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BBC TV Journalist Leaves Behind 25-Year Career For Religious Life

Martina Purdy

Stormont Live

Susan E. Wills - published on 10/11/14

Martina Purdy had it all and gave it all up for something better.

After 25 years in journalism and having one of the Northern Ireland television’s “most recognisable faces – and voices,” Martina Purdy has herself made the headlines.

Her departure from the BBC to enter a religious congregation was announced in an October 10 tweet she sent to her thousands of fans: “Hi, I’m leaving the BBC. Here’s my statement. God bless, Martina xx.”  

With the tweet, she included a photo of the BBC announcement that quotes her statement and reads in part:

I know many people will not understand this decision. It is a decision that I have not come to lightly, but it is one that I make with love and great joy.

I ask for prayers as I embark on this path with all humility, faith and trust.

An award-winning journalist and native of Belfast, Purdy was raised in Toronto. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in International Relations and later earned a degree from the Ryerson University School of Journalism (Toronto). She began her career as a print journalist and was published in the “Toronto Star,” “Globe and Mail” and the “L.A. Times.” Following her return to Ireland, she wrote for “The Irish News” and the “Belfast Telegraph” (1993-1999), as a business editor and, later, political correspondent.

Head of News at BBC NI (Northern Ireland) described her as “one of BBC NI’s most talented and hardworking correspondents.” Purdy covered numerous political assignments, working on daily and weekly radio and TV news programs, documentaries, election specials, and online news, according to the BBC statement.

In her last years with the “Belfast Telegraph” before joining the BBC, Purdy covered the talks leading up to the historic Good Friday Agreement in 1998 that ended decades of strife (and killings) in Northern Ireland between Catholic and Protestant paramilitary groups. Purdy covered the obstacles and achievements of the Northern Ireland Executive branch power-sharing agreement from 1998-2002 in a book entitled “Room 21, Stormont Behind Closed Doors.”

It’s not every day that we learn of men and women who
– after having reached impressive heights in their chosen field and enjoying the admiration, if not adulation, of fans – leave worldly success and fame behind. Although Martina Purdy has chosen not to speak about her reasons for “giving up” her career and her freedom to join a religious congregation, she describes the decision as one made with “love and great joy.” This comment is reminiscent of an
interview Mary Ann Marks – the 2010 Harvard valedictorian who soon after graduation joined the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist – gave to Kathryn Lopez, editor of "National Review Online":

when Love asks you to be His spouse, you don’t quibble about the when and where. The other part is that anything worthwhile in life requires an ongoing, freely willed surrender of one’s freedom.

Ms. Parks also underscored the importance of men and women taking the counter-cultural step of entering religious life, a point which applies even more to a figure who has been in the public eye for 15 years:
Religious are called to witness by their life and garb to supernatural realities: God’s existence, His immeasurable love for each person, and the fact that our duty and happiness lie in returning His love. This witness becomes increasingly important as a culture’s materialism and corresponding distaste for the supernatural increase.

It is safe to assume that the overall decline in vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the United States and the West is not due to God having stopped calling people to be consecrated to His service. It’s more likely due to increasing selfishness and materialism and the constant distractions that invade our waking hours and become obstacles to silent prayer. How can we know if God is calling us if we can’t even recognize His voice in the silence of prayer?

May well-educated, accomplished women like Mary Ann and Martina inspire others to develop the habit of silent prayer so that many more will become witnesses to the love and joy of living fully for God.

Susan E. Willsis spirituality editor of Aleteia’s English-language edition.

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