The Good Samaritan Sisters in the Tradition of St Benedict

​Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict

"So that in all things God may be glorified” 1 Peter 4:11
John Bede Polding osb, Australia’s first Catholic Archbishop, founded the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict in Sydney on February 2, 1857. He was assisted by a Sister of Charity, Scholastica Gibbons, who became the Congregation’s first Superior.
This new Congregation, the first to be founded on Australian soil, was formed to care for disadvantaged and abused women. Polding, however, gave the Congregation a broad and flexible scope in its mission. By giving it the name, Sisters of the Good Samaritan, he indicated that the sisters were to have a Christ-like attitude of compassion and care for those they served.
They would be “ready to teach in schools, to visit and assist the sick in their own homes and in hospitals, to instruct ignorant persons in the faith, to conduct orphanages, to reform the lives of penitent women, and to apply themselves to every other charitable work” (Rules of Polding: Scope and Character of the Institute, n.1).
Humble beginnings
From the very beginning, commitment to women and the education of young people has been at the heart of the Congregation’s mission. In 1861, just five years after their foundation, sisters began teaching in a school in Sussex Street, Sydney.
In subsequent decades the ministry of Good Samaritan education spread to other Australian States, to Japan, the Philippines and Kiribati. Education in the faith and adult education are features of Good Samaritan ministry.
It is clear from the words of Polding that he envisaged the work of education as encompassing the wider vision of life-long learning. Hundreds of thousands of Australians have been educated as a result of the partnership between the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and dedicated staff.
In Australia, in 2011, the sisters’ ministry in Catholic education comprised ten schools in five dioceses: the Archdioceses of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and the Dioceses of Broken Bay and Wollongong.
The Congregation valued these schools as a sphere of its apostolic activity within the mission of the Church.
Benedictine Values
Good Samaritan Education has a rich Benedictine heritage that draws on ancient wisdom for a modern world. The essential values of Good Samaritan Benedictine Education are:
Love of Christ and Neighbour
Benedictine life, like that of all Christians, is first and foremost a response to God’s astonishing love for humankind, a love expressed in the free gift of God’s beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Love tops Benedict’s list of tools for good works (RB, 5:10, 7:67-69, 4.1–2).
Benedictine schools cultivate a fundamental attentiveness to the ways in which God is present in the human mind and heart and, indeed, in all creation. St Benedict directed that nothing is to be preferred to prayer (RB, 43.3). Lectio divina is the slow meditative reading of Scriptures and other sacred texts with the intention of discerning how God is at work right now in the world and calling within the individual’s own heart.
Stability shapes a Benedictine way of life. All commit themselves to seeking God. They resolve to pursue this, their heart’s deepest desire, together, day in and day out, in good times and in bad, throughout the span of their lives.
The Benedictine word conversatio means the process of letting go of self-centred preoccupations and false securities so that the divine life at the core of one’s being becomes manifest in a trustworthy pattern of living.
Benedict begins the Rule with the exhortation “Listen” emphasising the stance required of all who seek wisdom. Obedience is putting into practice what is learned by listening to the other “with the ear of the heart” (RB, Prologue 1).
Benedictine life is built around a fundamental discipline of prayer, work and relationships and seeks to free people to take delight in God’s presence within the self, the community and the world.
The Benedictine way of life seeks an accurate knowledge of self, a pervasive awareness of God’s presence and dependence on others and creation itself. Benedictines recognise their limitations without losing hope and accept their gifts without becoming arrogant because the measure of their lives is not found in themselves alone.
At its core the Rule seeks to foster a fundamental reverence toward the creation that God has made. St Benedict exhorts his followers to regard all the tools and goods of the monastery as the sacred vessels of the altar (RB, 31.10).
St Benedict accords special attention to Christ’s unexpected arrival in the person of the guest, whom he describes alternately as poor and as a stranger. A blessing accompanies both the offering and the receiving of hospitality.
Benedictine community is rooted in a particular place in which mutual service, especially in mundane everyday life, is demanded of all with no expectation of individual reward. It is a challenge to contribute to a living, flesh and blood community on such terms.
Justice and Peace
The aim of Benedictine life is to find peace. We must pursue it and work for it. It is an active ordering of life so that peace is the outcome. Peace is a feature of just communities – for peace to reign, justice is fundamental.
Information adapted from Association of Benedictine Colleges & Universities Statement​
HOME. (n.d). ABCU. Retrieved September, 2020, from