1 9 9 1 (Australia)
6 x 50 minute episodes
The 1960s was a time of revolution, not least for women who were seeking (and winning) liberation from many social restrictions. The anticommunist war in Southeast Asia raged, as did anti-war demonstrations in Australia.
The Catholic Church shook off centuries of tradition under Vatican II.
The Church’s progressive social justice work was felt even in Australia, where its conservative Irish roots dominated.
This Australian co-production with Channel 4 (UK) and Irish TV station RTE told the story of a small group of women and girls against the backdrop of social change.
Each of the six 50-minute episodes focussed on young women who wanted to become nuns, and older nuns who ran a school for girls in Sydney. Episodes also revealed the tension between the younger and older nuns, and the Mother Superior’s arguments with the more conservative older members and senior male counterparts.
Issues of faith in a time of questioning were examined in personal terms. In the process, Dinah – who became Sister Catherine – and Veronica – who became Sister Paul – learned much more about themselves, including the need to bow to the rule of obedience.
Sister Catherine had to burn her diaries while Sister Paul left the convent only to discover that her commitment to being a nun was much stronger than she suspected.
Sister Catherine did leave, although the last episode – set in 1968 – had her present the nuns with a new volume of her published writings wherein she affirmed the great gift that being a nun had given her.
In between, the series also found dramatic space to examine the spiritual struggles of an older nun in the face of growing Catholic liberalism as well as the passage to maturity of two older girls in the school run by the nuns.
Brides of Christ featured a top-notch cast, and some – such as Naomi Watts and Russell Crowe – went on to successful international film careers.
The miniseries was created and produced by Penny Chapman and Sue Masters, both of whom were powerhouses in Australian TV drama production.
Sister Catherine (Dinah)
Sister Paul (Veronica)