Three women from different backgrounds and life situations formalised their commitment as Good Samaritan Oblates on Sunday, November 15, giving public expression to their desire to continue more deeply on the shared path of living Good Samaritan Benedictine spirituality.
The three women are Patricia McGarry from the Wollongong oblate group, and Kristen Guy and Anne Hoadley from the Glebe oblate group. Together with Hong Le, from Brisbane, who made her oblation on October 17, they join 60 other Good Samaritan Oblates across Australia.
There are thousands of Benedictine oblates worldwide. The Benedictine oblate tradition is ancient, going back 1,500 years to the time of St Benedict. Local people came to the monastery and asked for a formal connection. They did not want to become monks or nuns, but they did want to deepen their spirituality without leaving family, home or occupation. These people were received by the community, made their offering to God (the word oblate derives from the Latin for gift offering), and became known as oblates.
Before making their formal commitment, the men and women seeking to become Good Samaritan Oblates engage in a formal formation process of at least 12 months.
Hong Le, a hospital chaplain and mother of three, with a grandchild, said her oblation ceremony was “a beautiful day”.
“It was really lovely,” she said. “My family attended and they all embraced what I’m doing, which was wonderful.”
Born in Vietnam in 1966, Hong’s family fled their homeland as boat people in 1975, living in a refugee camp in Singapore for some months before being granted asylum in Australia, when Hong was nine years old.
She first came into contact with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan through a retreat run by Oblate Penny Carroll in Brisbane.
“I was still searching for where I was going and where the Holy Spirit was leading me,” she said. “But I really felt like I could connect with Penny.”
Since discerning a desire to find out more about becoming an oblate, Hong has been meeting up with other Brisbane-based oblates regularly.
“I feel at home with them,” she said. “As I get to know them better, and attend prayer meetings, learn meditation and Lectio Divina, I begin to understand the meaning of God’s word and to live it.
“It feels like it’s a part of me that has been drawn out. It’s something that you discover about yourself that you’re longing to know. But it only happens in God’s time.”
For 80-year-old Patricia McGarry, the association with the Good Samaritan Sisters started early in life, when she went to a Good Samaritan school in Kandos, NSW, aged five. Later, when her family moved to Wollongong, she went to St Mary’s College, also run by the Good Sams.
“But what really started me on the course to oblation was my first visit to Mount St Benedict [Pennant Hills], where I met [Sister] Anna Warlow,” she said.
“I was a catechist in Wollongong Diocese and the CEO was running faith renewal courses for teachers, and I was lucky enough to get a place in this course. I was quite nervous about going, because I wondered if I would fit in.
“I will always remember ringing the bell at the big door at Mount St Benedict and the door swinging open and I was greeted by Anna Warlow with such love and such warmth. I came home from that course on cloud nine. I’ve never felt like it before.”
Some time later, after meeting up on a number of occasions, Anna suggested that Patricia inquire about becoming an oblate.
“I remember going to my first oblate meeting with our little group in Wollongong and we were reading Joan Chittister’s book on the Rule of Benedict and I said to myself, ‘This is what I want’. It’s such a beautiful guide to life.”
Oblate Coordinator for the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, Sister Veronica Griffith said the oblate program began in 2001.
“It was in response to a Congregational awareness that we need to look at new ways of belonging to the Good Sam family,” she said.
Veronica said oblates bring a great enthusiasm and a delight in discovering other people with the same connection and spiritual longing when they get together with their local oblate group.
The oblates are asked to do only what they can do in the circumstances of their lives in terms of praying the Daily Prayer of the Church, engaging in Lectio Divina (praying the scriptures), living the Rule of Benedict and the Good Samaritan charism.
“We recognise that what draws people to the oblate movement is that they already have the Good Samaritan Benedictine charism within them. Becoming an oblate helps individuals deepen the charism and live it more intentionally in their daily lives,” said Veronica.
“It’s a very inspiring experience accompanying our oblates on their spiritual journey.”