THE newly-elected leader of the Good Samaritan Sisters has spoken out about the growing threat of conflict between the United States and North Korea.
Sr Patty Fawkner, elected congregational leader for the next six years, has warned of “a potential disastrous conflict” and urged for prayer and “active peace-building” dialogue.
“We observe with dismay the growing tensions between the United States of America and the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (North Korea), and between North Korea and Japan,” she said.
“We recognise that many people are suffering under the threat of attack and we stand in solidarity with the people of Japan and all those who live in fear of nuclear conflict.”
The Good Samaritan Sisters have experienced the aftermath of nuclear hostilities in north Asia.
Five Good Samaritan Sisters opened a dispensary in Nagasaki in 1948 – part of efforts to restore shattered Japanese lives after an atomic bomb destroyed the city at the end of the Second World War.
With another contemporary crisis unfolding in north Asia, Sr Fawkner said she feared for the safety of one of her congregational sisters volunteering near the Japanese city of Fukushima, who recently experienced the fear of a North Korean test missile flying over northern Japan.
“One of our own was directly affected. It caused great distress when the warning sirens went off (in Fukushima prefecture),” Sr Fawkner said.
Good Samaritan Sister Haruko Morikawa is part of a team providing support to the people of Minamisoma, a coastal city only 20km north of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – where a nuclear meltdown happened six years ago.
“As sisters, together with the Catholic community in Japan, and with people of peace in every community, we stand committed to dialogue and to working for peace as one human community,” Sr Fawkner said.
She was elected congregational leader during a chapter gathering in Sydney from September 24 to October 2.
Sr Fawkner is an adult educator, writer and facilitator with formal tertiary qualifications in arts, education, theology and spirituality.
Of the 208 Good Samaritan Sisters who live and minister throughout Australia, and in Japan, the Philippines and Kiribati, 115 were present to explore issues of importance for the world, the Church and the congregation, now in its 160th year.
Sr Fawkner is joined on a new five-member leadership team responsible for pastoral governance, by councillors, Sisters Catherine McCahill, Meg Kahler, Marella Rebgetz and Veronica McCluskie.
“I’m humbled to be called by my sisters to this ministry of leadership, but also, I’d have to say that I’m proud to be asked to lead this congregation which I love so dearly,” Sr Fawkner said.
“I’m aware that leadership at this time in our world and in our Church is a mixed blessing.
“Organisations evolve to greater complexity, and this is true for us as Good Samaritans even though we are diminishing in numbers.
“It challenges us to work in partnership to respond to the needs of those people who are often left on the margins of society’s care and concern.
“This includes care for our fragile planet and our bruised and wounded Church.
“We’ve got the Australian Church still reeling from the sexual abuse scandal and still reeling from the trauma suffered by the victims of sexual abuse.”
The Good Samaritan Sisters’ 2017-2023 Statement of Directions said: “As Good Samaritans, we listen to the Spirit calling us to act boldly and courageously: nurturing a culture of mutuality; committing ourselves to ecological conversion; fostering an ecclesial community; embracing God’s mission in partnership”.
“This statement is a vision for us, so we will need to spend time unpacking it and exploring its implications for our priorities, policies and projects,” Sr Fawkner said.
“We are a small congregation … but we do have human and other resources to contribute to God’s mission.”