Lifetime to Premiere New Reality Show Documenting Women Considering Religious Life

Posted: Nov 23, 2014 7:45 PM

Lifetime's new reality series "The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns" is set to premiere this Tuesday, Nov. 25 and will follow five women discerning religious life and entering a Catholic convent. The network was given permission to film at three convents: The Carmelites for the Aged and Infirm in Germantown, New York; The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence in Chicago, Illinois; and The Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker in Walton, Kentucky.

From Lifetime:

The all-new groundbreaking Lifetime® series "The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns" (#TheSisterhood) follows five young women who are considering the life-changing decision of taking religious vows to become Catholic nuns. For the first time ever, cameras were granted access to three convents* where the women live and work together alongside nuns during the discernment phase, the process wherein they decide if they want to formally continue on their holy path.

In observance of the sacred vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, they leave behind everything they have come to love—boyfriends, family members and all their worldly possessions—to see if they have what it takes to become servants of the church and brides of Christ. See them test their devotion when The Sisterhood premieres Tuesday, November 25, at 10PM ET/PT.

All three convents visited by the Lifetime cameras are members of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), an association of more "traditional" religious institutes in the United States that was founded by the Vatican in 1992. In contrast to the Leadership Council of Women Religious, another association of religious institutes, CMSWR members are headed up by major superiors and wear the traditional habit. While only 20 percent of religious institutes for women belong to the CMSWR, their members have a far younger median age compared to the LCWR (60 as opposed to 74) and nearly half of CMSWR institutes have at least five novices (girls in training to become a full-fledged sister) compared to only 9 percent of LCWR institutes.

While I'm not entirely sure how this show is going to work (the women appear to be some form of aspirant rather than formal postulants), I'm rather intrigued by its premise. The girls in the preview all appear to be normal, everyday girls, and it's interesting that entering a convent is portrayed as a tough, but completely rational decision. While MTV's "True Life" did an episode in 2006 that featured a girl who aspired to enter a convent, the premise behind the episode was that she "didn't fit in" with her peers and her religious vocation was highly unusual. This show seems to be going in the opposite direction. Granted, there's always the risk that things will be played-up for cameras (hey, drama sells), but the sisters portrayed at the convent appear to be serious in guiding these women to finding their true vocations and helping them to grow spiritually.

I also find it interesting that Lifetime chose to film (or that the girls were drawn to) more traditional convents rather than the modern, "progressive" LCWR communities. LCWR has gotten a fair amount of press in recent months, and filming at one of their institutes would certainly fit the media's trope of progressive activist sisters much nicer than say, a community of veiled Carmelites.

Regardless of what happens to the women at the end of the show, I'm glad to see that a television network is positively promoting the option of entering religious life. While I'll admit it's unlikely that "The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns" will result in a flood of vocation applications, it's entirely possible that the show may force some people to open their eyes to something they had previously never considered for themselves.

Six episodes have been ordered for this season.