“I feel like I’m in a makeover show in reverse” says Martina Purdy

Former journalist Martina Purdy addressing the capacity congregation at St. Eugene's Cathedral on Monday night at the Little Way Novena. DER1915MC020
Former journalist Martina Purdy addressing the capacity congregation at St. Eugene's Cathedral on Monday night at the Little Way Novena. DER1915MC020

Huge crowds gathered at St Eugene’s cathedral to hear a former BBC journalist explain why she decided to quit her high profile job and become a nun.

Martina Purdy was one of Northern Ireland’s top political correspondents - however there was widespread shock when she announced last year that she wanted to dedicate her life to God and enter a convent.

Former BBC Political correspondent Martina Purdy arrives at St. Eugene's Cathedral last night accompanied by Father Colum Clerkin and Father Paul Farren, Administrator, St. Eugene's Cathedral, before she addressed a packed congregation as part of the, "Little Way Novena". DER1915MC025 Picture by Jim Cafferty

Former BBC Political correspondent Martina Purdy arrives at St. Eugene's Cathedral last night accompanied by Father Colum Clerkin and Father Paul Farren, Administrator, St. Eugene's Cathedral, before she addressed a packed congregation as part of the, "Little Way Novena". DER1915MC025 Picture by Jim Cafferty

Speaking at the Little Way Novena Martina was barely recognisable.

“I feel like I’m in a makeover show in reverse,” she said.

Gone is her trademark blonde hair, and Martina now sports a short, simple, brown coloured hairstyle, wears glasses and dresses in the habit of a postulant.

But her voice is unmistakable.

There was standing room only in the cathedral for the event.

“People are obviously curious as to why I would give up a career as a broadcaster to live a simple life of Eucharistic adoration,” she said.

She said that when found out that her order ate and prayed in silence she thought they were “kidding.”

“I’m a chatterbox,” she said. “Only our Lord would call a chatterbox to a life of silence.”

She revealed that women’s vocations in the UK are now at a 25 year high.

“Last year after a decade of almost no vocations three of us came to the convent and a fourth woman is planning to sign up, and that is quite a miracle,” she said.

“Did I want to be a nun, no, I wanted to be a journalist. I thought that was my vocation - poverty, chastity and obedience aren’t exactly big sellers.

“But the Lord wanted a BBC journalist to communicate his light.

“I read that people were shocked at my decision. I was shocked myself. When I phoned a number of politicians to tell them, I have to say, a few were uncharacteristically quiet. One thought I was joking. I called one of my relatives to say I was quitting the BBC to become a nun and he said, ‘Are you drunk?’

“In fairness I was drunk on the Holy Spirit but most people were supportive - very loving in fact. Someone who doesn’t know me very well asked what I was running away from.”

Martina decided to join the Sisters of the Adoration after a trip to Peru convinced her she wanted a more meaningful life.

“My job wasn’t satisfying me anymore,” she said. “It was my choice, stay at the BBC or go and be transformed. I told God - I’m in.”

Outside Martina shook hands with hundreds of well wishes including SDLP M.P. Mark Durkan

The retreat continues tonight with guest speaker John McAreavey.