June 2024

Spiritual direction and mentoring are key elements of SAM Program

Participants in this year’s Good Samaritan Study and Mentoring (SAM) Program said among the reasons they were drawn to apply was the opportunity not just to have financial assistance for theological studies but also to receive both spiritual direction and professional mentoring.

By Debra Vermeer.

Robyn Anderson, former Principal of Lourdes Hill College in Brisbane (a Good Samaritan Education school), is in her second year of participating in the program as a mentor and said she was once again “looking forward to the conversations the program nurtures, encourages and facilitates”.

“I think the mentoring experiences are such a valued part of the program because they provide participants with the opportunity to share wisdom, insights, questions, stories and reflections as colleagues and as people on a journey together,” she said.

Robyn Anderson. Image: Lourdes Hill College.

“I found my own mentoring experiences as a member of the Good Sam community life giving. The wisdom of the wonderfully generous and kind people who journeyed with me so willingly as I navigated the complexities of principalship was invaluable.

“From focused and planned mentoring sessions, or gentle, relaxed conversations, or rigorous and expert discussions, to prayer and reflection invitations to ‘listen with the ear of the heart’ (RB Prologue) I learned much about myself personally and about my professional practice from my formal and informal Good Sam mentors.”

Robyn said that in her role as mentor she was looking forward to getting to know the participants and hearing their stories.

“I have always enjoyed having conversations with colleagues about their work and about our shared work and mission as educators. I feel very privileged to be able to continue to have these conversations within the SAM Program,” she said.

More women than ever before are taking part in the SAM Program this year, with 10 women receiving full scholarships and another eight receiving support to assist in their studies.

Mauz Kay. Image supplied.

Mauz Kay from Perth is one of the participants and is studying an Undergraduate Certificate of Theology, which she will roll into a Diploma of Theology.

“I was looking for some financial assistance to help with my studies when a former colleague and friend suggested the SAM program,” she said.

“I was quite excited to discover that beyond the financial support, there was opportunity for mentoring, spiritual companioning, and connection with other like-minded Catholic women.

“I have always valued the opportunity to network with like-minded souls and am grateful for the additional learning and growth experiences for my personal and professional spiritual journey through the guidance and understanding of some very wise women.”

Mauz works as the Leader in Western Australia for Cana Communities, a not-for-profit community that provides a welcoming place for people on the margins to connect, belong and participate with dignity and love. Before taking on the role this year she worked in prison ministry.

She said she was embracing the opportunity of being a part of the SAM program.

“My hopes for the program and my studies are that the combination of experiences and learning will assist in developing my spiritual life, to be more of the person God has called me to be in my journey,” she said.

“Being more aware of the guidance of the spirit, to know and love God more, to listen better, to be more present to others’ needs and to live in Christ-like love, in action, seeing God in everyone and everything.”

Samantha McLoughlin. Image supplied.

Samantha McLoughlin, who lives in the NSW Blue Mountains, is a doctor who has worked as a clinical and laboratory haematologist in south-western Sydney hospitals and now works in pathology. She is studying a graduate diploma in Theology at The University of Notre Dame Australia. Her studies include subjects in languages (Greek and Hebrew), philosophy and biblical studies.

“My interest is at one level personal – I just like this kind of stuff – but I also think that professional people should be educated in aspects of the faith to a level commensurate with their ‘day job’ where possible. This enriches you personally, and makes you a better member of your parish, friendship groups, and family, and hopefully better able to share your faith.”

She said her initial interest in the SAM program was to obtain some financial assistance and she stumbled across it in the list of scholarships on the university’s website.

“However, I find the idea of forming women to be more formally active in the Church enticing,” she said.

“I am also intrigued by the mentoring and spiritual direction aspects. I think one of the things that should perhaps be offered more is some form of spiritual direction through parish or other faith groups, as it is a way of helping people develop a personal and lasting relationship with our Lord.

