The much loved parable of the Good Samaritan is a story that has inspired Christians for over two thousand years. One hundred and fifty years ago on the winding streets of colonial Sydney, this story came alive once again.
For some Sydney was a place of a new start, of opportunity and excitement. For others life was extremely hard, particularly for women. Many single mothers struggled to support their families with no social welfare, no state education and often nowhere to live.
Archbishop John Bede Polding a Benedictine monk from Downside Abbey in England, became a good neighbour to these women and to others on the margins, to convicts, the Aboriginal people and abandoned children. Polding had a vision of founding a new religious congregation of women which would combine Benedictine spirituality with practical charity for the poor and those on the margins.
On February 2, 1857 five women came together to found the first Australian congregation, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict.
These five women, diverse in age, personality and experience, began living a way of life characterised by a commitment to prayer, loving support in community, and a real concern for the poor and needy. They were five women with a passion for Jesus and his Good News.
Mother Scholastica Gibbons guided the sisters during their early years. Scholastica remained a faithful Sister of Charity. She was always deeply loved by her Good Samaritan Sisters.
The Rule of Benedict, a spiritual treasure dating from the sixth century, guided the first Good Samaritan Sisters and the hundreds that followed them. The sisters took this Rule and put their own Australian stamp on it. Rather than following a European style of enclosed monastic living, the Good Samaritans were to be, in Polding’s words, missionary Benedictines, pushing their neighbourhood boundaries in the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit.
Their neighbourhood soon opened out beyond Sydney to embrace other cities and rural areas of Australia. Part of this was the establishment of a Catholic girls’ high school in Pennant Hills.
The land on which the school stands was given to Sir Joseph Innes as a Crown Grant in 1889. The Sisters of the Good Samaritan purchased “Regenbah” and the land to build a Chapel and a Novitiate for training the Sisters. This was first occupied in 1927.
Mount St Benedict College itself commenced on February 1, 1966 with 65 students under the guidance of Sisters Christopher Burrows and Hyacinth Roche. These first students sat for their Leaving Examinations in 1971.
In 1987, in line with other Good Samaritan Schools, Mount St Benedict College was incorporated as a Company with a Board of Directors. The first lay Principal was appointed in 1994.
Today, Mount St Benedict College is a community of over 1000 girls and 130 staff following in the Benedictine tradition of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. Since its inception, the Benedictine values of Pax, Hospitality and Stewardship have permeated the education process, preparing our students to become women of competence, confidence and compassion, ready to transform the world in which they live.
It is encouraging to find that the values that informed the early years of the College are still the same now - the emphasis on the Benedictine heritage and the Good Samaritan traditions that were evident in those early years are still the driving force behind all that we do.
Thanks to the foresight of the Sisters, the College continues to enjoy a beautiful position overlooking an area of remnant Sydney Blue Gum High Forest which makes a beautiful backdrop to the modern facilities we now enoy.