One foot on the margins

One woman keeps the faith by keeping in touch with the poor.

Guest blog by Bridget Purdome

I have one foot in a suburban parish. I worship and minister there, my daughters participate in the religious education program, and my husband serves as a deacon, but I don’t feel like I fully belong. As a woman who feels called to preach, my gifts aren’t being completely utilized. This often leaves me with a sense of spiritual homelessness.

How do I keep my faith? My other foot as well as my heart and soul belong to those living on the margins of society. I’m a member of an urban ministry team, founded by an order of priests, which offers spiritual retreats for women who have experienced physical homelessness and are in recovery from alcohol and drug addictions.

Last weekend, I picked up three women from two homeless shelters; one shelter was founded by religious brothers, the other by religious sisters. We drove to a retreat house, run by another group of religious sisters, where we joined 12 other homeless women and two team members and spent the weekend sharing our stories, engaging in various spiritual exercises, and praying together.

During our small group time, each woman was invited to share her story. One woman told of being abused by her boyfriend and then used as a prostitute. Another shared the pain of losing her 26-year-old son to AIDS. The only way she could cope was by turning to heroin. Another woman explained that she was raped by an uncle and then ostracized by her family for pressing charges against him. As I listened to each horrifying story, I felt the pain, the hope, and the courage of these powerful women. I knew that God was healing them.

At this point, my own struggles seemed pretty mild, but the women challenged me to share my story. As I told of the frustration of journeying through the Diaconate Formation program with my husband and having my own gifts dismissed by the institutional church, I was touched by the care and concern of the women. They listened and offered their support and even advice. I knew that God was using these powerful women to heal me.

How do I keep my faith as a woman in the church? By keeping one foot in the parish and the other with those on the margins. By sharing my struggles and my hope. By trusting that God is working to heal our broken church.

Bridget holds a M.A. in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University Chicago and is currently working on her M.Div. Her daily reflections can be found at

As a supplement of the January 2011 special issue on women, U.S. Catholic is asking guest bloggers, “How do you keep the faith as a woman in the church?” To submit your answer (about 500 words), e-mail

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.