The population of the West Australian gold-mine towns of Mt Magnet, Meekatharra and Cue might be small, but there was a strong turnout from across the community recently to celebrate the presence of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan among them for the past 33 years.
The community gathered to farewell Sister Geraldine (Gerri) Boylan, who has been the pastoral leader of the parish covering the three towns for the past 20 years.
The sisters first came to the area in 1986, to be with the people who see a priest for Mass and other sacraments once a month and gather weekly for a lay-led Celebration of the Word with Holy Communion.
Gerri, who was awarded the Senior Citizen of the Year in Mt Magnet recently, said she saw her pastoral role as one of friendship.
“Every day I would go down the street and greet people,” she said. “After some time, you know who’s new in town and you say hello. I look on that as my street ministry. You can be neighbour to people just through being friendly. It’s amazing how people open up when you say hello.”
Gerri would also visit the pastoral stations surrounding the three towns, a ministry that involved driving long distances.
“It was beautiful,” she said. “The people are beautiful and it’s a very simple lifestyle. Everybody is also extremely generous, and they volunteer for things that need doing. When you live in an isolated place everyone needs each other and supports each other.
“I know I’m going to miss it a lot.”
Gerri was treated to three farewells – one in Mt Magnet, one in Meekatharra and one in Cue. Present at the farewell in Cue were Sister Maree Nash and Sister Annette Dever, both of whom had worked in the parish previously, and Sister Meg Kahler.
In Meekatharra the Bishop of Geraldton, Bishop Michael Morrissey, came for the weekend and celebrated Mass. After Mass everyone gathered in the parish house for supper.
The next morning, they went to Cue for Mass, followed by another get-together with the people and then to Mt Magnet for another Mass and gathering.
“It was lovely that so many people came to wish me well,” Gerri said. “I was surprised, because in each place, it wasn’t just parishioners who came, but people from right across the town. It was a simple, but beautiful farewell.”
One of the organisers of the farewells, parishioner at Mt Magnet, Janet Jones, said that when they heard Gerri was leaving, “so many people wanted to be involved” in her send-off.
“Gerri has been a tremendous influence on the area. In fact, words can never be enough to say what she’s meant to our community and the impact she’s had.”
While the Sisters of the Good Samaritan might be withdrawing from active ministry in the region, their charism will live on.
Good Samaritan Oblate, Cathy Jones, will take on the pastoral leadership role, the first time such a role has been carried out by a lay person in the Diocese of Geraldton.
“It’s exciting and a bit daunting in some ways. But I have a friend who says that if God’s in it, it will be fine, so I’m counting on that,” she said.
“It’s a big legacy I’ll be following. Gerri’s been here for 20 years and the Good Samaritans have been here since 1986 and have had plenty of time to make an impact. I’m different to Gerri, so it will be interesting to see how it evolves with me. But I know the people here and they know me. I’m looking forward to it.”