The Pioneering Spirit of Catholic Education in Australia: Sisters of the Good Samaritan

7 Oct 2021

Above: Students from St Scholastica’s College, Glebe circa early 1900s.

The Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict was founded in Sydney by John Bede Polding OSB, Australia’s first Catholic Archbishop, on 2 February 1857.

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 and by giving the name, “Sisters of the Good Samaritan”, he indicated the Sisters were to have a Christ-like attitude of compassion and care for those they served. From the very beginning, commitment to women and the education of young people – girls in particular – has been at the heart of the Institute’s mission.

Responding to a request from the government in 1859, three Sisters were sent to take over the management of the Parramatta orphanage and school.

In 1861 the Sisters were assigned to take charge of the Catholic denominational school in Sussex Street, Sydney.

A year later they moved to new premises in Pitt Street following an appeal for new buildings. The school consisted of two teachers and 325 students who gathered for classes in one single large area beneath the chapel. In subsequent decades the ministry of Good Samaritan education spread to other Australian States and to Japan.

The Sisters established their own schools and also taught in many parish and diocesan primary and secondary schools, in cities and small towns across rural Australia.

They ensured that the parable of the Good Samaritan and the Rule of St Benedict were key influences in the Catholicity of the schools. Today the 10 Good Samaritan schools educate over 10,000 students and are located in the eastern states of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.

These schools are Lourdes Hill College, Hawthorn QLD, St Scholastica’s College, Glebe NSW, Stella Maris, Manly NSW, Mount St Benedict College, Pennant Hills NSW, Rosebank College, Five Dock NSW, St Patrick’s College, Campbelltown NSW, St Mary Star of the Sea College, Wollongong NSW, Santa Maria College, Northcote VIC, Mater Christi College, Belgrave VIC and, the “jewel in the crown”, Mater Dei School, Camden NSW, which is a community based school that provides education, therapy services and post school training for students with an intellectual disability or developmental delay.

On 22 July 2011, after a long period of discernment as to how the colleges could continue their specific mission in Catholic education into the future, the Good Samaritan Congregation established Good Samaritan Education (GSE) which was formally constituted as an ecclesial entity within the Catholic Church.

On 1 June 2012 Good Samaritan Education assumed full governance of the 10 schools. Enriched and inspired by the
Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Rule of Benedict and the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, the mission of Good
Samaritan Education is to sustain and nurture communities of learning in the Catholic tradition.

Catholic education in the Good Samaritan Benedictine tradition is committed to developing students who will engage with today’s world as grounded, hope-filled young people who are equipped to lead wisely, to listen deeply and to treat their neighbour and their environment with justice, love and the compassion of Christ.

Students Lourdes Hill College, Hawthorne 1919
Students from Lourdes Hill College, Hawthorne c1919

Images courtesy of the Good Samaritan Congregational Archives.

Sisters of the Good Samaritan website, accessed 2021.
Good Samaritan Education website, accessed 2021.
Mary McDonald sgs. “Journey to Good Samartian Education”, 2019.
Standardised Constitution Preamble, Good Samaritan Education, 2021.
Terry Creagh, “Beneath the Southern Cross” Keynote, BENet Conference 2019.
Images courtesy of the Good Samaritan Congregational Archives.


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