Dame Lucy King (L) and Dame Catherine Wybourne (Center) sharing a meal with friends at their monastery.
Happy NUNDAY! Today's nun is close to my technology-loving heart as her ministry is also online! Meet Dame Catherine Wybourne, OSB, a.k.a. the Digital Nun. ("Dame" is the customary title for a Benedictine nun in the United Kingdom.) Dame Catherine is a Benedictine nun of Holy Trinity Monastery in the UK. As a web/app developer, Twitter aficionado (she has over 15,000 followers!), and online retreat director, Dame Catherine knows the digital environment. I had the opportunity to get to know Dame Catherine better, and learn about her life as a cloistered nun and online minister!
Tell me how you became a nun.
My Ph.D. research was on the history of medieval Cistercians in Spain and, as part of the background, I had to read all of Saint Bernard. I gradually found myself thinking about monastic life in relation to myself rather than my studies. I did the sensible thing and took myself off to do banking for a few years, but the niggle about vocation wouldn't go away, and I ended up asking to become a nun at Stanbrook Abbey, Worcester, which is where I spent the first 23 years of my monastic life.
How did you get involved in digital ministry? And what does that ministry look like on day-to-day basis?
When the community to which I now belong was founded in 2004, we decided that the internet provided the best means of exercising Benedictine hospitality. (We had no money and were living in a rented house which didn't provide much room for visitors.) As we built our first web site and added interactive elements that, back then, were not common (e.g. podcasts, chat sessions, videos), we realized the potential was enormous and began to build our online community. Blogging, Social Media, a mobile site and online retreats quickly followed. Nowadays we usually manage a daily blog post and some interaction on Twitter and Facebook. I'm in the middle of rebuilding our web sites, which is a huge task, and wondering whether we dare take on any more. We're only two nuns and a dog at present, after all!
Can you tell me about a time when you thought, "Yes, this is what I am meant to do ..."?
I think I realized digital ministry was part of my vocation, not just something the community had opted to do, when we started to get emails and letters from people who had been affected by it and were grateful. They outweighed those who disapproved. I'm still amazed that God should choose to use me in this way, and very conscious that what I do flows from our community life. It is a community work even though I'm the one currently doing it.
What is the best part about being a Benedictine nun?
I love the beautiful simplicity of the Rule and its clear focus on following Christ. So, whether I'm in choir singing the praises of God or working away in my room at web/app development, doing the cooking or just spending a moment or two on Twitter or Facebook, there's a wonderful sense of being united with all who are seeking God. Everything can lead to God; everything should.
If you're interested in learning more about online ministry, check out our website!
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