Cheridan Sanders, right, interviews Sr. Helen Prejean of the Sisters of St. Joseph for a Salt + Light docuseries about women religious Photo courtesy of Salt + Light TV

In praise of religious women

  • October 11, 2015

TORONTO - During his visit last month to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, Pope Francis described women religious as “women of strength” who work on the “frontlines in the proclamation of the Gospel.”

To spotlight this frontline work, Salt + Light TV is producing a seven-part series to feature seven different congregations doing incredible works in their communities.

“These women are usually extremely humble, but always see themselves as instruments of God... so it’s not typical that you would see them talking about their impact,” said Cheridan Sanders, producer and host of the documentary series. “It’s for us to appreciate them, to thank them, to talk to them and also use their stories to inspire other women to do the same.”

Sanders said as a producer at Salt + Light, she has been exposed to the work of many women religious communities, but in doing research for this series she discovered just how instrumental they are to the growth of the Church worldwide.

“For example, I remember when I was a teenager and this movie, Dead Man Walking came out. And that was Sr. Helen Prejean’s story,” she said. “How is it possible that I didn’t know that was the Sisters of St. Joseph until much later? That’s crazy... As a Church community, I think we haven’t done enough to recognize and to celebrate.”

Sanders has been working on the idea for this series for about two years now, along with another Salt + Light documentary that highlights women religious and lay women who have done significant work for the Church.

In January 2014, both projects were approved for a grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation and, since then, she and her documentary team have hit the ground running.

The team spent the first four months of this year researching seven communities in Africa, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and the United States.

Each of these international communities will be highlighted for their tireless work in a variety of ministries — educating girls, preventing human trafficking, taking care of the elderly and so much more.

Sanders’ team is also working in collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans where many of these religious congregations are now based. In August, the team went on a scouting trip to the city and discovered its deeply Catholic roots.

“If you want to learn about Catholicism in the United States, New Orleans is a great place to start,” she said.

Sanders said there are so many religious communities there and it’s not a surprise that four of the seven communities being documented have somehow found their way to this city.

The series is set to air in January 2017. Sanders will be documenting her travels through The Producer Diaries on the Salt + Light blog.

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