Northern Ireland news

Martina Purdy and Elaine Kelly leave convent after being told they can't take final vows

Elaine Kelly (left) and Martina Purdy. Picture by Hugh Russell

TWO women who left their high-profile careers to join a convent will not be allowed to take their final vows.

Former political journalist Martina Purdy and former barrister Elaine Kelly left the west Belfast congregation yesterday.

Both women entered the convent of the Adoration Sisters five years ago.

The two were the last of four, who joined the convent since 2014, to leave in recent weeks.

In a statement yesterday, Ms Purdy said the congregation had grown "too small and fragile".

She said it was not her choice to leave the convent and "such a beautiful congregation".

Several weeks ago, the The Irish News asked the order about claims it was to close, and these were denied.

Adoration Sisters at the convent in west Belfast. Picture by Ann McManus.

Ms Purdy said the development was "deeply painful for all concerned".

She said she would now continue as a lay Catholic and enter a "period of discernment".

"When I entered five years ago, I had hoped and believed that I would, God willing, make my final profession of vows in 2023," she said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, the reality is that the congregation, with declining numbers, simply does not have sufficient numbers to enable any of the temporary professed sisters, like myself, to become fully professed.

Martina Purdy and Elaine Kelly at the Adoration Convent in west Belfast. Picture Hugh Russell.

"Since entering the congregation in 2014, I have had the time of my life and without question, even with this outcome, I would do it all again. It has been an outstanding time: the greatest privilege of my life to adore Jesus every day, to serve the Church and community."

News that temporary professed sisters could not continue in vows, she added, was "extremely challenging for us all and for me personally".

"I continue to follow Jesus as best I can as a lay Catholic and have now entered a period of discernment".

She said the convent would continue "under the care of Mother Mary Josephine with the professed sisters and the Adoration community".

Ms Kelly, meanwhile, said she "never saw this moment coming" but "understood why it is not possible to continue in formation".

Martina Purdy in her days as a political reporter for BBC NI

"From my heart I can say that I have had the time of my life," she said.

"It has all been very challenging, very exciting and very rewarding. It has taken me to the heights of love and trust of God."

Ms Kelly said she would use the "amazing experiences" to determine "the next stage of the journey as a committed Catholic".

Mr Purdy last spoke to the Irish News in April of her decision to join the religious life after a 20-year career in journalism, which included political correspondent for BBC NI.

“If you had told me more than five years ago, that I would be living on the Falls Road, dressed in a brown habit, two doors down from the Sinn Féin offices where I used to interview Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness, I would have said you were mad," she said.

Elaine Kelly, who was a leading Belfast barrister, recalled in an interview with the paper in June how receiving the call to be a Sister of Adoration was an "out-of-this-world experience".

"On Sunday night, March 9 2014, I was sitting at home when I felt a real draw in my heart to go to the Adoration Chapel, " she said.

"...I realise now that it was a divine invitation; the Lord had a great new plan for my life that he wanted me for."

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