It took a “late-20s life crisis” for the Reverend Suzannah Daniels to find her calling.
The Anglican priest has recently celebrated her one-year anniversary in the Parish of Bendigo North, which covers North Bendigo, White Hills, Epsom and Huntly, and includes the churches of St Luke’s and St Clement’s.
It was not a straightforward path to the ministry for Mrs Daniels.
Firstly, she was raised in a strong Catholic family in Melbourne – although she said her parents took her conversion to Anglicanism well, laughing that it was a change of footy teams that would have really disappointed them.
In her 20s she withdrew from the church.
But while working as a teacher at a school in Melbourne, she befriended the school’s Anglican chaplain and her interest was re-ignited.
“It introduced me to a way of relating to God that was more in sync with my personality,” she said.
Later, while travelling the world during her “life crisis”, she visited “every kind of church” and learnt more about different denominations and faiths.
Mrs Daniels was praying to God during this trip, asking what she should do with her life, and found that she kept meeting young, ordained females.
“I just decided to follow the bouncing ball,” she said.
She studied theology at Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, before going on to become ordained first as a deacon last June, and finally as a priest last November.
She came to Bendigo five years ago when a good friend, a priest of the parish she now leads, invited her to work with him on a church project.
Her now-husband Paul followed and today the couple have a young daughter, with another child on the way.
As a female priest, Mrs Daniels said she attracted no negativity, but curiosity.
While some churches still turn down female priests, her new congregation has welcomed her.
“This parish as a long history of female priests,” she said.
“So it was comfortable for them and comfortable for me.”
Preaching, she found, was similar to her former work as a teacher.
“(It’s) that same desire to have a group of people to look after and walk alongside,” she said.
Joining the ministry at a time when the church was under heavy scrutiny in the wake of sexual abuse revelations, Mrs Daniels said she felt the weight of that issue.
“It’s not an easy time, but it’s also a really important time to stand up and represent the potential for love and trust and goodness God has, and to be there for the healing,” she said.