Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph

Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph

Loving God and neighbor without distinction: A pontifical institute of women religious of the Roman Catholic Church

Interrupted LivesRecent

New documentary airs for first time

Before the first-ever screening of “Interrupted Lives” Monday evening, Sister Mary Savoie asked her audience to watch the so-called rough cut of the one-hour documentary with a couple of thoughts in mind:

“There’s a lot of information in this one hour,” she told the 60 or so sisters gathered in the auditorium of the Motherhouse, “but what we want you to focus on is what inspires you… Not just information but inspiration.”

The question she urged her fellow Sisters of St. Joseph to consider was this: “What seed allowed these women to persevere?”

It’s clearly a question that has driven Sister Mary and her partner, Sister Margaret Nacke, in the early six years they have devoted to meeting sisters in eight countries in Eastern Europe and researching the impact of Eastern European communism on those women as individuals and on their religious orders. Ultimately, it has been the question that led to the collaboration with NewGroup Media and the development of the documentary, which was aired for the first time Monday night.

The next step will be to send a version of the film, produced by NewGroup Media of South Bend, Ind., to the Catholic Communication Campaign of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for its OK. The USCCB donated $185,000 of the $350,000 Sisters Mary and Margaret said they needed to raise for the documentary.

After that, they will work to finalize a tentative agreement they have with ABC Television to air the documentary this fall. Their hope is to also produce a study guide to accompany the film, and a web site to complement is already in the works.

The sisters at Monday night’s screening clearly found the work worthwhile as they struggled with the answer to Sister Mary’s question.

The film covers the era from the end of World War II to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and spans Eastern Europe from Lithuania to Slovakia and the Ukraine. The story is told in relatively straightforward historical terms, interspersed with the horrific personal stories of religious women who survived it.

Through their stories, with explanation from the narrator, viewers learn there was not a single universal experience for religious women in that time and place; while all sisters were oppressed under the governmental atheism of the Soviet Union, the degrees of that oppression varied from country to country. Some orders were disbanded and the sisters displaced or assigned to what became known as “concentration convents,” while other sisters were imprisoned, tortured and even killed for refusing to forsake their beliefs.

“I am ashamed of every complaint I’ve ever had,” said one of the older Sisters of St. Joseph at the end of Monday night’s showing. “We are asked to give so little,” said another, “and they were asked to give so much.”

For more on the work of Sisters Mary Savoie and Margaret Nacke, go to http://tinyurl.com/sistersproject

To meet some of the Eastern European sisters, go to http://tinyurl.com/facesoffaith

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