Immersion programs have become an integral part of the life of Good Samaritan Colleges. And no matter the type of immersion – be it in another country, a remote Aboriginal community or with homeless people in urban Sydney – students and staff consistently say the experiences enrich them. The recent immersion experience in Japan for staff was no exception.
“Going to Japan was quite a different experience to other immersion trips we’ve offered,” said Good Samaritan Sister Meg Kahler. “It was more like a pilgrimage.”
Meg, along with Monica Dutton, both part of Good Samaritan Education’s Mission Team, led a group of 14 participants on a 12–day pilgrimage that traced the journey of the Good Samaritan Sisters in Japan from 1948 to the present.
In the aftermath of World War II, the Good Samaritan Sisters responded to an appeal from the Bishop of Nagasaki, Paul Yamaguchi, to help rebuild his diocese which had been devastated by the 1945 atomic bomb.
After four years, the sisters left Nagasaki to establish communities in Sasebo and Nara. There they started kindergartens, worked in the Nara parish and built Seiwa High School for girls in Sasebo. Before long, Japanese women began expressing a desire to join the community.
“I found it a deeply enriching experience learning about the Good Samaritan ministry and the Sisters’ journey in Japan,” said Marlo VanderZalm, a teacher from Mater Christi College, Belgrave.
A highlight for Marlo was visiting Seiwa College (Seiwa means “holy peace”). Now run by the Archdiocese of Nagasaki, the College is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary this year.
“I was taken aback by the gracious hospitality and genuine displays of welcome and respect offered to us… The teachers and students made every effort to make us feel welcome and shared their culture and classrooms with us openly,” she explained.
“We participated in a school assembly, tea ceremony, calligraphy classes and were provided with many opportunities to interact with the students.”
Despite language and cultural differences, Marlo was “amazed to be able to identify the core values of the Benedictine tradition” in the students’ interactions and conversations.
“Through our visit to the College, I sensed that we are all intricately connected and belong to the one Good Samaritan global community,” she said.
Iain Hoy, a music teacher from Rosebank College, Sydney found the visit to Seiwa to be one of many highlights.
“The day started with a welcome assembly from the principal, staff and students… and beautiful choral performances by the famous Seiwa Singers!… I also had the opportunity to teach a music class and catch up with Shoko [a student who had been on exchange at Rosebank College] and her family in the evening. It was a day that I will never forget!”
Visiting the community of Japanese Good Samaritan Sisters in Nara was also a significant experience for Iain. “They had prepared a meal for us and welcomed us into their community so warmly.”
Gerry Dalton, a member of Good Samaritan Education from Brisbane, said joining the sisters for prayer and a meal “was like being home”.
“My journey with the Good Samaritans has been enriching in so many ways over the years. Inspiring sisters, collegiality with many friends and spiritual learning,” he reflected.
“The kind invitation to travel to Japan was an unexpected opportunity to experience the ongoing legacy of the sisters who went so willingly to that country devastated by war.”
For Gerry the group experience “cemented bonds of friendship”.
“We had come together from a wide geographical spread, with the common linkage of roles in Good Samaritan Education. Our immersion experiences were shared and invigorated our respect for our varied roles and how we participate in the charism that joins different countries and cultures.”
Later this year Good Samaritan Education will offer another immersion experience, this time in the Philippines and for students who have recently finished Year 12. Called an “alternative schoolies-post school immersion”, it’s bound to offer yet another enriching experience for participants.