July 2023

New Oblates welcomed into a community of faith and friendship

Three women in New South Wales and one in Queensland became Good Samaritan Oblates recently, saying it was the sense of community, faith conversation, friendship and the Good Samaritan-Benedictine spirituality that drew them to make their Oblate promises.

By Debra Vermeer

Ann Chatham, Alissia Carroll and Gabrielle Sinclair made their oblations at St Scholastica’s Chapel in Glebe on July 15 and Janette Norquay made her oblation at Lourdes Hill College Community Chapel in Brisbane on May 27.

Good Samaritan Oblate Community Coordinator, Marie Mohr, describes the Oblation ceremonies as wonderful occasions in bringing the family of ‘Good Samaritans All’ together to celebrate this special occasion in the new life of the Oblate Community.

“Sisters, Oblates, family, friends and partners of the Sisters are invited to these celebrations so there’s very much a sense of bringing everyone into the broader Good Samaritan fold. It’s a wonderful experience to be part of,” she said.

Marie said the path to becoming an Oblate could take from about 12 months to three years, depending on each individual‘s needs.

“There are several stages in the Oblate journey. The formation process begins with an expression of interest where the person is invited to a ‘come and see’ period where they attend the local Oblate group meetings to gain an understanding of the Oblate community and its relationship with the Sisters,” she said.

“This is followed by a period of Inquiry where the Local Oblate Coordinator will appoint a companion to accompany the person in learning about the story and charism of the Good Samaritan Sisters and reflecting on all aspects of the Good Samaritan-Benedictine spirituality and way of life.”

Marie said that at the end of the Inquiry period, there was a time of discernment. When they are ready, the person writes to the Superior requesting to become an Oblate Candidate. This period of Candidacy is a more focused period of study and formation, a deepening of their relationship with God and the Good Samaritan community.

“The Oblation is an important day for the candidates as it is a formal recognition of their commitment to live out the spirituality of the Rule of St Benedict according to the values of stability, obedience, and ongoing conversion of life appropriate to their own vocation in life,” she said.

The Oblation ceremony at Glebe. Photographer: Beth Riolo.

“While the Oblation ceremony marks the end of this part of the journey for them, it is also the beginning of their lifelong process of commitment to the Good Samaritan-Benedictine Spirituality and way of life.”

Ann Chatham said she first came into contact with the Sisters during her years working as a teacher in Wollongong Catholic schools.

“I attended some retreats with Sister Anna Warlow and other Good Samaritan Sisters when I was working in schools and also did some programs run by the Catholic schools system at the Mount St Benedict Centre in Pennant Hills,” Ann said.

“Around that same time I worked with Pat O’Gorman and Beth Riolo, who were part of the local Oblate movement, and I got to know (Oblate) Marie Milne and began receiving some spiritual direction from her. I was also attending Spirituality in the Pub.”

Ann, who is also an artist and a published poet, said she had always been a spiritual person, even in childhood.

“I’m always looking for ways to contact people of like minds, so I think that’s what drew me to things like Spirituality in the Pub. I like conversation around faith development.”

An invitation from Marie to attend a couple of local Oblate meetings led Ann to explore the Good Samaritan-Benedictine spirituality more and find her spiritual home.

Having put her Oblation on hold for a while, Ann felt called to resume the journey and is delighted to have taken the step this month.

“There’s so much in the Rule of Benedict that I like, particularly the bit that says when you answer your door you are meeting Christ. I like the part about refraining from gossip, although that’s something I’m working on. But the thing that really sets my day off on the right foot is praying Psalms every morning. That really sets me up for the day.”

For Gabrielle Sinclair, her journey with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan began when she started working for Good Samaritan Education (GSE).

“It’s been quite a journey,” she said. “Coming into GSE was my first delving into what that charism looked like, and it opened up for me this particular way of seeing, which felt like home. It was an amazing revelation and I knew it was definitely the place I needed to be.”

As part of her Formation and Mission Integration work with GSE, Gabrielle has had extensive grounding in Good Samaritan-Benedictine spirituality and said it was a privilege to be able to share that spirituality with others.

Gabrielle, who lives in Meadow Flat, NSW, said that when she first started hearing about Oblates, she didn’t think she could participate because there wasn’t a group close to her.

“But I made the space to go and check out the Blue Mountains group and as I got to know more and more Oblates, both there and in my work, I knew it was the path for me. It fulfils a longing I didn’t even know I had.

“It’s a clearer way of being in the world, made even more attractive by the fact that there are other people on the journey with you, a communal seeking of God, which is very Benedictine.”

After a three-year journey, Gabrielle has more recently been journeying with the Glebe Oblate group, which fits in with her Sydney-based work commitments, and said she was delighted to be making her Oblation.

“It’s being more intentional; I’m finding that the conversation and sense of home and of being with like-minded people is such a gift and it just keeps growing more and more in fulness, reaffirming this deliberate choice to continue as an Oblate.”

The Oblation ceremony at Glebe. Photographer: Beth Riolo.

Alissia Carroll first learnt of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan through her long family association with the Benedictine Sisters at Jamberoo Abbey.

“I almost entered monastic life and I struggled with that for a long time, but realised that God had other plans for me,” she said. “Because of the kind of work I did, I knew my path would be better served in the community.”

Alissia, who is a human rights advocate, specialising in genocide, torture prevention and death penalty work, said that when she was not engaged in her demanding work, she spent a lot of time in quiet contemplation.

“My life is a monastic existence, but it’s been very disconnected from any kind of community,” she said.

When one of the Jamberoo Sisters suggested she get in touch with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, who are steeped in Benedictine spirituality but active in the world, Alissia felt she had found the path for her.

“I think it’s important to link with a community and a few of the Sisters took me under their wing and have walked with me for the past few years on this journey.”

Since then, Alissia has met with a local Oblate group as her work allows and said that becoming an Oblate was the next step on her spiritual journey.

“My life can be complex, but this, becoming an Oblate and being part of that spiritual community, feels right,” she said.

In Queensland, Janette Norquay became an Oblate in a “beautiful” liturgy at Lourdes Hill College Community Chapel.

The Oblation ceremony in Brisbane. Photo: Sr Eugennie Levinson SGS.

Janette said she grew up a ‘Mercy girl’, having been educated by the Sisters of Mercy and then working at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane for 13 years. She came to know of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan through fellow parishioners and Oblates, Gemma Hockey and Penny Carroll.

“I didn’t have any idea about Oblation,” she said.

When her daughter and son-in-law and family travelled around Australia and happened across an Oblation ceremony at Mount Magnet in rural Western Australia, they ran into none other than Penny Carroll.

Janette’s daughter reported the chance encounter with Good Samaritan Oblates back to her and soon after, Janette was invited to a meeting of her own local Oblate group.

“From there, I began to get more and more involved and gradually came to know more about Good Samaritan spirituality,” she said.

Janette was due to become an Oblate some years ago but didn’t think she was ready. “But the pull towards it didn’t go away and so I’ve finally done it this year,” she said.

“The ceremony at Lourdes Hill was beautiful. My daughter Bridget and her daughter came down from Bundaberg, which was really wonderful and touching.”

Asked what stood out for her in her Oblate journey, she said: “It’s probably the people.”

“Being an Oblate is about faith as well as friendship. What else could you ask for in life?”

If you would like to know more about becoming a Good Samaritan Oblate, click here.

Debra Vermeer

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

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