RELIGION is sometimes accused of being stuck in the dark ages.

But for the hi-tech nuns of East Hendred, 2011 promises to be an exciting year of apps, podcasts and maybe even some new additions to their fold.

It has been six years since Sister Teresa, Sister Lucy and Sister Catherine moved into Holy Trinity Monastery, East Hendred.

When their former community in Worcestershire decided to move to a more remote location, the threesome made the bold step of branching out on their own.

Sister Catherine flew direct to Rome to state their case, and Holy Trinity became the first, new Benedictine community of contemplative nuns to be established in the UK for 50 years.

Sister Teresa passed away in February, but during the last six years the tiny community has managed to maintain its monastic life, while embracing and utilising technology to reach out to the world around it.

“We follow the rule of our founder, St Benedict, who in the sixth century laid down the ethos of manual work, prayer and study,” explained Sister Catherine, prioress of the monastery.

The Sisters have also shown sharp business minds.

Sister Catherine managed a printing business in the nuns’ former home at Stanbrook Abbey, and decided to set up a similar business at Holy Trinity Monastery. The result was the Veil Press. The nuns’ objective, they say, is to make Christian monasticism more accessible and to share the Benedictine tradition beyond the cloister.

“An important part of the influence of the community comes through our websites, podcasts and email prayer line,” said Sister Catherine.

“We are currently developing an iPhone/iPad app relating to the Rule of St Benedict.”

Sisters Catherine and Lucy are also launching online retreats in 2011.

Sister Lucy explained: “Online retreats are for anyone who is time-poor and can’t get away to spend a few days at a monastery or religious house, but who wishes to give time to prayer and reflection, with some help and guidance from one of the nuns.

“It will be up to the individual how much time they set aside and when.

“We don't have much money, space and we don’t have much in the way of personnel; so using the Internet and associated technologies is an effective way of reaching people who would never come to our doors.”

Sister Catherine added: “I think a lot of people have misconceptions about nuns and get confused and even angry if nuns don’t conform to their stereotypes.

“But we tend to brush them off with a smile.”

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