I recently attended the First Profession of Tuata Terawete and Juniko Toaua. These are two young women, from Kirabati who made their commitment to join the community of Good Samaritan sisters. It was a beautiful ceremony filled with ritual and symbolism around the vows of stability, conversion of life and obedience.
At the conclusion of this first profession ceremony they became Sisters of the Good Samaritan. It was moving to see the joy on their faces at this significant point in their lives and the joy on the faces of all the other sisters present as they include them into their congregation. For myself and the other principals of Good Samaritan Schools present it epitomized what it means to be part of a broader community. We all felt joy and pride for Sr. Tuata and Sr. Juniko as they had travelled a long journey to get to this point.
On a sadder note I also attended a funeral recently of a beautiful young woman who passed away who was only in her twenties. She had a chronic health condition all her life and inspite of a transplant last year, her health deteriorated and she could no longer continue the battle. Again the extended community gathered and provided support for her family and each other. Against a backdrop of grief, I was reunited with members of that community to celebrate the joy and life this young woman brought to so many she encountered.
Living in a community is a privilege and a blessing. Through community we grow and develop into the people we have the capacity to become. In community we learn life lessons and become good world citizens. We learn to respect that people are all different and learn to care for the vulnerable and the disempowered. Some of us learn the lessons quickly and some need a little more encouragement. Certainly schools are very much places of this ilk. Whilst we have a curriculum, guided by the Australian curriculum to get through in class, the broader curriculum of how to live in community is as urgent and valuable a lesson to be learnt.
Many of the tensions and difficulties girls have in the playground with friends and others are learning opportunities for them in how to live respectfully with your neighbour. “Who is my Neighbour” is a strong question that under pins the charism of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. It was the question asked by Jesus after he told the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Who is my Neighbour? It is the person in my community of humankind. I may not know that person but they have many things in common with me. Like me, they experience the joys of life and love and they will feel pain and sorrow in the times of grief and loss. They have hopes and dreams and aspirations for a better future, like us. People seeking asylum from persecution and torture are our neighbours. People who become refugees for fear of their life in their homeland are our neighbours. Have we acted in a way Christ would want us to act?
As we recognise World Refugee Day on 20 June I will leave you with a poem written by a young Iranian asylum seeker in detention. The treatment of children in detention continues to be both alarming and deeply disturbing. Who will speak for these children if we don’t?
I do not know
What will happen after I die
I do not want to know
But I would like the Potter to make a whistle
From the clay of my throat.
May this whistle fall into the hands of a naughty child
And the child blow hard on the whistle continuously
With the suppressed and silent air of his lungs
And disrupt the sleep
Of those who seem dead
To my cries!