The goal is the journey: Sr Nathalie’s comments for the Diocese of Parramatta Synod

By Debra Vermeer, 7 June 2023
Participants are seen during the Eastern Deanery Consultation evening for the Diocesan Synod at St Patrick's Cathedral Hall, Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


The woman heading up the organisation of Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality, Sr Nathalie Becquart XMCJ, says that focusing on the process is key when preparing for a diocesan synod, such as the upcoming Diocese of Parramatta Synod in October 2023.

Sr Nathalie is the Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops. She came to Australia in February 2023 for a series of speaking engagements in the Diocese of Parramatta, Melbourne and Adelaide.

While in Australia, she was asked about what her thoughts were around the Australian Plenary Council, which was held in 2021 and 2022.

“What I have observed and what I found very interesting, is the process,” she said.

“With a long listening process, consultation, the way the Plenary was organised, involving different teams, also with lay people and using the methodology of spiritual conversation, that is, I think, one of the best fruits of what I have seen of this process of the Plenary Council.

“And when we were preparing the launching of this global Synod, I was head of the commission on methodology. We have tried to gather best practices, to learn from synodal processes at different levels – the way they do diocesan synods in many countries, the experience of national process.”

“From what I have seen, the Church now is relearning synodality,” she said.

Sr Nathalie on the Diocese of Parramatta Synod

As the Diocese of Parramatta prepares for its own Diocesan Synod, Sr Nathalie saw a strong need to focus on the process.

“I think the process is very important,” she said. “Not to say that outcomes are not important, they are very important, but in the vision of synodality, in a way, the goal is also the journey … so I would highlight the importance of being on the journey, being in this process and not only focus on short-term results of short-term efficiency.

“It’s not easy, because we are in a culture where we are very focused on short-term results and impact, and the time of God, the time of the Holy Spirit is different.”

Sr Nathalie said one of the biggest things she’s learned from observing many diocesan synods is it’s not enough just to hold a synod – there is also a need for implementation and follow-up.

“The most important thing is to see the synod not only and for first as an event, but as a process,” she said.

“And so, the preparatory phase is very important, but also after the synod is the implementation and the reception.”

Sr Nathalie said synodality requires a change of mindset for those who see the Church as an “institutional pyramid with the Pope, the bishops and the priest at the top and lay people who are just passive.”

“But with the Second Vatican Council, we rediscovered that in the Church the first focus is our baptism. We have this common dignity as the baptised and we are all co-responsible for the mission of the Church because we have this common call for sainthood.  As baptised, we are called to be missionary pilgrims, missionary disciples and to carry on all together the mission of the Church.

“We haven’t finished this change of culture, change of mindset, it’s about our spiritual attitude. Synodality requires humility, journeying together, learning teamwork, deep listening, daring to speak, but then, it’s not enough. You also need to focus and to look at the question of structures and sometimes you need also new structures. You need also to revive synodal structures.”

The changing world called for some restructure and change said Sr Nathalie, “where you have to discern what is the best organisation, the best way to continue to proclaim the Gospel and to serve the people,” she said.

“Sometimes I say synodality is passing from the ‘I’ to the ‘us’ to the ‘we’. It’s having this sense of first, as baptised, we belong to a community. We are all together on the road. What I hope is that each parishioner really could have this experience of belonging to a community and is able to discern his or her own call to be missionary disciples and to be engaged.”

Where to join the conversation and make a submission 

Submissions for the Diocesan Synod are open until 31 July 2023, and can be submitted through the Synod website. Two deanery consultations, with guided discussion are open for all parishioners to attend. They follow three consultations which have already been successfully held, generating very favourable comments from participants. 

Parishioners are invited to consultations which will be held 6.30pm to 9pm on the following evenings: 

  • 17 June at St Andrew the Apostle Primary School, Marayong
  • 24 June at Holy Spirit Primary School, St Clair  

You can see the videos from the consultations held in the Northern Deanery and Mountains Deanery.

See for details.

Debra Vermeer is a freelance journalist and contributor to Catholic Outlook


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