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).
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.
In reading the signs of the times as they relate to the Good Samaritan Sisters and their schools, the Congregation discerned that 2011 was the appropriate time to embrace a new and different future.
Following a period of discernment which involved the sisters and the Good Samaritan schools, Congregational Superior, Sister Clare Condon, established Good Samaritan Education.
With the agreement of the Archbishops of Melbourne and Brisbane and the Bishops of Wollongong and Broken Bay, the Archbishop of Sydney, George Cardinal Pell, constituted Good Samaritan Education as a new ecclesial entity on July 22, 2011.
On June 1, 2012, Good Samaritan Education assumed the Sisters’ rights and obligations with regard to their schools.