PUEBLA, Mexico — A plain-spoken Mexican nun has become an unlikely TV star while trying to save her congregation from debts.

Florinda Ruiz Carapia, 68, better known as “Hermana Flor,” is one of five finalists on Mexico’s version of “Master Chef,” a program in which contestants compete for a 1 million peso ($59,000) prize. That would at least make a dent in the approximately 7 million peso debt that her order, the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, owes for loans it took out to build or expand schools, according to Alejandro Esquivel, producer of the TV Azteca show.

Passionist Missionary Jose Antonio Barrientos confirmed the debt problems, and said the order is also worried that new government requirements might leave some of the order’s schools out of compliance with regulations, perhaps requiring expensive renovations.

Hermana Flor has already made it past several stages that have whittled the 300 wannabe chefs down to five finalists. With only three weeks left till the finale, Hermana Flor has proven so popular that Esquivel is a little worried about the potential backlash if the nun doesn’t win. A panel of professional chefs judges the contestants on the taste, presentation and speed of their dishes.

“I think Hermana Flor’s popularity comes from her being a very straightforward, very human, very sympathetic person,” said Esquivel. “I think there will be disappointment if anyone is eliminated, but obviously, that will be much greater if it is Hermana Flor, because the audiences like her so much.”

Her fiery chile sauces have gotten her this far.