Three young women from Kiribati have taken a leap of faith by moving to Australia to begin their novitiate journey with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.
Taabeia Ibouri, Tosy Tataua and Katarina Kabiriera were officially welcomed into the novitiate program on October 28 at a reception ceremony at the novitiate in Lawson, in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.
Congregational Leader Sister Patty Fawkner told the gathering it was a significant moment in the life of the congregation and of the three young women.
“Today we welcome Taabeia, Katarina and Tosy into the novitiate. Reception is hugely significant, because it is another marker, a deepening of a choice, about the direction of one’s life,” she said.
Patty said that over the coming days, months and years, the novices and the novitiate community at Lawson would continue to discern if the Good Samaritan life is the way of life for them.
“Do they truly seek God, are they serious about the work of God, are they really committed to obedience by listening to God who speaks to us in each and every event of our life? And is Good Samaritan life the best way for them in their search for God?”
Each of the three women’s search for God has taken twists and turns throughout their life in their Pacific island home, but one key thing they have in common in their vocational journey so far is that they attended the Kiribati Pastoral Institute, where they got to know the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.
Taabeia, aged 25, grew up on a small island of only 50 people and said she learned the faith from her father who would take her for Morning and Evening Prayer in the local church. Before she left for high school in South Tarawa, her Dad planted the seed that she might become a religious sister. Later, while still at school, she met Good Samaritan Sister Judith Margetts and became involved in some of the Good Samaritan ministries, visiting the mentally ill, doing Christmas ministry with prisoners and visiting the local hospital.
When she finished school in 2011 she went on to the Kiribati Pastoral Institute, where she met Tosy and Katarina. There, she studied Scripture, theology, spirituality, English and music, and found her heart more and more inclined towards religious life.
“What my Dad told me when I was young had become what I wanted,” she said.
Tosy, who is 28, grew up Catholic and as a young child the family would go to church and pray the Rosary at night.
“But everything changed when my Mum passed away when I was 13,” she said.
From then on, Tosy went to live with her father’s sister who wasn’t Catholic, and moved around various relatives. In 2006 she went to a boarding school run by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and her faith became stronger. It was on a school retreat that she first had the idea of becoming a religious sister, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to leave her friends. Another retreat touched her deeply and she decided to go to the Kiribati Pastoral Institute the following year, “to deepen my faith and see what happens”.
Tosy became an aspirant with the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Sisters but after meeting Judith and other Good Samaritans at the Kiribati Pastoral Institute she decided she had a choice to make.
“I think the Good Samaritan way of life suits me and I like their ministries,” she said. “I’ve experienced their life now and it’s good.”
Katarina, at 24 is the youngest of the three novices, and arrived at the Good Samaritans after growing up Catholic and attending boarding school in her high school years, where she first felt “maybe Jesus was calling me” to religious life while on retreat. When she told her uncle about her call, he suggested she attend a “Come and See” gathering that the Good Samaritan Sisters were holding, and, after also attending the Kiribati Pastoral Institute, she indicated her desire to join the Good Samaritans.
“I enjoyed their ministry,” she said. “In particular, I enjoyed going to the ‘Faith and Light’ ministry for people with disability.”
However, Katarina says taking the big step to move to a country as big as Australia and enter the novitiate was “scary”.
“But for me, the Sisters are like my family and I’m going to depend on them to look after me,” she said.
Director of Novices, Sister Maree Nash, said apart from studying The Rule of St Benedict, while in the novitiate the young women will take English lessons to further improve their level of language, and they will deepen their prayer life through such means as creative prayer.
“Creative prayer involves engaging in different ways of praying, through art, such as mandalas, and other ways of praying and reflecting, using art,” Maree said. “It’s about human development as well.
“They will undertake structured autobiography, to explore their family history and develop more self-knowledge.
“And they will receive accompaniment from me, as I help them reflect on how they’re going with things like community life and the pattern of life.”
The novices, who have joined second-year novice, Donna Ferrer, also have units in biblical study and religious life, and participate in the daily life of the congregation, including Morning and Evening Prayer, where they take their turn in leading the praying of the Daily Office.
The young women are also busy experiencing and adjusting to life in Australia, including such activities as using the train and light rail to get to Glebe once a week for their formation in The Rule of St Benedict. They have also taken trips to the local big shopping mall and will get to know more of the Sisters through meeting them at various congregational events.
Like Katarina, Tosy was apprehensive about all the changes she would encounter in Australia.
“I was nervous about leaving my family and friends,” said Tosy. “It was a big change when I came here. I will miss my family and friends, my people, my food and my culture. But I’m also looking forward to what I will learn.”
For Taabeia however, there were no nerves, just excitement.
“I’m not nervous,” she laughed. “I’m really happy and looking forward to the next step. Because I left my parents at a young age and lived with others on another island, I know how to live with that. I look forward to learning more about the Good Samaritan way of life and learning more new things.
“You learn a lot when you have new experiences. I do miss my family, but while I’m with the Sisters, I’m alright.”