Is “The Sisterhood” Reality?

November 26, 2014

By Sister Cynthia

The Sisters of Mercy novitiate community watching "The Sisterhood"

The Sisters of Mercy novitiate community watching “The Sisterhood”

Okay, so it’s reality TV. But who defines the reality of “The Sisterhood,” the docu-series that premièred on Lifetime last night? The show claims to offer a glimpse at convent reality, but as one of the sisters readily admits, this is NOT the usual process of deciding to become a sister. In real reality it’s a long, prayerful process and very much based on the individual woman. The relationship between the sisters and the inquirer develops slowly, during frequent visits, meals, prayers, ministry sharing and long conversations. What “The Sisterhood” portrays is not convent reality.

Is it reality for the young women on the show? If they don’t know sisters at all, then it is, and that’s unfortunate. There is so much more to the life, the commitment, than giving up things and taking off makeup. As Sister Mary Mark says, it’s about what happens inside, how the call from God resonates in a deep place in your heart. Recognizing that call puts things in perspective and makes the other things not so important. But this reality, too, seems shaped by the TV process – what will draw viewers, what will be sensational. I pray that the women in the series will find their own real space before God, that deep, sacred space where life decisions are made freely and joyfully.

One last thought. There’s no drama in the convent? Oh, please! We’re all human, we struggle, we work it out, and like everyone else we live life large. But we live the real drama of following the Gospel, more concerned about embracing than giving up, more shaped by service than sacrifice, more honed by our commitment than by how the world defines reality.

For more reaction from Sisters and women on the path to becoming Sisters, read our live tweets from “The Sisterhood” debut. Learn more about becoming a Sister of Mercy.