You could start the ball rolling by explaining it in simple language
It seems to be saying that it was the building of the convents that was meant to focus the women's lives on God.
I don't think it is a grammatical peculiarity.
There is a logical discontinuity between the action "built convents for women" and the declared objective "to focus their lives on God".
(Compare "Johnny built a house for Mavis to keep her warm in winter.")
I apologize for the change; I didn't expect such a quick response. And I think your view point is vaild (and helpful) even if someone might be able to give me the tecnical explanation I originally requested.
"Johnny built convents for women to focus their life on God" - This could be understood as:
"Johnny built the convents for women" FACT
WHY? "to focus their life on God" (ie. the very act of him builiding the convents focussed their life on God)
"Johnny built convents for women so that they could focus their life on God" - This sentence implies that he built the convents for women so that they could (out of personal choice) focus their life on God.
Im not sure if that makes sense to anyone but me, and since i dont know the context im not sure which one is right, but id say the second version ("so that they could...") sounds better.
Hope that helps