The Sisters of the Good Samaritan were lovingly farewelled from St Mary’s Star of the Sea College in Wollongong, NSW, recently, bringing to completion 146 years of faithful service to the school’s community.
More than 130 sisters have been on the staff of St Mary’s in various roles and 39 ex-students of St Mary’s chose to join the Good Samaritans over the years.
Congregational Leader Sister Patty Fawkner said that while some of those young women found religious life wasn’t the path for them, the link between the Good Samaritans and the college had always been strong.
“I think it shows that St Mary’s has always been faithful to the core message of the Good Samaritan parable – love of God and love of neighbour,” Patty said at the farewell liturgy in December 2019.
“I wish to pay tribute to all the 130 sisters who have been part of the St Mary’s story and today, in particular, to Sister Rita Fitt, who for the past 15 years has been the last Good Samaritan Sister standing at St Mary’s.
“She has flown the Good Sam flag with incredible warmth, dedication and enthusiasm.”
Rita, who held the role of Family Liaison Coordinator at St Mary’s, said she would miss the college community, but it was time for her to find new ministry opportunities in retirement.
“My job was to visit the families of students and to form a connection between the college and home, and for me, it was a really important role,” she said. “The more you get to know the family, the more you can help the student.”
As part of her role, Rita would visit family members in hospital and attend funerals “and generally be there for the families in the school community, in good times and bad”.
She said she was deeply touched by the beautiful farewell provided by the college for the sisters.
“The highlight for me was seeing so many of the sisters. That was what meant the most to me. Many of them had taught at the college or even been students, so to see them all there was very special.
“There is a witness value; a witness that our way of life still has value and can still speak to people today in their ordinary lives.”
But she said while the sisters are leaving St Mary’s Star of the Sea, they are not breaking all links with the community.
“Those links will always be there, even though we won’t be on the permanent staff,” Rita said. “The situation changes, but our way of life continues, and we will still continue to be what we were for people.”
Patty thanked all members of the St Mary’s community for their care for and support of the Good Samaritans Sisters over the past 146 years. “Thank you for your love and please forgive us for the times that we have ever failed you or hurt you,” she said.
“I don’t know if you realise it, but one of the gifts the sisters have given over 140 years, even those not on St Mary’s staff, is to pray for you, for all of you, in their Morning and Evening Prayer. The sisters will continue to pray for you.”