Walking with Purpose speaker leads evening of reflection

Catholic blogger helps celebrate women’s ministry at St. John Neumann Parish

By Gabrielle Nolan

Laura Phelps, a blogger and speaker with the women’s ministry Walking with Purpose, recently visited the Diocese of Knoxville for a Lenten evening of reflection at St. John Neumann Parish.

Hosted by Regnum Christi, the evening also included a soup dinner, worship music, and adoration.

Laura Phelps speaks on the topic of suffering during the Lent by Light Evening of Reflection at St. John Neumann Church in Farragut on March 30. Mrs. Phelps is the author of “Sweet Cross: A Marian Guide to Suffering,” which was the source of her presentation.

Mrs. Phelps’ March 30 presentation was based on her book Sweet Cross: A Marian Guide to Suffering.

“It’s based on the Blessed Mother and her virtues as told by St. Louis de Montfort,” she said. “In St. Louis de Montfort’s book, True Devotion to Mary, he highlights 10 virtues of Our Lady, so I kind of took those virtues and added a couple of my own, and each chapter focuses on a different virtue of Our Lady.”

“I think so many of us want to grow in virtue; we want to be strong, but we don’t quite know how, and we don’t really know what virtue we’re lacking,” Mrs. Phelps continued. “So, with this talk my hope is I’m going to show these women how to understand better your own sorrows, your own suffering, your own sins, and then what is the virtue you need most.”

Mrs. Phelps resides in Connecticut with her husband and four children.

“I always say first and foremost I’m a daughter of God that kind of needed to crash and burn before I realized it,” Mrs. Phelps said.

“I’m a cradle Catholic, but when I really had a personal experience of Jesus kind of breaking through my life, it’s been my mission just to share that with other people, specifically women,” she said.

In addition to her book, Sweet Cross, Mrs. Phelps has written Victorious Secret: Everyday Battles and How to Win Them.

Mrs. Phelps also has spoken on The Katie McGrady Show on SiriusXM, OSV Talks, and Danielle Bean’s Girlfriends podcast.

“Women’s struggles and sufferings and crosses are the ones that, as a woman, I relate to the most, so women really have my heart, and so that’s what I’ve really committed my life to, aside from my No. 1 vocation as wife and mom, really just to write and speak about the difference that Jesus makes in our lives and specifically in regard to our crosses and our sufferings, that we can have hope in them and we can carry our crosses well and suffer well.”

‘It’s just changed my life’

Walking with Purpose is “a Catholic women’s ministry that develops Bible studies to reach adult women, young adult women, and girls,” according to its website.

“I’d been a blogger for many years before I found Walking with Purpose, but I was kind of like a snarky mom blog,” Mrs. Phelps said.

Then one afternoon she was sitting at a table with friends having a conversation.

“We were talking about what we cook for dinner, crockpot recipes, and then suddenly it turned into this conversation about faith,” she said. “We were not all Catholic around the table, but we just had this beautiful conversation together, and when I went home I wrote about it on my blog. I said, you know I just wish that I could do this all the time, just sit at a roundtable with women and talk about our faith.”

A woman in her community read the blog post and introduced Mrs. Phelps to Walking with Purpose.

“I just pulled it up on the website and I was like, this is exactly what I’m looking for, you know, just this community of women,” she shared.

Mrs. Phelps then brought a Walking with Purpose group to her parish as a pastoral coordinator.

“I was just volunteering, brought it to my parish, brought the studies, invited women, it was super successful. We think 30 women registered, 50 showed up the first lesson, and by the end of the season, the end of the 22 weeks we had 160 women that were coming every Wednesday just to read Scripture and do Bible study. It was really amazing,” she said.

A year later, Mrs. Phelps noticed that Walking with Purpose was hiring, and she began working for them as a regional area coordinator.

“I covered a bunch of different parishes in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and I would just help those women that were like me, starting the program in their parish. I would oversee that a little bit. And then after that, Lisa Brenninkmeyer, who is my mentor, friend, and founder of Walking with Purpose, she saw that I also wrote a blog, and she didn’t know that I was a writer, and so when she saw that I could write, she said, ‘Wow, I’d love for you to come write for us.’”

After blogging on the website and assisting with social media, Mrs. Phelps’ work evolved into speaking.

“I also joke I’m their best free brand ambassador because wherever I go, even if I’m not speaking for a Walking with Purpose event, I can’t not share it because it’s just changed my life and countless women across the country,” Mrs. Phelps noted.

“I love the ministry setting of women,” Mrs. Phelps said. “When I’m ministering to them at an event or something like a retreat… they’re in a place to receive. Obviously, they’re showing up, they want something, they need something whether they recognize it or not. So, that’s always a really beautiful place to start with them.”

Mrs. Phelps remarked that she has been given the gift of “oversharing.”

“I’m an open book,” she said. “When I speak, I speak very openly about the different struggles in my life because for me the hardest thing when I was going through whatever it was I was going through, the most difficult thing was feeling like I was the only one and feeling like I was alone.”

“I know that women are really, really good at putting on masks, putting filters on their pictures, and holding an expensive coffee and walking around town and acting like everything’s OK,” she continued. “And women aren’t OK, and it’s evident when I go and speak and the crowds of women that come up to me afterwards that just want to tell their story.”

“I think especially women are so good at telling stories and so receptive to hearing stories. I think our best testimony, our most credible testimony to a skeptical world, is our story and that we can tell it with joy and with hope,” she added.

To learn more about Laura Phelps and Walking with Purpose, visit lauramaryphelps.com.

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