Walking With Purpose Bible studies for Catholic women go virtual amid pandemic

Women pray during a Bible study sponsored by the group Walking With Purpose in this undated photo. The group said it has seen the number of participants in its virtual Bible study grow during the pandemic. (CNS photo/courtesy Walking With Purpose)

Catholic News Service

GREENWICH, Conn. — The organization Walking With Purpose has adapted its signature face-to-face Bible study groups into a virtual study program “that has become a lifeline for women during this period of isolation,” said the group’s founder.

The Greenwich-based program, founded in 2002 by Lisa Brenninkmeyer, is active in 400 parishes in 94 dioceses across 40 states as well as in Europe and Canada.

During recent months, more and more parishes across the U.S. and Canada have been signing on to do the Walking With Purpose small-group Bible studies, even though many parishioners cannot gather in person due to the pandemic.

So Walking With Purpose Bible studies were redesigned to help women meet outside of the traditional parish setting. Its website has information on starting one of its Bible studies.

“We’ve spent the past few months reinventing the way women can run a Walking With Purpose Bible study small group. We now have robust training and tools to help women do WWP in a virtual, online setting or in other settings outside the parish,” said Brenninkmeyer, who also is the organization’s chief purpose officer.

Amber Sherman is a Walking With Purpose small-group leader at St. Thomas Aquinas in Wichita, Kansas, where virtual Bible study groups have already begun.

“WWP is so vital and so accommodating to the circumstances that we are facing — steadfast, present, ready to serve and to love the women of our parish however they feel comfortable,” said Sherman. “The Zoom meetings were just as lovely as being together.”

In 2002, Brenninkmeyer was a young mother, a new Catholic and a member of a Maryland parish who wanted to find — and couldn’t — “find fresh, relevant Bible studies” where she could meet and engage with other women who were walking her same path in life.

So Walking With Purpose was born. She described the parish-based programs as being “geared toward the conversion of a woman’s heart, and how that conversion applies to her daily life.”

“Women forge lasting friendships in the group setting of a WWP parish program, where they support each other and learn together how to apply truths from Scripture when faced with life’s challenges,” she explained.

The organization currently has nine Bible studies that adult women can do as a group, although parishes are encouraged to begin with the 22-lesson foundational study, “Opening Your Heart: The Starting Point,” which Brenninkmeyer called “an exciting journey closer to the heart of God.”

Jill Vollmer began participating in Walking With Purpose in 2010 and then started a program within her home parish five years later as a coordinator. She now helps with marketing and promotion for the local program and acts as a national adviser for the leadership team.

“For me, it’s been life-changing,” she said. “Even growing up Catholic, my faith has ebbed and flowed, but when I started doing Walking With Purpose, it opened my eyes to the beauty of the Catholic Church and understanding that God wants us to live our best life.”

She added, “Meeting this group of women made me want to share with others and to reach more women. I find that so satisfying.”

According to Julie Ricciardi, the CEO of Walking With Purpose, “Women don’t want to feel isolated. They crave community with other women.”

“So, we developed a number of tools as well as training videos and webinars, all to make leading a virtual Bible study easy, and to enable women to lead with confidence, knowing they are doing Christ’s work of opening hearts to God,” Ricciardi said.

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