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.
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.