Good Samaritan Oblates, Sisters, and friends travelled from across the nation to gather in Western Australia recently for a celebration to mark the 160th anniversary of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.
A highlight of the gathering, which attracted participants from Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, was the oblation of Philomena Jeffrey from Port Pirie in South Australia and Barbara Haeusler from Three Springs in Western Australia.
Good Samaritan Sisters Anna Warlow and Sonia Wagner helped bring the group together, building on connections already made through their ministries and the oblate movement over the years.
Over the week from October 16-23 the group received the new oblates, enjoyed a picnic in Kings Park, Perth, shared the Eucharist, celebrated by Father Hugh Galloway, followed by a dinner, and then travelled to the Australind Parish for a reflection day with participants from Bunbury, Busselton, Eaton and Australind.
Philomena said her oblation was a beautiful experience, which grew from seeds planted in 2015 during a retreat in Port Pirie, arranged by Sonia and facilitated by Anna.
Anna was accompanied on that retreat by Elaine Walley and Kathy Beeck, from Three Springs, in the West Australian wheatbelt, where the three are engaged in the Good Samaritan Rural Outreach ministry.
“It was the first time I had heard the word ‘oblate’,” said Philomena. “I had just retired and I can tell you that being an oblate was never on my agenda, but the God of surprises had other plans for me.”
During that retreat and afterwards, with the accompaniment of Sonia Wagner, Philomena said the word ‘oblate’ just seemed to grow louder within her. The following year, Philomena travelled to WA to be present at the oblation of Elaine and Kathy.
This year, it was her turn, and Philomena said it was special to have Elaine, Kathy and so many other oblates present at her oblation, as well as friends from Port Pirie.
“My oblation ceremony, in its simplicity, was so rich in love, beauty, connectedness and the spirit of joy. I felt such a strong sense of connectedness with the others and with the whole Good Sam family, like we’re all linked in this wonderful chain,” she said.
Oblate Marie Milne from Jamberoo in NSW, said the week in WA was inspiring on many levels.
“It was a time of building powerful connections,” she said. “A week of community, companionship, hospitality, prayer and song.”
A highlight of the week was a celebration of the stories of faith and courage of the Good Samaritan Sisters and their collaborators over the past 160 years.
“That story became enfleshed in a powerful cameo that Sonia wrote, which brought to life the struggle and commitment of the small group of people who were central to the beginning of the Congregation,” Marie said.
“And then our reflection day at Australind Parish highlighted the bonds of faith and support between the Good Sams and other religious congregations. We had Josephites, Loreto Sisters, Mercy Sisters and Sacre Cour Sisters with us.
“For me, and others, it was a time of real blessing. I came away more aware of needing to nurture our connections across the vast country. Connecting with the history of the Congregation also made us aware that we are part of the story now and into the future.”
Oblate Penny Carroll from Perth also felt that sense of connectedness.
“For me, the whole experience was about a growing circle of connection,” she said.
“We reconnected with our friends from South Australia and made a deep connection with the history of the Good Sams, with those who forged the way and with the women from other religious congregations who worked with them, and who continue to all work together and support one another.”
Liz Nimmo, an Oblate from Nowra in NSW, said the gathering was typical of the links nurtured by Anna over many years.
“She has a special gift with connecting people and maintaining connections,” said Liz.
“So this gathering encompassed people from different states of Australia, not just Catholics, but representatives of other religious groupings and other religious congregations, as well as oblates and other partners in ministry.
“It was a wonderful celebration of all those relationships and connections, not only of today, but from the past as well. It was very special and I came back really energised by the whole experience.”
For Anna, the week was “simply amazing”.
“We do have a sense of being somewhat isolated here in the West, so it was lovely to put everyone in touch and make those connections,” she said.
“The word that kept coming out all the time was ‘mutuality’, which also featured in the Statement of Directions from our recent Chapter.
“And Sonia’s telling of the story of the first five Sisters, [Archbishop John Bede] Polding’s vision and the courage of Scholastica Gibbons [the foundress of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan] was very powerful.
“It really engaged people with the Good Samaritan story and it emphasised the need to keep the spirit going forward and the need for us to be courageous today.
“Being with this wonderful, diverse group of people, I was really very proud to be a Good Samaritan. And one thing’s for sure. This group of people definitely has the capacity to carry the Good Samaritan spirit forward.”