I’m writing this mainly because I think there is a need to say something about the state of women’s religious life today, and I though it would be good to comment on two documentaries that came out at almost the same time concerning this.
Each documentary comes out of its corresponding “group.” One called “Sisters” is clearly LCWR oriented. One called “Light of Love” is obviously from a CMSWR perspective. Apparently, the two productions were not aware of each other, but there are some unusually striking similarities. Each interviews five sisters, and each is about an hour long. “Sisters” focuses on each of the sisters in ministry while “Light of Love” tends to show each sister in the context of ministry and community.
If you take away the habits/no habits difference–the most obvious visual one, the biggest difference I saw was the way the sisters talk about God, and in particular about Jesus. Here we have to allow for editing to play its role, but irregardless, the difference is quite noticeable.
I think each film tries to move “toward the center” in perceptions of the LCWR/CMSWR divide, which is quite a deep divide. The LCWR sisters are not portrayed as radical feminists (although they never refer to God as Father, but that would be practically an LCWR heresy) and the CMSWR sisters shown tend to be active rather than contemplative, although a strong spiritual element is clearly present. I was surprised that no contemplative sisters were highlighted in “Light of Love,” but that could be a separate film in the future.
There are a lot of things I could talk about concerning the two films, but I think my main point would be “Where are the youth?” Overwhelmingly, the youth that are interested in religious life are with “Light of Love.” You simply can’t deny the obvious reality. “Sisters” tended to avoid scenes of communal life, perhaps unconsciously. The next generation is clearly CMSWR driven. This is still an unpopular and “inconvenient truth” in certain sectors, but, hey, demographics don’t lie.