Where will synodality lead us? Following the journey of Mary, Mother of God

By Dr Anne Benjamin, 12 September 2023
'The Annunciation' by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859–1937). Image: Wikimedia Commons


Australians are great travellers, whether to overseas or around our own country, from city to bush or from bush to city. Except for the most intrepid, when we travel most of us check our itineraries and have a destination to which we are heading; we plan our trips and make our bookings in advance.

Our Church too is on a great journey. The pilgrim people of God have been called to set off in a new direction which we call “synodality”. This journey we have commenced has many uncertainties: what exactly will this journey be like? Where exactly will it take us?

Yet there are some certainties. We know the purpose of our travel: it is to become more truly the people that God has called us to become; it is to live out our mission to our world more faithfully, more appropriately for our time. Another certainty is that we have a sure and reliable guide: the Holy Spirit. We know we will not get lost if we listen to our guide, even if the Spirit speaks to us in many different accents and from places we had not expected.

We also know we are not the first to make such a journey into unknown territory, guided only by faith and the Spirit. Mary, Mother of the Church, herself lived such a journey throughout her whole life. Imagine, if you can, being a young girl in a remote out-of-the-way village in first century Middle East. Somehow, for reasons you will never know, you are chosen for a remarkable, world-changing, role – to become pregnant with a child who will be known as Saviour of the world.

Imagine her uncertainties, not just on the occasion of the annunciation by an angel, but throughout her pregnancy, throughout her son’s life, watching His cruel death, being with His followers after His death. Yet, Mary, or Miriam, was grounded in her Jewish faith and in the scriptures; was filled with a grace that could say “Yes” to the will of her God, not just once but over and over. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.”

A Church attuned to Mary, Mother of Jesus, wrote one author, “does not know the answers before the questions are posed. Her path is not traced out in advance. She knows doubt and unease, night and loneliness.”[1]

A Marian Church “is always issuing invitations. It is unlimited in scope and seeks to renew itself every day. It is small, poor, humble and ordinary – and it is a treasure house.” [2] Surely, Mary must be a model for us as we begin our synodal journey as a Church here in Parramatta…a woman of faith, a woman of steadfast love, a woman who was open to the Spirit.

And not only a model, of course, but an advocate, a mother who will watch over us in our journey.

Dr Anne Benjamin is a writer, educator and a parishioner of St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie. She is on the Writing Committee for the Diocesan Synod and is a former Executive Director of Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (formerly Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta).


[1] Francois Marc quoted in T. Edstein & D. Hall in A New Annunciation, Imagining our Church of the Future, Lasalle Academy Publications, ACU, 2021, page 12

[2] Ibid, page 14.


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