2018 Good Samaritan Benedictine Pilgrimage

Jun 20, 2018

In April a group of twenty-two people, including leaders and governance personnel from the ten Good Samaritan Colleges, the Associated Schools Network and Sisters of the Good Samaritan, gathered in Rome to embark on the Good Samaritan Benedictine Pilgrimage.  The pilgrimage is designed to immerse senior personnel in GSE governance and colleges in the rich heritage of our shared tradition by walking in the footsteps of St Benedict and through the experience of traditional and contemporary expressions of Good Samaritan Benedictine spirituality and life.

A rhythm of prayer, reflection and stillness balances each day and the journey encourages participants to explore their personal spirituality, and deepen their relationship with God.

Following are two reflections from the recent pilgrimage group. The first reflection is by Danielle Cronin, GSE Assembly Member; and the second is from Nicole Caulfield, Deputy Principal – Middle School and Kath Perrier, Assistant Principal – Learning and Teaching, Lourdes Hill College, Brisbane

Pomegranates and fidelity to God’s Mission – a question for our times!

Danielle Cronin, GSE Assembly Member

Just a few short weeks ago, we returned from our pilgrim journey. As I sit here now in the beautiful Sydney autumn sun, I have been thinking about the notion of ‘returning home’ from pilgrimage. Do you ever really return home? Or is it, as Macrina Wiederkehr suggests, that “nothing will ever be quite the same again” and that more than ever you find yourself on an endless pilgrimage: walking each day encountering people, moments, ideas with a new orientation and a new disposition?

During our days together in Italy and England, rather than writing in a journal, I sketched. I drew the places and things that drew me in and sparked my imagination throughout the day, for example, the superb architecture at Douai and Stanbrook Abbeys.

I tried (and failed) to capture on the page the beautiful, challenging, silence of the Douai Abbey church. The silence I experienced there was profound when compared to the loud, busyness, of Rome. The silence, of course, was not just ‘audible’ but visual and visceral. The silence was a gift, but would not have been as profound, I don’t think, had we not had the Rome experience!

At Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, I was taken by the cast bronze pomegranates that adorn the marble altar railing. Split open and revealing the fruit – a symbol of new life, hope of immortality, and the Resurrection, but also, for those of us who like to eat them, a reminder of the struggle and frustration that is needed to finally get the reward of the fruit!

It was the image of the pomegranate that became a symbol of the more existential journey of the pilgrimage for me.

In our daily work, as Catholic educators, leaders and governors, we are immersed in the work of the Australian Church. While our ministry of Good Samaritan Education may be a good story – the broader Church of which we are a part finds itself in a liminal space, looking for a rebirth, new life, new hope. Many ways of the past no longer provide a sufficient roadmap for the future.

The pilgrimage provided a profound opportunity for us to look back at the ancient Church and our Benedictine roots, to travel in the present to see how these ancient traditions are being reanimated in different ways (I’m thinking here of the contrasts between Downside and the Tutzing Sisters or the Sisters of Stanbrook Abbey) and to reflect on a future not yet written. Indeed, the roadmap is ours’ to write.

Another important symbol for me was the rocks placed in the forks and hollows of the trees that line the path up to Sacro Speco. They were a sign – a signal – that others have walked the path before. The gentle message for each of us: You are not alone on this journey.

So, as I travel with a pilgrim heart, the (exciting) question I am carrying with me is how do we continue to exercise creative fidelity to God’s mission in our stewardship of Good Samaritan Education at this time in our history?

Standing Together on Holy Ground

Nicole Caulfield and Kath Perrier, Lourdes Hill College, Brisbane

The stories of St Benedict and John Bede Polding were brought to life in April, as we, along with 22 other pilgrims, travelled throughout Italy and England on the 2018 Good Samaritan Footsteps of St Benedict Pilgrimage.

Our group consisted of Good Samaritan Sisters, educators, board members and business managers, all with the common thread of working within Good Samaritan Education.

We began our pilgrimage in Rome. Our first meeting place was a beautiful chapel at the entrance of our hotel, Donna Camilla Savelli, where we marked the beginning of our journey with prayer. This warm welcome and Benedictine hospitality set the tone for what was to come throughout the next 13 days.

During the first seven days of our journey, we followed in the footsteps of St Benedict, marvelling at the many places we had only read and heard about before. We saw where Benedict studied and lived as a student; we saw the Subiaco cave where he famously lived for three years and; finally, we saw where he wrote the rule of St Benedict in Monte Cassino. All of these places are a testament to the inspirational life that Benedict led, and reminded us, that hundreds of years later, his rule stands the test of time and remains as relevant as ever.

Each Italian community we visited, including the Tutzing sisters in Rome and the Benedictine sisters in Assisi, welcomed us with warmth and Benedictine hospitality. We received a surprise visit by Sr Aquinata Bockmann OSB, who has spent time with our Good Samaritan Education Principals in the past and has a strong connection with the Good Samaritan Sisters in Australia.

We then travelled to England to learn about the life of Archbishop Polding. We visited three Benedictine monasteries, including Doui Abbey in Reading, Downside Abbey near Bath and Ampleforth Abbey in York.

Both Downside and Ampleforth Abbeys have schools attached and we attended the beautiful school mass with the Downside School community, where Polding had once lived. We were also delighted to visit the school’s amazing library, as well as its ‘Australian Room’, where we saw the original letters Polding wrote to and from Australia.

In each of the English monasteries, we attended prayer, mass and vespers, where each community’s dedication to its faith was inspirational. During our visit to Doui Abbey, the reading of the day was of Bernadette and her healing visions of Mary outside of Lourdes. This was of great significance to us, with our very own College being named after Lourdes, and Bernadette’s story being one of our community’s most treasured.

Throughout our shared journey, we formed some great friendships and we are very grateful to our pilgrimage leaders, Pat O’Gorman and Sr Kathleen Spokes, who provided spiritual guidance and outstanding organisation of a most memorable pilgrimage.

Perhaps our lasting memory of the pilgrimage will be the song we shared many times throughout our travels, which continues to echo through our ears and our hearts:

This is holy ground

We are standing on holy ground

For our God is present

And where God is, is holy.

(‘Holy Ground’, Christopher Beatty)