This year eight women will receive support to undertake studies aimed at promoting women’s leadership within the Church through the Good Samaritan Study and Mentoring (SAM) Program, writes Debra Vermeer.
Jaren is one of the women taking part in the SAM Program, an opportunity which she said was a dream come true in supporting her studies in Religious Education and helping form her ministry to young people.
Jaren is from the Philippines and was one of the first intake of SAM participants in 2021. She said the ongoing support this year would help her to achieve her aim of teaching Religious Education to young people.
“Being in the SAM program opens my mind culturally, spiritually and emotionally,” she said.
“I interact with different cultures with confidence, and I feel empowered as a woman serving the Church. I am actively serving my parish with confidence that what I am sharing with the youth is ‘correct’ because of my studies in Religious Education – an affirmation that through the years of serving the parish as a catechist, now I am more equipped because of the SAM scholarship program, which supports me mentally, spiritually and financially.”
Jaren said that being part of the program for a second year will enable her to complete more units in her Master of Arts in Religious Studies/Education and she is already looking ahead to an exciting future, both teaching Religion and being a full-time catechist in her parish.
“Now that I have formal study, being a professional catechist teaching the youth is a dream come true,” she said.
Leslie is from Brisbane and said her participation in the SAM program would help her fulfil her desire to commence studies in canon law through St Paul University in Ottawa, Canada.
Leslie, who is a civil lawyer, has a background in education, leadership and management and is studying a Graduate Diploma in Theology as a precursor to pursuing canon law.
“Canon law is a full-fee paying course and is beyond the reach of many people, including me. I didn’t know scholarships like the SAM program were available, so when I found out about it, it was exciting,” she said.
“From what I read on the Good Samaritans’ website, it seemed like it was a fraternity of like-minded women who were there to be supportive of women pursuing studies that will lead them to leadership roles.
“It was the Catholic support of women that really attracted me, as well as the fact that the Sisters of the Good Samaritan were founded on the Benedictine tradition.”
Leslie said she was inspired by the other women taking part in the program, who she met at the orientation gathering earlier this year.
“It was just awe-inspiring to see what people are doing,” she said. “I’m also really looking forward to the spiritual direction and mentoring side of the program.”
She said her ambitions to work in canon law would be a coming together of her gifts and charisms.
“I wanted to use the skills I have in a framework aligned with my faith so I can be of service to our Church.”
Natalia is from Victoria and has a professional background in accounting and finance, working in property development as a cost analyst for commercial and residential projects.
She recently finished a Graduate Diploma in Theological Studies with Australian Catholic University and said the SAM program would support her research study for a Master’s of Philosophy. Her research is about how religious beliefs affect charitable giving in Australia.
In 2015, she also established a not-for-profit movement called the Waterjars in her workplace, where the companies donate a part of their profit and she and her colleagues donate part of their income to fund community development projects in villages to provide clean water and toilets.
Having been part of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s Leadership for Mission program, Natalia said she was looking for a similarly supportive environment for women.
“The main thing that attracted me to the SAM program was the mentorship aspect,” she said.
“Serving in a not-for-profit organisation, I was the only woman on the board for the last two years, so I’m trying to raise awareness that women’s participation in boards and governance is crucial.
“I believe I need to listen to the advice of women who have gone through this process before me, which is why I’m really looking forward to the mentoring side of the SAM Program.
“And my studies will help me learn more about the human dignity aspect of the work I do. For me, work is service.”
Elizabeth is a hazelnut farmer from Tasmania and is studying a Master of Divinity degree at the University of Divinity in Melbourne.
She is doing part of her studies online but is hoping to complete Semester 2 this year in Melbourne, face-to-face, with the help of the SAM program.
“As part of the program, the Good Sams offered me some accommodation in Melbourne so that I can attend classes,” she said.
“I’m hoping to complete my Master’s at the end of next year and then return to my PhD thesis, which is looking at a theology of animal beauty. It’s an emerging field of theology, but I think a very interesting one.”
Elizabeth, who is an Associate Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, said the two things that most attracted her to apply for the SAM program were the spiritual direction and mentoring.
“Especially being here in north-west Tasmania, it can feel a bit isolated at times,” she said.
“I am hoping the SAM program will give me the encouragement I need to continue with my study and provide both intellectual and spiritual support to pursue this area of study, thinking about eco-theology and animal theology. It’s still a little bit marginal, even with everything Pope Francis has done.”
The popular SAM Program was able to be expanded this year thanks to financial assistance from a number of men’s religious orders.
Read about fellow 2022 SAM Program scholars Kiara Black, Sonia Elizabeth Gomez Lopez, Leah Ashman and Angela Johnson in the March 2022 edition of ‘The Good Oil’.