Why synodality resonates

Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator SJ, Dean of the Jesuit School of Theology (JST)
at Santa Clara University, spoke at a series of forums in Australia in May.


Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator SJ leading a moment of prayer in Rome. Photo: Jesuits.Media

If you want to hear the phrase “A prayerful, humble and listening Church,” spoken in four different languages, Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator SJ is the man you seek. Not only is it his own phrase, but as someone fluent in four languages, he can also say it and explain it to you in multiple tongues. 

The Dean of the Jesuit School of Theology (JST) at Santa Clara University, he grew up in Nigeria, practising traditional African religion. According to this profile of him on the university website, his journey to Christianity began “after visiting the local Jesuit parish as a teenager for Easter Vigil Mass,” following which he began to identify with Catholicism and, in particular, the Jesuit Order. “He saw the works of the American Jesuits as fully devoted to the service of others, resonant of an African anthropology of Ubuntu that teaches ‘a person is a person through other persons’.” 

Synodality is a significant theme for Fr Orobator, who will be visiting Australia this month for a series of public forums in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, just days after the two-day Jesuit parishes’ workshop centred on synodality and leadership. Last year, in the first few months of his JST tenure, Pope Francis invited Fr Orobator to attend the Synod on Synodality in Rome, where he was a voting member.

A prolific writer, he is described on the JST website as “the author of the books ‘Theology Brewed in an African Pot’, ‘Religion and Faith in Africa: Confessions of an Animist’, based on Duffy Lectures he delivered at Boston College; and ‘The Pope and the Pandemic: Lessons in Leadership in a Time of Crisis’, a Catholic Media Association award winner. He is editor of ‘The Church We Want: African Catholics Look to Vatican III,’ co-editor of ‘Feminist Catholic Theological Ethics: Conversations in the World Church’ and a member of the editorial board of the journal ‘Marriage, Families & Spirituality’. 

During an AMDG podcast on Synodality, host Mike Jordan Laskey, the Director of Communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, introduced Fr Orobator with the words: “My guest today has more experience with the church around the world than pretty much anyone I’ve ever met.” 

Full schedule of Fr Orobator’s series of public forums in Australia 
Listen to Fr Orobator on the podcast ‘Synodality: Embracing Tension, Staying at the Table’ with host Mike Jordan Laskey 

Read more about Fr Orobator on the Santa Clara University website