Brisbane celebrated the centenary of the arrival of the Good Samaritan Sisters to Brisbane last month. A large group of sisters attended the celebration at Sts Peter and Paul’s Church, Bulimba, on Sunday January 31.
The church was packed for a Mass celebrated by retired Bishop Brian Finnigan, during which Pastoral Associate Sister Mary Randle, who this year celebrates her golden jubilee of profession as a Good Samaritan Sister, renewed her vows.
Parish Priest Father Tom Elich said Mary’s renewal of vows was greeted with thunderous applause.
In 1916, at the invitation of Archbishop Robert Dunne, the Good Samaritan Sisters sent 14 of their sisters to open convents in Brisbane. That was the year the sisters came to Bulimba and the year the Parish of Sts Peter and Paul’s was formed.
Father Elich said the Good Samaritan Sisters had been “a crucial part of the Bulimba story since the beginning”, including as teachers at Sts Peter and Paul’s Catholic School and Lourdes Hill College.
“Very unusually, our parish school has had only one lay principal,” he said.
“When the Good Sams finished [at the school] they appointed a lay principal – John Power – and he was there for 10 years. But then, the following principal we appointed Sister Ann-Maree Nicholls, a Good Samaritan, who’s I think the only Good Samaritan principal left in Australia.
“So that’s nice to have that continuity, to continue in the parish with Sister Ann-Maree Nicholls in the school and Sister Mary Randle in the parish.”
Mary, who grew up in Bulimba parish, fondly remembers that Archbishop Mark Coleridge, during a pastoral visit said, “The very DNA of the Good Samaritan order is here in this parish. I can sense that and feel it now”.
She said it was a wonderful parish to come back to after having served in various ministries in other states and in Kiribati.
“I’ve been nourished in my community and by Tom… and by the people,” she said.
“They’re salt-of-the-earth people that have always been here, and so faithful, and there’s always been an outreach in this parish.”
Congregational Leader Sister Clare Condon was unable to attend the celebration because she was at a Benedictine conference in the United States so she sent a message that was read at the Mass.
Clare said Mary’s renewal of vows at the centenary Mass was “a significant event which I believe represents the many sisters who have served and been nourished by the people of Bulimba – 117 Good Samaritan Sisters in fact”.
“By our records, some sisters obviously enjoyed their time as they returned for a second term,” she said.
“The sisters who live and work among the people of Bulimba experience love, care and support and we are grateful and richer as a congregation for this experience and this involvement.
“2016 is a time for gratitude for the many women and men who have walked the path of our journey with us.
“From a humble start in 1857 in Sydney we travelled here to Queensland and now have communities, not only in Australia, but in the Philippines, the Republic of Kiribati and Japan.
“Our history has been rich and diverse. It is a history of which we are rightly grateful to God and it is a history in which you now have a special place.
“It is important to pause at milestones such as this and reflect on what the past offers us, celebrate what has been life-giving, learn from the mistakes and struggles, and move forward with confidence and hope.
“The Benedictine spirituality that Polding gave to the sisters – that of seeking of God, of hospitality and of stewardship, has sustained and nurtured the lives of the sisters and I hope has assisted, in some way, the people of Bulimba.”
This is an edited version of an article written by Peter Budgen which first appeared in The Catholic Leader, the newspaper of the Brisbane Archdiocese.