Documentary on women religious to air March 23

CLEMSON — The long and important history of women religious in the Diocese of Charleston is the focus of “Crossroads,” a documentary premiering on South Carolina Educational Television at 6 p.m. on March 23, Easter Sunday.

Elizabeth Anderson wrote, produced and directed the documentary.

The 27-minute program was funded by a grant from the Sisters of Charity Foundation. It describes the history of women religious in South Carolina and profiles some of their current work in the state. It also brings up the issue of who will carry on their efforts if the number of women religious continues to dwindle.

Anderson works in the video production services department at Clemson University.

The Illinois native originally worked extensively in freelance video production before being hired at Clemson. She said the entire “Crossroads” project took about 18 months to complete. As a non-Catholic, Anderson said the research and interviews she did for the documentary opened her eyes to a world she probably otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

“To a certain extent, I came to this project with fresh eyes,” she said in a telephone interview with The Miscellany. “I truly didn’t know the history and work of women religious, and one of my goals was to bring this story to a non-Catholic audience and help them understand the impact these sisters have had on South Carolina.”

Anderson worked with a production team and ended up with more than 30 hours of taped interviews that had to be edited down to 27 minutes. She said that figure doesn’t include the hours spent making phone contacts, traveling to do initial interviews and research.

“The typical way that a video piece is made is that you write a script, then go and shoot,” she said. “We did this backwards. We weren’t entirely sure what the story was, although we knew there was a story there. First we had to go meet these wonderful women, listen to them talk and talk to the people they serve. Through that process, the story started to take shape.”

She ended up meeting women religious from all over the diocese, and said the biggest challenge was to select interviews that would accurately represent the many different kinds of services the women provide.

“To try and whittle all of it down was incredibly hard, but ultimately we came up with a piece about education, one about health care and one about social service,” she said. “There are so many places I would like to have included.”

The documentary features the work of sisters at Our Lady of Mercy Outreach Center on Johns Island, and their role in the founding and management of Mercy Hospice in Horry County. Also, it has an interview with Sister Roberta Fulton, a Sister of St. Mary Namur and principal of St. Martin de Porres School in Columbia.

Anderson hopes the documentary will be picked up for distribution to public television stations around the country after its premiere in South Carolina.  She also learned some important lessons about the contributions of women religious to both the Catholic and non-Catholic communities in South Carolina and around the United States.

“I learned that we all are affected by the work these women have done over the centuries,” she said. “There’s a comment in the documentary where Kathy Csank of the Sisters of Charity Foundation says everyone is familiar with the name Mother Teresa, but they don’t realize there are many Mother Teresas in their communities, in the shape of women religious, doing the same thing she did — serving. I think that summed it up well.”