Having completed two years’ preparation as a novice, Grace Marcelo was professed as a Sister of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict on Saturday February 4, 2012.
Born and raised in Bacolod City in the Philippines, Grace, 35, is the third Filipina woman to make her profession as a Good Samaritan Sister.
The Rite of First Profession took place during a Eucharist at Our Lady of Nativity Church in Lawson, NSW, concelebrated by Fathers Bernard McGrath OSB and Paul Slyney, and in the presence of many Good Samaritan Sisters, Filipino families from the parish, and friends from other religious congregations.
“I feel very excited but nervous in taking this significant step in my life, to live out the parable of the Good Samaritan in my daily life with other Good Samaritans,” Grace told The Good Oil before the ceremony.
During the ceremony, Grace proclaimed her vows of stability, conversion of life and obedience, and sang the Suscipe – “Receive me Lord as you have promised…” – an ancient prayer from the Rule of St Benedict, in her own language, Illongo.
“I felt overwhelming peace, joy and God’s grace as I sang the Suscipe,” she explained.
After the ceremony, a very happy and more relaxed Grace expressed gratitude to all who had gathered with her and helped to make the celebration “special and beautiful”.
In her words of admonition – an address delivered in the Benedictine tradition by the congregational superior to the novice – Sister Clare Condon reminded Grace of the seriousness of her decision to join the Good Samaritan community.
Referring to chapter 72 of the Rule of St Benedict, Clare said the challenge of a religious vocation is to place “Christ and the Gospel first and before all else – before any other desire that might creep into our lives.
“The Gospel is the measuring stick of all our actions,” she said.
“Today, as you seek to join this community of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan in a formal way, you will be entering into our unknown future in regard to its practical details and expressions,” she continued.
“You will engage with a set of values which have lasted 1,500 years in all sorts of cultural settings, together with your own Filipino culture with the Gospel at its heart. There will be joys and sorrows. There will be gifts and challenges.
“Our community in Bacolod is small, but vibrant. Like the first five sisters in 1857 in Australia, you are part of and you are forming a new shoot.”
Grace first met the Good Samaritan Sisters in 1995 while studying and working in Bacolod City. She said she was attracted by their simplicity of life and hospitality.
“I was working with Sister Yoshi [Suzukawa] in WYCO (Women, Youth, Children Outreach). It is a non-government organisation which helps the poor, particularly women and children in Bacolod City. From there I met other Good Samaritans and became an associate.”
During her two-year novitiate in Australia, Grace has been engaged in an intensive study programme involving the history and charism of the congregation, the Rule of St Benedict, the constitutions of the sisters, together with scripture, theology and mission. For six months she participated in the Kairos Formation Course, Sydney with novices from other congregations, both male and female.
She also lived in Melbourne with the Good Samaritan community in Northcote for a few months and was involved in a number of ministry experiences, including the Asylum Seeker Centre, the Collingwood Cottages and The Good Samaritan Inn for women and children.
In the next week, Grace will return to the Philippines where she will continue her spiritual and professional studies and minister in the outreach programme of the Good Samaritan Kinder School in Bacolod City.
If after four years Grace wishes to continue in the Good Samaritan way of life, she can renew her vows for a further two years or request to make her perpetual profession.