The Good Samaritan Foundation brings together people and resources to support the works and initiatives of the Good Samaritan Sisters to assist those in need in communities across Australia and the Pacific.
The Foundation’s Executive Director, Sonya Mears, said Christmas was often associated with the spirit of giving and generosity, especially for people who might otherwise go without.
“Our donors’ generosity this year in providing a safe haven, education, and empowerment to those in need, has helped many vulnerable women and children see a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
“Our benefactors have offered hope, not only to the people supported by the Good Sams Foundation’s programs, but also to their families and future generations.”
We hope you enjoy this snapshot of how Christmas will be celebrated in some of the ministries supported by the Foundation.
The Good Samaritan Inn
The Good Samaritan Inn helps women, young people and children experiencing family violence, which includes, sexual, verbal, emotional and physical abuse.
The Inn’s Executive Director, Felicity Rorke, said Christmas was often a challenging time of year for the Inn’s guests, but the joy of the season was still evident.
“As difficult as this time of the year is for all of the guests at the Good Samaritan Inn, we will still be celebrating Christmas and the festive season in as much style as we can create,” she said.
“We specially owe deep gratitude to the wonderful donations from the Country Women’s Association (CWA), Alphington and RizeUp Australia.
“The CWA has kindly offered to donate a Christmas tree again this year for our refuge foyer. They also provide beautiful home-baked festive treats for all of our guests and staff. RizeUp will ensure all of our children and women have gifts under the Christmas tree.
“Our amazing team of staff who are rostered on Christmas Day will ensure a fabulous meal is cooked so everyone can celebrate together.”
Two communities of Good Samaritan Sisters are engaged in educational, pastoral and community development ministries in the Pacific nation of Kiribati.
This year, the Sisters in Temaiku took up residence in their new community house, further deepening their commitment to the island nation and opening up their former residence for use in ministry.
“Every year we start our early Christmas celebrations with our ministry communities: people with a disability, people with mental illness, sick people at the hospital, people in prison and the ‘Faith and Light’ people,” Good Samaritan Sister Kakare Biita said.
“We bring cakes and we sing Kiribati Christmas songs. We call this time ‘Christmas Ministry to our Neighbour’.”
The Sisters also celebrate Christmas together in their own community.
“We prepare for Christmas by having three quiet days, which finishes on Christmas Eve. Then we go to Midnight Mass, which is followed by the Christmas party. Our main food for Christmas celebrations is chicken, sausages, potatoes, rice, and meat. Special treats are ice cream and chocolates,” Kakare said.
“Christmas celebrations in our church and in our families are a special celebration. At Midnight Mass and at the Sunday Mass there is lots of dancing, for the welcoming of the Gospel, at the offertory and for thanksgiving.
“Sometimes a Christmas concert is performed by the people. There is a competition between villages, or sectors, in Christmas singing and dancing.
“Families also gather to celebrate,” she said. “Sometimes they give gifts to each other, especially to the children, and enjoy a special meal of pork, babai (taro), chicken and sausages.
“At Christmas we give thanks for the love, grace, and mercy we receive from God. We also give thanks for all the people we have journeyed with in our life and we ask God to continue to give us all his grace, love and mercy to face the coming year.”
Railaco in Timor Leste
The Good Samaritan Foundation provides education scholarships for more than 120 children and young people in Timor Leste. Since it became a sovereign nation in 2002, the country continues to grapple with issues of poverty and child malnutrition.
Father Hyoe Murayama SJ is the Principal of NOSSEF Catholic Secondary School of Railaco, where more than 60 students receive scholarships each year.
Fr Hyoe said that during the Christmas and New Year period, the school takes a holiday for several weeks. The tertiary scholarship students return to Railaco to celebrate Christmas with their families, while many of the tertiary graduates, now working in different fields, will stay on in their employment over the holiday.
Prisilia Gomes dos Santos, a former NOSSEF student and Good Samaritan tertiary scholarship recipient, is now doing her teaching experience at the school.
She said that on Christmas Day, almost everybody attended the Christmas liturgy in the evening in their local chapel.
“After Mass, they spend time together for a while and most families find happiness and fulfilment in enjoying each other’s company,” she said.
“There is a modest Christmas meal, usually chicken and katupa, which is rice cooked in a small woven palm leaf container. They enjoy the company because poverty is not a big deal in their life.”
Another special Christmas activity is the building of a large nativity scene in each village, something usually undertaken by the young men, supported by the women and children.
Father Hyoe said Christmas was a busy but blessed time for the five Jesuit priests in Railaco parish, who can celebrate Mass in 12 chapels in one day.
“Each chapel organises a special choir for the Christmas liturgy,” he said. “The people love singing in a loud voice. Some of them play the guitar and keyboard skilfully. Some choirs prepare their own costumes and are proud of being nicely dressed. We don’t know where the money comes from, but they always make an extra effort for Christmas.”
Bacolod, the Philippines
Good Samaritan Sisters have lived in the city of Bacolod on Negros Island in the Philippines for more than 25 years. They work alongside and in support of families living in the squatter settlements of Boulevard and Mambuloc and those whose home is on the street.
For the past several years, the Good Samaritan Foundation has supported a Christmas Toy Appeal to help the Sisters and their team bring some extra joy to the local children.
“We have a tradition here at the Outreach Centre of lovingly wrapping every one of the 1000 gifts that we are able to buy or to receive from generous donors,” Good Samaritan Sister Anne Dixon said.
“The reason we like to wrap each gift is that the children receiving them never receive wrapped gifts! The joy and wonder on their faces when they receive their gifts is worth the extra effort.”
In addition to the toys, Good Samaritan Sister Grace Marcelo SS said about 400 local families received food packs.
The gifts are distributed in gatherings of family groupings who live in the same vicinity, along with the food packs, and each local group puts on a dance or singing performance. There is a separate Christmas party at the Kinder School, which this year celebrated the 20th anniversary of its foundation.
Anne said that in days leading up to Christmas, groups of children, usually from the squatter areas, wander the streets singing carols.
“Door to door they go, singing happily, and they will receive a token from the household – lollies usually! At the convent, we prepare bags of lollies for each one, around 100, and word gets around. The children love being invited into our chapel to sing for us. It is a special time for us all,” she said.
Faith is important in Bacolod and for the nine days before Christmas Eve many people attend early Mass to prepare themselves for the feast of Jesus’ birth.
“Hundreds of families then attend Mass either on Christmas Eve or the dawn Mass. Their Christmas dinner is usually simple, made from the goodies received in the food packs we give out, spaghetti and cheese,” Anne said.
“We Sisters join the Christmas Eve Mass and gather afterwards for supper and to exchange gifts. Usually, we go for a drive on Christmas Day and local sisters join their families in the evening.”
Grace said the local families were thrilled to receive the Christmas toys and gift packs.
“It means a lot to them. It’s a great joy for children to receive new toys for Christmas and a great blessing for families to receive food packs,” she said.