The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns
The Story Behind the Lifetime Show
There’s a show called The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns on the Lifetime channel. The title alone will make you scratch your head. I know I did. The program, which premieres Tuesday, November 25th at 10pm ET/PT on Lifetime, follows five young women who are considering the very serious, life-changing decision of taking the sacred vows to become Catholic nuns. According to press, this will be the first time ever that camera crews will be given inside access to three convents.
The convents visited include:
- The Carmelites for the Aged and Infirm in Germantown, New York
- The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence in Chicago, Illinois
- The Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker in Walton, Kentucky
The young women who aspire to become nuns will work together alongside actual nuns during the discernment phase, which is the process in which they decide if they want to formally continue on their personal holy path.
In our world where convenience, comfort, and technology are everything, these women, all of whom are in their twenties, will take the sacred vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and leave behind everything they love and are accustomed to in the material world: boyfriends, family, every worldly possession, and, yes, cell phones (could you imagine?). This will be there test: to see if they truly have what it takes to be Brides of Jesus Christ.
I interviewed cast member Stacey Jackson, 26, who is a talented singer:
For those who are not familiar, what does it take to become a nun and why did you decide to be a part of this television series?
It actually takes about seven years to become a nun. There are multiple phases. First one is called the aspirancy, where you are just starting and you knew that this is what you want to do and you have to figure if this is what you are called to and which order you want to be a part of. Then there is the postulancy, which is only a year, and that is your first year of living your life in a convent. After that you become a Novice, which takes about two years, and then your training becomes more intense: you wear a veil and usually wear a white veil instead of what color the sisters typically wear to show that you are a novice, and then you take temporary vows which, are not binding permanently. Then after several more years you take your final profession and vows. It’s a moral compass. It really takes a long time to become a nun, which is great because it is like a dating relationship. You wouldn’t want to marry someone without dating them for a while first, no different from any other serious relationship — just a little more structured.
I learned that you are a very accomplished singer and have traveled. How will that mesh with your new-found devoted lifestyle?
Actually, my devotion to the Catholic faith has been strong my entire life. I do know that whenever I am meant to do I will miss the vocation of being an artist. And how that can fit into my potential vocation as a nun is the question that is was very much on my mind — one of the things I was hoping to answer during my determinant on the show. It is a very different lifestyle. I would not be using my singing for my own personal fame or glory. I would be putting it entirely for God’s service, which, actually, as you will see incorporated on the show, is a very beautiful thing; to me, more fulfilling than singing Broadway for my own glory. So that was one of the really wonderful discoveries on the show. It was a struggle though and there was a time in my life, even though I was always faithful to the church, when my own ambitions surpassed my desires to use my talents for God’s glory, so that was part of the process of going deeper and deeper into the service, was realizing that the really most important thing was using my talents for God’s glory, not for my own.
Tell us a little about the convents you visit and the people we will come to see on the show?
We actually visited three convents as part of the show: 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. There were five of us young women. We all went together as a group to each convent, and we faced a lot of challenges. We worked with all of the Sisters and all of their different outreaches. We worked with the elderly, passed out food to homeless people, we worked in a school, we worked in a soup kitchen. We were doing all kinds of different ministries and sort of trying out the lifestyle in addition to also trying to wrap our brains around what this really means to us and for the communities. This is a challenge, when you put all of these women together, you become a saint learning to live with all of these people and all of these personalities all under this one roof together. But it is also part of the beauty of becoming a nun. You don’t choose this sad life of solitary lowliness; you choose the community, and you choose a life that is full and happy. You have your own family. Even though you won’t be raising your own children, you will still have your own families and spiritual mother. It is a different choice. It is definitely something you are called to. It’s not something that you can just try to decide one day that I want to be a nun. You really have to be praying and asking God is this what He wants for me.
Nuns are not allowed to have boyfriends or potential husbands; how do you at 26-years-old feel about never having a significant other?
That was a major struggle of mine on the show. I thought about being a nun since I was nine or ten-years-old. I told my grandma when I was twelve I wanted to be a nun. Also at the same time, even though I had thought about this for so long, I also have always wanted a family as well. I am one of eight children, and I am the second oldest, so I have always kind of had a motherly instinct, and not having my own children is a very painful and very difficult situation to give up. I also realized that my desire for having a family could potentially be a selfish thing, if that is not what God wanted for me, so I am putting it all in His hands and that was extremely difficult. Even the idea of not having physical affection, not having children, not being married and having that person to come home to at night, that was a major struggle of mine on the show and you will see me cry about it a lot when you watch it. Part of the good thing about the service is that it strips away all of the things that are potentially selfish and shows your underlying motivation. Me wanting my own family could be selfish, but by putting it in God’s hands, if He gives that back to me, and says, “I am going to bless it, I do want you to have our own family,” then I can be even more joyful about moving in that direction. But the beauty of it is to follow God’s plan and choose the needs of someone else other than your own.