It was a joyful ceremony with an ecumenical flavour when five women, including two Catholics, two Uniting Church members and a Quaker, recently became Oblates of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.
The women, who have been walking a path of faith towards oblation for some time, were received by the Good Samaritan community during a special ritual at St Scholastica’s Chapel, Glebe on Sunday July 2.
By making this public commitment to deepen their spiritual lives in the Good Samaritan Benedictine tradition, Nanoya Barrett, Joanne Carmichael, Kerry Pattenden, Cathie Rickert and Jan Thorpe, all from NSW, will join more than 70 other Good Samaritan Oblates from around Australia.
In welcoming the five candidates, Good Samaritan Sister Veronica Griffith said their commitment meant they were making a gift of themselves to God to live their lives more deeply in the spirit of the Good Samaritan and the Rule of St Benedict.
“I think that St Benedict would be asking this question: ‘Are they truly seeking God?’” she said.
“Very definitely I can answer on their behalf a resounding YES.”
Veronica, who is Co-ordinator for Oblates, said the women had been meeting in four different groups across NSW – Wollongong/Kiama, Pennant Hills, Glebe and Lawson.
“In each group they would have experienced not only friendship and a shared meal but also some sort of formation on the Rule, some Lectio Divina, and shared Prayer of the Church,” she said.
“So, it’s a very rich kind of a thing and there’s a real sense of community as well.”
Reflecting on the oblation ritual, Nanoya, who is Catholic, said she was lost for words.
“I’m never lost for words,” she laughed. “But it was just so beautiful. I still feel aglow with how wonderful it was. I felt very privileged and humbled by the whole thing.”
Nanoya was taught by the Good Sams at Lourdes Hill College in Brisbane and said a silent retreat in high school sparked something deep within her.
“I fell in love with silence,” she said.
“It’s about getting closer to God and going where God leads me.”
“And I’ve always loved reading Benedictine books. But it was only recently, when I was discerning with my spiritual director whether being an oblate was the right thing for me that I saw all these steps in retrospect. I think it was St Benedict who found me, not the other way around.
“Of course, being a Good Samaritan Oblate, I get the charism of the Good Sams plus the Rule of St Benedict. I get it all!
“And it brings me such joy, peace and happiness.”
Joanne, who belongs to the Uniting Church, said she first became interested in Benedictinism at Bible college and then again when she watched the ABC TV series The Abbey, where a group of women spent a period of time living monastically at Jamberoo Abbey on the NSW south coast.
“I watched that DVD and I saw how life-changing it was for them,” she said.
“Over the years, I became more curious and I looked up the word ‘oblate’ and began to get more interested.”
It wasn’t until she was doing MA studies on Hildegard of Bingen with Good Samaritan Sister Carmel Posa at New Norcia in Western Australia that she came to know of the Good Sams and their Benedictine spirituality, and later, she felt God urging her towards becoming an oblate.
“When I went on my first oblate retreat last year, I just found it so empowering, so life-changing. I felt immediately accepted, like I belonged. I wasn’t judged for my opinion. I was just loved and accepted,” she said.
Joanne said she hoped her ongoing oblate journey would bring continual growth.
“It’s about getting closer to God and going where God leads me,” she said.
Cathie, who has been part of both the Glebe and Wollongong oblate groups, said her involvement with the Good Sams goes back 20 years when she first met Sister Veronica Griffith. Over the years she has come into contact with a number of the Sisters, but it was only relatively recently, while on a retreat where a number of Good Sams were present, that she began exploring the idea of becoming an oblate.
“The day itself [of oblation] was a lovely, beautiful day. I have felt very welcomed and my hope, I guess, is to live in a deeper awareness of the community aspect of the Good Samaritans and to be open to where the journey is leading,” she said.
Veronica said the oblate blessings go both ways, with the Congregation also benefiting greatly from the love, support and shared spiritual journeys of those who make the commitment.
“They bring us life and energy; a great enthusiasm and an awareness of the richness of our charism. We take great delight in it. It’s very enriching and very reciprocal,” she said.
The blessings continued in Melbourne on the Feast of St Benedict (July 11), when Marie Mohr was received as a candidate, a stage in the journey toward becoming an oblate. There will be other oblation ceremonies coming up later this year in Queensland and Western Australia.