“Through the SAM program I am hoping to meet and develop friendships with others who are both like me and different to me, and to learn and grow. I think this is one of the main ‘jobs’ of life – to learn and grow and build meaningful connections with others.”

Geetanjali Rogers. Image supplied.

Geetanjali Rogers from Canberra worked as an upper secondary teacher in religious education, philosophy and mathematics for nine years before beginning a doctorate and having her first child in November 2022. For Geetanjali, the support offered by the SAM program is particularly attractive.

Her doctorate is in Theology, but her project is interdisciplinary, drawing upon contemporary bioethics and philosophy to explore the concepts of suffering and compassion in Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia laws.

“It goes on to question what is meant by both suffering and compassion and interrogate the concepts with respect to John Chrysostom (Eastern) and Augustine (Western) so as to build a picture of the Catholic intellectual tradition,” she said. “The goal is to produce a critique of the laws.

“This project has been dark and spiritually draining, especially when confronted with a culture of death. Sometimes it is difficult to hold on to hope and find light in a situation where you are constantly immersed in stories of unbearable suffering and how people find their situations dehumanising.”

Geetanjali said she was attracted to the SAM program by the spiritual support on offer as well as the financial support.

“My hopes are that I will find a way to mesh my personal sense of spirituality and faith with this project. As I wish to be an academic and work in this field, finding a way to navigate this difficult area of bioethics will hold me in good stead for my professional life, which I see as a vocational calling.”

Jaren Malales. Image supplied.

Jaren Malales from Bacolod in the Philippines has been with the SAM Program for almost four years and is hoping to finish writing her thesis this year so she can complete her Master’s in Education majoring in Religious Education.

“The Good Sams program is making my hopes high in reaching my dream of being a catechist, well-equipped in teaching students and the youth in the parish,” she said.

“The wholistic formation initiative of the program has helped me spiritually and mentally in my continuing study. The support, not only financially, but also with the mentoring and spiritual direction, helped me in knowing myself more and understanding God’s plan.

“It has also assisted me in doing the ministry with pride and joy for the Lord who sustains me through the ‘Good Samaritans’ around me accompanying me in my journey.

“May the SAM Program continue to be the hope of each and every Filipina like me to continue to learn the faith and doctrines of the Church. In this way of education, the program will make the faithful be in love with God over and over again.”

Madelaine Schumann. Image supplied.

Madelaine Schumann, who lives in East Gippsland in rural Victoria, is employed with CatholicCare Victoria in the Bushfire Recovery Program that started in 2020 in response to the devastating bushfire season of 2019-20.

She is studying a Post Graduate Diploma in Spiritual Direction, leading into a Master’s, with Australian Catholic University and has used her own artistic skills to introduce a program of Colour and Creativity Therapy to rural communities across the local area, which she considers “a strong pastoral care component”.

“I am enjoying an intensive training program with (the Jesuit program) Arrupe, learning to be a giver of the First Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. I am also enrolled and nearly to complete a Post Graduate Diploma in Pastoral and Spiritual Care with the University of Divinity – Yarra Theological Union – in Melbourne,” she said.

“I applied for the SAM Program with the hope of meeting other Catholic women who are leaders in the Catholic Church, and I hope to be mutually influential in our growth and development.

“I am hoping to receive spiritual direction and mentoring from women whom I can look up to as spiritual role models and in this we can mutually benefit to grow in character and inner strength through our shared wisdom.

“I see that women are to play a major part in the future healing of our Church and I would like to be a role model for others one day in this journey.”

The Good Samaritan Study and Mentoring (SAM) Program is an initiative of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. Applications for the 2025 SAM Program will open in July. Further information will be published in next month’s edition of The Good Oil.

Read about fellow 2024 SAM Program participants Rebel Clark, Linsey MacDonald, Paige Bullen, Helen Bachmann and Veronica Brogden in the May 2024 edition of The Good Oil. 


Debra Vermeer

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

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