The members of the Good Samaritan Education Mission Team hail from different backgrounds, but have one key thing in common: they are all steeped in Gospel formation and a passion for sharing it with others.
BY Debra Vermeer
Good Samaritan Education (GSE) is the ecclesial community established in 2011 to oversee the ethos, mission and stewardship of the ten Good Samaritan Colleges in Australia.
The new Mission Team, comprised of Pat O’Gorman, Loretta Brinkman and Gabrielle Sinclair, along with administrative assistant Barbara Rodrigues, is focused on the formation of staff and students in the foundational story, charism, values and spirituality of the Good Samaritan Benedictine tradition.
“It’s a vision challenged by the parable [of the Good Samaritan], guided by The Rule of Benedict and inspired by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and the legacy they’ve left us,” says Pat.
“We provide a multi-layered and targeted formation that equips people by forming them in the mission they are charged with. It’s about how we continue to build an identity and culture across our school communities through a Good Samaritan Benedictine lens.”
Pat took up the role of Director of the GSE Mission Team in early 2017.
She has had a close connection with the Good Samaritan Sisters for about 48 years, starting when she first met them as a ten-year-old at St John Vianney Catholic Primary School at Fairy Meadow near Wollongong.
Working as a Catholic educator for 36 years, Pat came into further contact with the Good Sams over the years, through various spiritual formation courses.
In 2004, having long been drawn to the spirituality of the Good Sams and their Benedictine traditions, she became an Oblate of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.
Before taking on her current role, she was one of the members of the first Governing Council of Good Samaritan Education.
“It was funny, but when this job on the Mission Team was first advertised, my email inbox started going ‘ding, ding, ding’, with people emailing me to alert me to it because they thought it would suit me,” she says.
After some prayerful discernment, she decided to apply.
“In the end, it felt as though my whole life had brought me to this moment and I was delighted to get the job.”
Pat says her role is to work with Loretta and Gabrielle on the Mission Team, but also to work at the executive level of GSE, with the Executive Director and the Director of Finance, in governance and formation.
“Our responsibility is to make sure that the charism provides the framework for our part in God’s mission. In doing that, it is important to share the story, to make sure people know what our foundation story is about and being able to articulate it and live it in new ways which are relevant to our time and place,” she says.
The Team’s role involves the administration, preparation and facilitation of workshops, conferences, retreats, formation and immersion experiences for staff and students from GSE colleges. Programs are also offered to affiliated schools.
Loretta Brinkman joined the Mission Team in January this year as Mission Leader after a career in youth ministry and then mission formation in the Catholic health sector.
After volunteering for the St Vincent de Paul Society since high school, Loretta took up the position of Vinnies Youth Coordinator in the Diocese of Wollongong after leaving school.
“I didn’t really know what the role would be about, but I quickly realised it was youth ministry – journeying with young people, working with young volunteers, strengthening their faith, and I loved it,” she says.
Loretta, who is a veteran of seven World Youth Days, stayed with Vinnies for nine years until she took up a position with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who she had known through her parish in Campbelltown.
In that Melbourne-based role, she helped the Oblates prepare for their international gatherings ahead of Sydney’s World Youth Day. She organised a big gathering of people from different Oblate communities around Victoria and also coordinated Rosies, their street outreach.
When that was over, Loretta took a youth ministry job back home in the Wollongong Diocese, where she stayed for five years, until she felt like she needed a new challenge.
“I felt I was losing my creative spark a bit,” she says. “Where does a youth minister go when they grow up?”
She stumbled across a job ad for Mission Manager in the St Vincent’s Health network in Sydney.
“I had done a Masters of Theology by this time and I really threw myself into this new job, not having a clue what it was. But what I found was, it wasn’t all that different to youth ministry. It was about journeying with the staff as they go about their mission. Asking how does the Gospel and the charism shape what we do each day?”
When she saw the GSE job advertised, it seemed another opportunity to live and share the Gospel through a particular charism.
She says that having lived a year of the GSE Mission calendar she’s finding the role “diverse, interesting and challenging”.
“My job involves working with both the staff and students and making sure that all of our mission formation opportunities are quality, that they meet people where they’re at so that they’re really going to feed and nourish the students and staff in our schools,” Loretta says.
“It’s not about education, but more about forming them as people who see themselves as part of the Good Samaritan Benedictine story.”
At the beginning of each year, the team holds staff days to introduce new staff to the story of the Good Samaritan Sisters and The Rule of St Benedict.
There are also formation opportunities for people in different roles in the schools – leadership, staff retreats, student immersion programs.
“This year we had programs for Year 11 students to work in outreach in Sydney, being involved in different service organisations. Another group from Year 11 went overseas to the Philippines to connect and work with the Sisters in their ministry in Bacolod. And Year 10s have had the opportunity to go to Santa Teresa in Central Australia,” Loretta says.
Loretta says GSE prepared her for her role on the Mission Team by sending her on a Benedictine pilgrimage in which she immersed herself in the Benedictine story by walking in the footsteps of St Benedict in Italy, followed by a visit to England to trace the story of Australia’s first archbishop and founder of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, the Benedictine monk John Bede Polding.
“That experience really shaped my year, in sharing these experiences I had with the staff and students. I honestly think that this has been the best year of my professional life and for me, the best thing about it is I’m not doing it alone. I’m part of a team,” she says.
Mission Team Leader Gabrielle Sinclair, says that after a career in youth ministry at local and national level, she is enjoying immersing herself in her new role.
“I’m loving having a charism that holds it all together,” she says.
After leaving school in the Broken Bay Diocese, Gabrielle trained in TV production and media and worked in that sphere for a little while.
“I became involved in youth ministry at the local level because I saw the need,” she says. “I was talking to a parent after Mass one day and she was bemoaning the fact that her child was too old to be an altar server and there was nothing else for her in the parish.
“I went straight home and wrote up a proposal to put to the parish.”
The proposal was knocked back at first, but Gabrielle persisted and soon the program was up and running.
While her children were young, Gabrielle studied theology, focusing on pastoral subjects, including youth ministry.
When Sydney’s World Youth Day appeared on the horizon, she took a role with Bathurst Diocese preparing for WYD 2008, including the “Days in the Diocese” program, the tour of the WYD cross and other diocesan initiatives.
After six years in diocesan youth ministry, she worked as the Projects Manager for the Youth Office of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, having already contributed at a national level, including being on the working committee for the “Anointed and Sent” national mission document for youth ministry.
“So I already had a national vision and then, working with the ACBC, we started events that are now part of the national calendar, including the Australian Catholic Youth Festivals, the Youth Ministry Convention and other events, particularly World Youth Days.
“It was an exciting time and a very gratifying time, but I also felt it was a good time to move on, because these youth initiatives and vision for youth ministry had been embraced by the national community and the bishops.
“I also found that my role had moved away from ministry and into event management, but I really craved walking a faith journey with people.”
Since starting with GSE in May this year, Gabrielle says she has been on a “massive learning curve”.
“I’ve been learning about Benedictine spirituality and becoming familiar with The Rule,” she says. “I’ve known it as a concept before, but never delved into it.
“It’s been a beautiful journey and I’m very much enjoying that. It feels like coming home.”
Gabrielle says she sees her role as “helping other people experience The Rule and understand how that shapes what they do in their school”.
“It’s wonderful provoking a new, broader perspective of life and how the things they hear at their school play into life and faith and how they can be the Good Samaritan,” she says.
“And I’m loving the team I’m part of. They are lovely, beautiful people and I’ve got so much to learn from them. I feel like I’m in the right place.”