A convent in Norfolk is taking centre stage in a reality television series about “party girls” swapping sex, parties and alcohol for religious life.
The four-part series, to be aired on Channel 5 on Thursdays, features five girls who were told they would go on a “spiritual journey” but were horrified to discover they had been sent to a convent.
Sister Frances Ridler, of the Daughters of Divine Charity in Swaffham, said the experience had been a “rollercoaster” but she felt that the programme – Bad Habits, Holy Orders – was an “honest portrayal” of religious life and would be “good for the Church”.
She said the community had been persuaded to take part because Sisters did not “always have a good press” in popular culture, citing Nuns on the Run and Sister Act.
The “party girls” told newspapers that the two weeks with the Sisters had been life-changing. One enrolled in a healthcare course and another – who used to work as a nightclub dancer – had started volunteering with the homeless. One girl told the Times she was “the happiest I have ever been” while staying at the convent.
Sister Frances said the girls “slowly opened up” because they realised the Sisters “were interested in each one of them as people”.
She said: “I don’t think in the world they were living in they could open up [and] have in-depth conversations.” When one Sister talked about the pain of a bereavement, the girls started crying and comforting her, Sister Frances said. “It was a God-given, spiritual moment.” She added: “I can honestly say we felt we made a difference to their lives.”
But Sister Frances said it was a shame that the programme had left out “some of the holy bits”, skipping a pilgrimage to Walsingham and daily meditations prepared by the Sisters.