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Cameras allowed into Swaffham convent as ‘party girls’ join the sisterhood

A group of Swaffham nuns have become the unlikely stars of a forthcoming television documentary.

Cameras have been allowed behind the scenes of the Convent of the Sacred Heart as it took five young women on a journey of spiritual discovery for the four-part series.

The group was reunited at the convent yesterday before the show, called Bad Habits, Holy Orders, hits our screens next month.

One of the participants, Sarah Lawrence, said the experience had “transformed” her life from a regular partygoer to a young woman with a regular job and her own home, even enhancing relationships with her own family.

She said: “I’m just more sensible, I’ve grown up. I think I’m a better person.

“We have got such a good relationship. They’re really like sisters.”

Gabriella Natasha, a model originally from Norfolk, said she now saw parts of her life had been out of control before taking part in the show.

She said: “I’d recommend this for anybody.”

Tyla Edwards also admitted it had been a culture shock to swap Swaffham for her home city of Leeds.

But she said: “I’ve definitely taken a lot from the experience. This has broadened my horizons.”

The programme follows five women in their late teens and early 20s as they spend a month living and working alongside the sisters in the convent.

That included things like having mobile phones confiscated and following a strict daily routine.

Producers say it is the first time in 10 years that filming has been allowed inside a Catholic convent.

It followed months of negotiations between the production company and the Daughters of Divine Charity, the order of which the convent is part.

Sister Francis Ridler, headteacher of the convent’s Sacred Heart School, admitted there had been moments when she questioned their decision to participate in the programme.

But she also described the series as “joyful” and suggested there are lessons to be drawn not only for the women who came into the convent, but for viewers who tune in.

She said: “It shows the sisters as a group of people who can be turned to for help.”

One of the more powerful moments comes when Sister Michaela Switaj discussed the death of her mother during a session on what are the most important aspects of life.

Sister Michaela admitted she had not planned to discuss it openly, but that it helped to form bonds between the two groups.

She said: “I could see the compassion in their hearts.”

Bad Habits, Holy Orders, is due to be broadcast on Channel 5 from mid-October.

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