

“But what it is, you give a little but the outreach of those two beautiful girls saying ‘good night’ and ‘good morning’ to the nuns, and getting up to take the plates – because a lot of us are in our 70s and 80s – to see those two little girls give us so much life,” she said.

“So, what keeps me going? That’s what it’s all about; it’s that kind of thing – that you don’t get too much of the ‘poor me’ stuff and that you say, ‘there’s much more to do for each other on the journey of life’.”

Mary said it was experiences like that that “motivates me and keeps me going”.

Pondering when she feels and when she has felt closest to God, she again refers to the recent experience with her young guests.

“When the girls were there, I’d say, ‘It’s time for bed.’ And we’d say, ‘What’s the blessing of the day?’, and we’d all go round and share a blessing; and then I’d say, ‘What prayer?’ and we’d pray for their mum and family in Sudan,” Mary said.

“So it’s moments like that when I see people trusting God and learning to trust God that nourish me.”

Another particular moment she remembers is when her father Charlie was dying. Seeing the depth of his faith she felt close to God.

“We were saying the Rosary [as they had done every night when she and her six siblings were children], and he could hardly say it, and I said, ‘Oh, we’ll say it for you, Dad’,” Mary said.

“And he said, ‘No, it gives me strength’… So that’s one moment, because he could see God’s face…”.

The memory brought tears.

“There’s been moments of friendship with Good Samaritan Sisters when you’re so alive that you know God’s there, and there’s been moments with my family when you know God’s there.”

The Randle family’s Good Samaritan and Bulimba connections run deep, having moved to the suburb in 1946 and with a fourth generation there today.

Mary’s older sister Veronica, now deceased, was a Good Sam, and one of her younger sisters, Ellen, is in the order. One of her brothers, Charlie, became a Marist Brother.

Life with the Good Sams has taken Mary into teaching in schools in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales, catechetics in state schools and running a catechetical centre in Victoria, and teaching at a pastoral institute in Kiribati and ministry outreach there among the poor and mentally ill.

“I think the devotion to the Rosary every night [may have had something to do with the family’s religious callings],” she said.

“Dad used to say, ‘At the fifth mystery we’ll pray for vocations, this is vocations for the archdiocese and the parish, and especially for this family’. So I think we must’ve caught the bug.”

The Good Samaritan Parable (Luke 10:25-37) won Mary from an early age.

“The women I knew [as a schoolgirl at Bulimba] lived that parable of the Good Samaritan – to go out with compassion,” she said.

“I can even remember, as children here, they visited families after school. And, when [the Good Samaritan Sisters’] history was written, [it told of times] when the Good Sams didn’t have money, for food even, sometimes.

“They’ve always had that outreach to the poor, and I’ve seen them live it and learned to live it myself, and I think that’s the parable – to go the extra mile and not worry about the colour of skin or religion or whatever it is.”

Mary’s time in Kiribati was an experience of poverty like no other she’d encountered. When she was asked to teach pastoral ministry there she remembers thinking, “You can’t do this in a vacuum”, so she made sure she and those she was teaching were active in the field.

One of the places she reached out to was the mental health hospital.

“It really touched me,” she said. “It was the most impoverished place I’ve seen… The women were at one end and the men at the other, just on concrete – not a mat to lie on.”

She started visiting with the young women who were interested in becoming Good Samaritan Sisters and they gradually made a difference.

“I think [the Good Samaritan Parable] has sustained and nourished me; it’s key to living as a Good Samaritan – that you continue to reach out without fear or favour, or [no matter] who the person is,” Mary said.

“And, have I failed? Sometimes yes… But that’s the forgiving hand of God then, isn’t it?”

This article, written by Peter Bugden, was first published in The Catholic Leader on February 7, 2016.

The Good Oil

‘The Good Oil’, the free, monthly e-journal of the Good Samaritan Sisters, publishes news, feature and opinion articles and reflective content which aims to nourish the spirit, stimulate thinking and encourage reflection and dialogue about contemporary issues from a Good Samaritan perspective.

If you would like to republish this article, please contact the editor.