Two Kiribati women, Tuata Terawete and Juniko Toaua, were professed as Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict during a ceremony earlier this month (June 6) that was described as moving, joyful, inspiring and prayerful.
The Rite of First Profession took place during Eucharist at St Thomas Aquinas Church in Spiringwood, NSW, and was presided over by Father Paul Slyney, Parish Priest of Lawson, in the presence of many Good Samaritan Sisters and oblates, parishioners and members of other religious congregations.
“This profession ceremony is a ritual of acceptance, a ritual of invitation to belong, a ritual to be united as one with the community,” said Sister Clare Condon, in her words of admonition – an address delivered in the Benedictine tradition by the congregational superior to novices.
“It is love that brings you here today,” said Sister Clare.
“You are choosing to love through a celibate life and to belong to a community by vowing your life to God through the vows of stability, conversion, and obedience as Sister of the Good Samaritan.
The vows that you will pronounce today bind you to the God of integrity and justice, tenderness and love, and faithfulness.
“As we heard in the first reading [Hosea 2:16, 21-22], this God seeks us first. God speaks to our heart and so we respond from the heart by seeking God with the same gift of integrity and justice, tenderness and love.
“It is this gift that you bring to the community that you join today. The members of the community bind themselves to you also today.”
Tuata and Juniko proclaimed their vows of stability, conversion of life and obedience, and sang the Suscipe (an ancient prayer from the Rule of St Benedict) in their own language.
Both born and raised in the Republic of Kiribati, Juniko and Tuata are part of a growing group of Kiribati women drawn to the Good Samaritan way of life. Currently this group consists of two perpetually professed sisters, four temporary professed sisters and three women in the pre-novitiate phase.
For the last two years Tuata and Juniko have participated in the novitiate program where they lived in the Lawson community of Good Samaritan Sisters and studied the charism and history of the congregation, the Rule of St Benedict, scripture, theology and mission.
“Tuata and Juniko have grown spiritually during these two years of novitiate,” said Novice Director Sister Maree Nash.
“They are joyous, thoughtful and prayerful young women. It has been a privilege to journey with them.”
While 24-year-old Tuata felt “nervous” about making the next step in her journey with the Good Samaritan Sisters, she is “excited about it and also eager to be part of the congregation in their living and in the mission”.
Similarly, Juniko, 27, said: “It is a big step for me, but I am so happy to continue my journey with the Good Samaritan Sisters”.
“I would love to work with my people in Kiribati,” she said.
In the coming weeks, Juniko and Tuata will return to Kiribati where they will continue with a study program and engage in ministry. If after four years they wish to continue in the Good Samaritan way of life, they can renew their vows for a further two years or request to make their perpetual profession.
The Congregation of the Sisters of Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict, known affectionately as the Good Sams, is Australia’s first ‘home-grown’ congregation of Catholic religious women. They were founded in Sydney in 1857 by Archbishop John Bede Polding, an English Benedictine monk and Australia’s first bishop.
Today, there are around 235 sisters living and working throughout Australia, in Japan, Kiribati, and the Philippines. Since 1991 the Sisters have been working in the remote Pacific island nation of Kiribati in education, pastoral and community development roles.