Documentary promises rare glimpse of life in enclosed order

 The Sisters of the Sacred Heart never leave the walls of Tyburn Convent, situated a few paces from the shopping Mecca of Oxford Street. While many of the nuns are in their 20s and 30s, rather than pursue careers, prospective husbands and this season's handbag they have chosen a life of silent contemplation. Only a wall separates their lives from ours. Stephanie Rafanelli makes her directorial debut with this television documentary, which a look inside the hidden world of these London nuns whose lifestyle is totally different to most of the capital's young women. Drawn to the convent from all over the world and despite the lure of 21st century life these women have chosen to give up careers, possessions and families to pray for the world they have left behind. Junior Sister Marion, 28 said: "The third day I was here I was just crying and I thought of everything and everyone I was giving up. But there was no thought that I wouldn't do it. It's a thirst and I wasn't getting it quenched. It was almost unbearable. You couldn't put it to the back of your mind." The sisters rise at 5.30 am, visit the chapel seven times, praying for five a half hours a day, every day, as well as running a busy household. Sister Marion said: "In everything you do there is a discipline and it can be quite a shock. You might have had a house, a car, a job then suddenly there's someone telling you how to clean a floor. That's the painful stage of learning to submit your will to another." The convent also has a 'Media Sister', Mother John Baptist, aged 79, who reads The Guardian Weekly to keep the sisters up to date with worldly events. She said: "It's very hard to read anything about a politician because you're either on his side or you're against him. The Guardian is on the left so they probably won't say anything bad about Tony Blair. He's not too bad, but I don't spend time on him. "I read the television section just in case we're mentioned, but we never are. But then I don't know what it's like to live with a TV. TV started in Australia after 1956 when I entered the convent, so I've never had chance to watch it." The convent does have a website and can receive e-mails, but they draw the line at a computer. The Superior, Mother John Baptist: "We heard about several abbots who spent so much time on the computer that they couldn't complete their normal duties." MODERN HABITS is a Carlton production. It is being screened next Tuesday, 11 December 2001 from 7.30 to 8.00 pm in Carlton's London region.

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