Xaviere Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, a student in the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, has been appointed by Pope Francis as an undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, making her the first woman to hold this position. The appointment is seen as watershed moment in the Catholic Church and an indication of an increased role for women in the life of the Church.
Sr. Becquart enrolled in the STM during the 2019-20 academic year to pursue a licentiate in sacred theology. She is slated to graduate this May after completion of her thesis, which is focused on synodality.
Established in 1965, the Synod of Bishops is an ecclesiastical advisory group of church leaders from all over the world who assist the pope by regularly examining issues close to the Church. During his papacy, Pope Francis has increased the authority and influence of the Synod of Bishops and expressed a desire to create a more synodal Church, one that is listening and learning from all members. The synod’s next general assembly, scheduled for October 2022, is titled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”
Sr. Becquart made significant contributions to the Synod of Bishops’ 2018 general assembly on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment,” serving as a coordinator of the pre-synod, a speaker, and an observer. In 2019, ahead of the synod’s special assembly for the Pan-Amazon region, she was among a group of women, the first ever, to be appointed consultors to the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops.
A statement issued by Synod of Bishops General Secretary Cardinal Mario Grech noted that Sr. Becquart will bring her “theological depth of understanding of synodality, experience of working with youth for the Bishops’ Conference of France, and Ignatian spirituality” to her role as undersecretary.
Sr. Becquart told Vatican News she saw her appointment as undersecretary as a sign of “confidence in the women in the Church” and looked forward to serving the Universal Church.
"It’s almost as though her adult life has been leading up to a moment like this, so that when the invitation came, she was ready to go."
“Nathalie is a very focused, dedicated woman who really works hard, but despite her pedigree and CV, there’s a real humility about her,” said STM Associate Director for Spiritual Formation Barbara Quinn, RSCJ, whose religious community in Newton hosted Sr. Becquart during her time at BC.
Sr. Quinn added that Sr. Becquart “is a down-to-earth, grassroots person who has been working on the ground, with people and hearing their needs. To me, that one of the most important qualities she brings. She’s also very well-educated. Her thesis is on synodality. It’s almost as though her adult life has been leading up to a moment like this, so that when the invitation came, she was ready to go.”
Sr. Becquart, who has returned to her native France, expressed gratitude to the STM community, particularly Sr. Quinn and Associate Professor of the Practice Rafael Luciani, her thesis advisor.
“With [Rafael’s] course and guidance I had a chance to discover more about the Latin American Theology that has shaped Pope Francis’ vision of synodality and to embark on different projects to promote synodality,” said Sr. Becquart.
“I go back to France enriched by my time at Boston College STM,” she added. “I praise the Lord for this path of studies that has been for me a path of unification and discernment, a path of conversion and deepening to open new ways to better serve the Church.”
Speaking to Vatican Media, Cardinal Grech said: “Pope Francis has reminded us often that a synodal Church is a Church characterized by listening: by reciprocal listening by which everyone – the faithful, bishops, and the Bishop of Rome – learns from each other; and above all, by listening to the Holy Spirit all together.”
“The appointment of Sr. Nathalie Becquart as undersecretary will thus help us to remember in a concrete way that on this synodal way the voice of the People of God has a specific place and that it is fundamental to find ways to encourage the effective participation of all the baptized along this way.”
He continued: “With the appointment of Sr. Nathalie Becquart, and the possibility that she will participate with the right to vote, a door has been opened.”
Kathleen Sullivan | University Communications | February 2021