They’re known as sisters.

And they’ve since become mothers.

How fitting, then, that they would seek to find another sister — named after the most well-known mother of all.

As a follow up to their popular Mother’s Day promotion with Colgate, Tina and Erica Atkins-Campbell, commonly known as superstar gospel duo Mary Mary, have agreed to star in a reality-TV vehicle to discover a third singing partner. The twist? She’ll be a Mary, alright. All the eligible contestants will be Catholic nuns.

Tina says the inspiration came from an unlikely source.

“We had just come from a long studio session, and Teddy had already put the girls to bed, and I just couldn’t sleep yet, so I turned on the TV. And there was Lauryn, just tearing it up again.”

“I’ll never forget that night,” piped in Erica.

They’re referring to a rebroadcast of Sister Act 2, part of a November Whoopi Goldberg marathon on TNT. The 1993 sequel, directed by Bill Duke, featured a breakout performance from then undiscovered Lauryn Hill, who went on to become an accomplished singer and rapper with The Fugees.

“Just watching her sing the open to ‘Joyful Joyful’ got my heart racing,” says Tina. “Pretty soon, I had to get on the phone.”

“Tina called me at 12:30 at night, talkin’ ’bout ‘Girl, turn on TNT… remember this?!'”

They both watched the rest of the song, completely spellbound in nostalgic reverie. By the time it was over, they knew something was brewing.

“Erica said, ‘are you thinking what I’m thinking?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, but Lauryn Hill’s not in the industry anymore.'”

“My sister, she didn’t quite get it,” laughs Erica. “So me and Warryn did some brainstorming the next day, and a few months later, here we are.”

Their brainstorming led them to contact Whoopi Goldberg directly, who thought the idea was splendid. Ms. Goldberg’s advocacy on their behalf helped them gain the rights to record a remake of “Ms. Celia’s Blues (Sister),” which will function as the show’s theme song, albeit with reworked lyrics:

“Sister, you can jump the line
Sister, we’re three of a kind, oh,

Sister, have I got some news… for you!”

The three day miniseries, entitled, “Sister, May I?” will be broadcast on the BET network, in anticipation of their fourth album to be released in August. It’s their hope that the third Mary will be able to tour with Tina and Erica, and maybe even contribute in the songwriting process for the fifth album, slated for a release sometime in late 2010.

“It’ll require an adjustment period for all three of us,” admits Tina. “But whichever sister joins the group, we don’t want her to change on our behalf. She can still wear the habit and everything.”

“Black is always stylish,” chimes in Erica.

Still, the bold reality-TV concept wasn’t exactly greeted with enthusiasm by representatives of parent label Columbia Records.

“Even if she can sing, I’m not sure how it’s going to work,” said industry analyst Nathan Trimble.

“I’ve never seen any nuns with sex appeal.”

When reminded that Mary Mary was a gospel duo with a large Christian audience, Trimble was undeterred.

“Christians have sex too,” he said. “I mean, isn’t that how R. Kelly got so popular?”

Local convents have welcomed the news, as scores of musically talented African-American women have filled their ranks in the weeks following the announcement.

“They’re coming in droves,” said sister Mary Francis of Santa Sabinet, a religious order of women in southern California. “The days of banquet fund-raising is over. From now on, it’s choir concerts and braiding hair.”

One of the hopeful contestants is former Sister, Sister star Tamera Mowry.

“Call me greedy, but I always wanted more than one sister,” Mowry laments. “And ever since Tia got married, it’s like I don’t even have her anymore.” Beaming in front of the camera, she continued.

“That’s why I was so excited about this show. I wanted to be an unofficial member of Out of Eden for awhile, and that didn’t work out. Maybe Tina and Erica can become my newest sisters instead. If not… well, aren’t the ladies in Point of Grace related?”

Still, the newest BET reality vehicle is earning its share of controversy, despite its wholesome premise. The Vatican has since issued an advisory warning about the series, citing the tenuous connection with Lauryn Hill, whose 2003 Vatican concert offended many, including the Pope. As a result, several local Catholic advocacy groups have organized a boycott.

“I think they’re a little confused about their theology,” said spokesman Jason Card. “I mean, the doctrine of the trinity has nothing to do with the virgin Mary.”

When the show’s operating budget was announced, Card backtracked a bit.

“If they need a publicist, however, I can be available.”

A sampling of Mary Mary fans polled online have favorable expectations for the program, although a few comments on their message boards revealed concerns about the move.

User JeZusLUVSM3 wondered if they’ll have to change the name of the group to accommodate the new member.

“How about ‘Mary! Mari! Maré!’ I mean, you know, it worked for Raphael and them, you never know.”

“Feels good to me,” she added.

Other anonymous users wondered if the duo is simply trying to cash in on the reality TV trend.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Columbia A&R representative Lisa Redmond. “All of our acts are committed to the highest standards of artistic integrity.”

At that, she couldn’t resist one more plug.

“So don’t forget to tune into BET next Friday, where we’ll have a live release party concert from our newest trio in the Columbia gospel family, Trilogy 6:8.”

* * *

[STANDARD DISCLAIMER — this is satire. Otherwise known as humor. No, it’s not true. It’s a joke. But I had you going, didn’t I? You know I did.]

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