How Britain's 'digital nun' is turning the internet into a sacred place

Unassuming Benedictine Sister Catherine Wybourne has more than 10,600 Twitter followers and is offering spiritual solace to people in more than 120 countries around the world, all from a tiny monastry in Herefordshire, England.

Unassuming Benedictine Sister Catherine Wybourne has more than 10,600 Twitter followers

For many people, the internet is a combination shopping mall, amusement park and encyclopedia. For others, it's a dark universe of vice and dangers like cyberbullies.

For Sister Catherine Wybourne, the internet is a sacred space.

Sister Catherine left a life as a banker to become a cloistered Benedictine nun, and is currently the prioress of Holy Trinity Monastery in Herefordshire, England.

But as a result of her prolific blogging and tweeting she has become known as the "Digital Nun."

Sister Catherine was quick to see the huge potential of the internet for religion. From her tiny monastery, she is able to reach out through cyberspace to people in 120 countries around the world — to people with whom she would otherwise have no contact.

She has over 10,600 Twitter followers.

Sister Catherine, the 'Digital Nun.'

"The days when people would just knock on a monastery door are — probably not quite past — but not quite so easy," she told Sunday Edition guest host Laura Lynch. "And the Internet is a kind of fourth wall with many windows: Come and see what we have to share". 

Today she earns income for the monastery by developing apps and websites for clients who are sometimes surprised to find they are dealing with a nun.

The whole internet operation is run from a corner of Sister Catherine's bedroom — a working space shared with the monastery dog.

Among other services, the monastery offers online retreats that people can take without leaving home.

She has learned from the online prayerline that people come to her website "with a quest for prayer when they can't handle life anymore." She recommends that all religious leaders would be wise to "figure out what keeps people awake at night," and learn how to offer more online support in this digital age.

Sister Catherine doesn't think of the web as a replacement for worship inside a bricks and mortar church, but as an invaluable spiritual resource at a time when many people do not seek to fill their spiritual needs through regular church services.

You can read more about Sister Catherine Wybourne on the Sunday Edition website.