Women’s virtual bible study thrives during pandemic, offering community and hope across the country

GREENWICH, Conn. — In 2002, Lisa Brenninkmeyer, a young mother and Catholic convert, was unable to find fresh, relevant Bible studies where she could meet and engage with other women who were walking her same path in life. Just as necessity is the mother of invention, Walking with Purpose was born in a Maryland parish community as Brenninkmeyer started a Bible study with a handful of women. Today, the program is active in 400 parishes in 94 dioceses across 40 states as well as in Europe and Canada. Although Walking with Purpose was rooted in face-to-face meetings, with parishes closing earlier this year due to COVID-19, it has evolved into a virtual study that has become a lifeline for women during this period of isolation.

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.

To meet participant’s changing needs during this time, Walking with Purpose Bible studies were redesigned to help women meet outside of the traditional parish setting. “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, WWP Founder and Chief Purpose Officer.

Amber Sherman is a WWP Small Group Leader at St. Thomas Aquinas in Wichita, Kan., where virtual Bible study groups have already begun. Says Amber, “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. The zoom meetings were just as lovely as being together.”

Walking with Purpose parish-based programs are 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.

Jill Vollmer began participating in WWP in 2010 and then started a program within her home parish five years later in a coordinator role. She now helps with marketing and promotion for the local program and acts as a national advisor for the leadership team. “For me, it’s been life changing. 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. Meeting this group of women made me want to share with others and to reach more women. I find that so satisfying.”

There are currently nine WWP 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 calls “an exciting journey closer to the heart of God.”

Sacred Heart Church in Valley Park, Mo., also made the decision recently to bring Walking with Purpose to their parish, where they will attempt to meet in-person this fall, in a socially distanced way. Says Ami Hammett, pastoral coordinator at Sacred Heart, “It is sometimes when I feel compelled to do something, even if there are many obstacles to overcome, that the Holy Spirit leads the way. And this is certainly what happened as we discussed hosting an in-person WWP study in the fall. We cannot wait to see what God has planned for all who attend and will continue to trust Him even if things change along the way."

According to WWP CEO Julie Ricciardi, “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.”

For information on starting a Walking with Purpose Bible study, visit https://walkingwithpurpose.com/become-a-leader/

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Walking with Purpose is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with headquarters in Greenwich, Connecticut. Our mission is to help every Catholic woman and girl in America to open her heart to Jesus Christ.  Learn more at http://walkingwithpurpose.com.


Lisa Gunggoll
[email protected]
(708) 829-8669

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.