The Sisters of the Good Samaritan
The Sisters of the Good Samaritan hold a unique place in history being the first women's religious congregation to be founded in Australia.
Established in 1857 by the Archbishop of Sydney, John Bede Polding, the Good Samaritan Sisters began to care for the poor and destitute of the early colony.
Later they set up orphanages and schools and today there are more than 100 Good Samaritan communities throughout Australia as well as in Japan, the Philippines and Kiribati.
They are involved in social work, nursing, respite and residential care, education, parish work, centres of spirituality and administration.
Good Samaritan Sisters are women who have committed themselves to work for justice in the world. They stand with the indigenous people of Australia, the women of Japan and Kiribati and the women and children of the Philippines.
As women of faith and guided by the Gospel they value communal and individual prayer, peace, compassion and living in community.
Building relationships between Houses and Good Samaritan Communities
Each of the College Houses takes on the responsibility of supporting one of our chosen Good Samaritan partners to promote justice and peace. The partners are Mater Dei School Camden, Kiribati, Timor Leste and the Philippines.
The relationships aim to be mutually beneficial as our houses grow in their understanding of the insights and needs of others and the ministries of the Sisters.
The community of Good Samaritan Sisters offers learning support for local kindergarten level children living in extreme poverty in order to help them successfully enter primary school. The Sisters' support also carries onto the parents of these children and the local community. Some Mount St Benedict staff and students have visited the school and other visits are planned.
A country at risk
Because of the threat of rising sea levels caused by global warming, many more people are becoming aware of the location and the plight of the people from the Republic of Kiribati.
If and when the waters rise, Kiribati will be no more.
Kiribati (the former Gilbert Islands) consists of 33 very low coral islands stretching across some 5,000 square kilometres on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean.
More than one-third of Kiribati’s 100,000 people live on the main atoll of South Tarawa.
Good Sams come to Kiribati
In the late 1980s, Bishop Paul Mea was persistent in his invitation to the Good Samaritan Sisters to help with the education and missionary needs of the people of his diocese.
In 1991, Good Samaritan Sister, Veronica McCluskie, was appointed to the staff of the Kiribati Pastoral Institute. She was soon joined by Sister Veronica Griffith. The ‘two Veronicas’ planted the Good Samaritan way of life in the fragile coral soil. Soon a number of I-Kiribati women asked to join them.
What attracted young women to join the Good Sams?
These women were attracted to the Good Sam spirituality, particularly the commitment to community, to Lectio Divina, and to the Good Sam style of ministry characterised by practical neighbourliness to those in need and a compassionate commitment to justice.
What the Good Sams do in Kiribati
There are now two communities in Kiribati and the I-Kiribati and Australian sisters are engaged in a variety of ministries: primary education, youth ministry, and working with people with disabilities and mental illness.
In 2009, the Good Samaritan Early Childhood Centre was opened. The centre is staffed by three Good Sams – two young I-Kiribati and an Australian.
Marella Rebgetz, an Australian Good Samaritan with a degree in water management, is employed by the government to help address Kiribati’s critical water needs caused by the rising sea level and the increasing salination of drinking water.
Good Samaritans, both in Kiribati and Australia, are involved in the Pacific Calling Partnership and advocate for the rights of environmental refugees.
Help make a difference
If you wish to donate to the Good Samaritan mission in Kiribati, contact The Good Samaritan Foundation.
This is a senior Catholic high school started with support from MSB. It offers opportunities for local youth from the village hamlets of Railaco to complete their high school education (without having to travel to Dili which was not possible for many.) Sr Rita Hayes, a Good Samaritan Sister, has been working with the school since 2001. Mount St Benedict staff and students have visited the school.
In the 1980s solidarity with the poor in Asia was a strong desire for the church in Japan. The Japanese Good Samaritan Sisters, wanting to contribute in some way, asked Sister Goto Keiko to study in Manila and during her time there she visited the island of Negros, one of the poorest areas in the Philippines. Later with Sister Morikawa Haruko she formed a community in Bacolod and the foundation was formally established in 1990. They lived at first in a tiny rented house near the airport and spent time visiting and working among the people. Later the community moved to City Heights, and now live in two residences there, and come together for meals and prayer.
In 2004, the sisters started a Kinder school for the poorest children. This school is the gateway to education because, though Government schooling is free, very few children attend unless they have access to early childhood education.
A health clinic and feeding programme are part of the Kinder school life.
Today the community in Bacolod is comprised of Japanese, Australian and young Filipina sisters who desire to be neighbour and to seek God in the Good Samaritan way of life.
This is one of the ten Australian incorporated Colleges owned by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and caters for young people (pre-school to high school) with moderate to severe learning disabilities.
As well as offering fundraising support Mount St Benedict students visit Mater Dei and helped provide learning support in classrooms. Mater Dei students have also visited Mount St Benedict to participate in interactive workshops.
Helping our closest neighbour
Timor Leste, Australia’s close neighbour, voted for independence in 1999. After this vote, paramilitary groups working with the Indonesian military inflicted a final wave of violence during which most of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed.
In the wake of this devastation, the Good Samaritan Sisters were invited to join an Edmund Rice Team to support the Timor Leste people.
In 2001, two sisters responded to that call. For ten years, the Good Sams have worked tirelessly to help repair the damage inflicted on the country and its people.
What the Good Sams do in Timor Leste
Good Samaritan Sister, Rita Hayes, now works with the Jesuits teaching English in a secondary school, mentoring the Timorese into leadership roles and engaging in advocacy of educational and health facilities in the district around Railaco Mission Station, south of Timor’s capital, Dili.
When back ‘on leave’ in Australia, Rita spends much time fund-raising for scholarships for poor Timor Leste secondary students. She knows that education is the key to Timor Leste’s future.
Help make a difference
If you wish to donate to the Good Samaritan mission in Timor Leste, contact The Good Samaritan Foundation.
The Good Samaritan Sisters offer support in education for local catechists and local children with disabilities in Kiribati. Currently the sisters are advocating support for the “Pacific Calling” campaign that is pushing for the Australian government to offer guarantees of support / citizenship to Kiribati locals when the sea levels rise to the point where the islands are uninhabitable. Mount St Benedict staff have visited the community and witnessed first-hand life in Kiribati.
Established as an orphanage by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan Order in 1910, today, Mater Dei School and Services is a community-based organisation that provides early intervention therapy services, education and residential programs for babies, children and young people with an intellectual disability or developmental delay. The approach that they take in working with their students is reasonably simple and is based on the principle of encouraging inclusion and full participation by them with all members of society.
They work to provide their students with the skills and abilities to access their local communities as valued and contributing members in a manner that builds acceptance and dignity for people with disabilities.
The underpinning philosophy for all that is done at Mater Dei is "Inclusion for all". Much of the work is focused on providing opportunities and experiences that will help their students develop skills and confidence to be fully included as valuable and respected members of their community. Mater Dei prides itself on providing an individualised and holistic education for all children and young people in their care and support to their families.