April 2023

New community house in Kiribati a witness to God’s hospitality for all

The Sisters of the Good Samaritan in Temaiku, Kiribati, have officially taken 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 with the local people.

By Debra Vermeer

Sister Kawi Arebonto, one of the i-Kiribati Sisters of the Good Samaritan, said the opening and blessing of the new house on March 4 this year was a joyful celebration.

“There was much excitement about the building of the new house and the organisation in preparation for the opening,” Kawi said.

The official opening began with Mass celebrated by the Diocesan Administrator, Father Iona Tatau, and incorporated a walk through the new building by Father Iona with the Sisters from the Temaiku community and visitors including Congregational Leader Sister Patty Fawkner and Member of Council Sister Meg Kahler. Also present was the Congregation’s NSW Health Consultant, Nora Duane. During the walk-through, Father Iona blessed each room with holy water and prayers were said.

“After Mass, we had a lovely celebration with members of the local village community as well as invited family members, neighbours, friends, former Sisters of the Good Samaritan, inquirers, and member of other religious communities, including the Sisters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and the Marist Brothers,” Kawi said.

“We enjoyed the celebration with a lot of food and a big pig. We were grateful for the presence of Patty, Meg and Nora, who came to celebrate with us from Australia.”

The new Temaiku house on Kiribati. Image: Sisters of the Good Samaritan.

Kawi said the new community house was necessary to accommodate the growing number of Sisters comfortably. “The old house was not big enough for the Sisters to live in and there was a need to renovate the old house,” she said.

“Our hopes are to expand into new ministries by using the old convent for this purpose, so that it could become a meeting place within the local community, for example, hosting our Faith and Light group for people living with disability, or study groups.”

Plans for the new house, which was funded by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, were underway five years ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic inevitably slowed the building process due to a shortage in building materials and then delays in materials arriving.

The Sisters of the Good Samaritan have had a presence in Kiribati for more than 30 years, and today there are two communities of Sisters, one in Abaokoro and the other at Temaiku.

NSW Health Consultant Nora Duane with Sister Tibwau. Image: Sisters of the Good Samaritan.

The Sisters are engaged in a variety of educational, pastoral and community development ministries in Kiribati. These include running the Good Samaritan Early Childhood Learning Centre, lecturing at The Kiribati Teachers College, teaching English at the local primary school, and catechetics, visiting the elderly, engaging in Lectio Divina in the village, providing cultural preparation for people preparing to take up seasonal work in Australia, offering pastoral care to patients at the psychiatric hospital and those in prison, and supporting people with physical and intellectual disabilities.

The Sisters also remain active in the Kiribati Pastoral Institute (KPI), a diocesan pastoral institute, which offers a two-year course for young leaders – either those preparing to enter religious congregations or lay people.

Religious vocations from Kiribati have also been constant over the years. There are currently eight i-Kiribati sisters and one novice, who is studying in Australia, A number of inquirers are exploring their interest in Good Samaritan life.

During the official opening ceremony for the new house, Father Iona thanked the Good Samaritan Sisters for their presence and ministry in Kiribati.

“On behalf of the Diocese, I would like to thank the Good Samaritan Sisters who have accepted the invitation of our late bishop (Paul Mwea) to work in Kiribati. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their work and to assure them that we still need them with us, among us, in the future.

“It’s an honour for me to celebrate Mass and to bless your house. May you live in peace and continue to live as the Good Samaritan, showing pity and compassion to all our people.”

Before cutting the ribbon to open the new house, Patty asked God’s blessing upon it.

“As the Good Samaritan Sisters begin their community life in this new building, we turn to the God who journeys with us and lives within us and we ask that this house be a dwelling of love and peace, a constant witness to God’s hospitality for all,” she said.

For more information about the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, click here.

NSW Health Consultant, Nora Duane with Good Samaritan Sisters (from left): Katarina, Tenta and Tibwau


Debra Vermeer

Debra Vermeer is a freelance journalist working in both Catholic and mainstream media.

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