Beloved social media nun dies

Messages from around the world have flooded Twitter as the beloved “Digitalnun,” Sister Catherine Wybourne, died of cancer Feb. 24, at the age of 68. 

Wybourne was born in Catham, England in 1954. She studied history at the University of Cambridge and became a banker. In 1981, at age 27, she decided to leave the financial world to join Stanbrook Abbey. 

The Benedictine nun quickly became interested in technology while running the printing press at Stanbrook. In 2004 she founded the Holy Trinity Monastery, now Howton Grove Priory, in Herefordshire. It was at this time that she wanted to ensure it had an online presence. The nuns built their own website, created podcasts, videos, and included interactive elements such as forums and online meetings. 

Wybourne took to Twitter in 2009 and became known as the “Digitalnun.” With over 28,000 followers, she tweeted about life as a nun and the happenings of the world. Her daily tweets requesting to know the prayer intentions of her “tweeps” and her prayers for the world were unending. She also ran a blog.

In a 2015 interview with The Telegraph she said, “Being cloistered doesn't mean that you have to have an enclosed mind, or an enclosed approach to things. We describe the internet as being the fourth wall of our cloister and it's open to everybody.”

The nun kept tweeting up until hours before her death. In her final moments, she expressed her sadness over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Even amid hospital visits and suffering, she embraced her death with joy and humor. In December 2021, Wybourne received news from the doctors that they could no longer do anything for her medically and she was close to death. In one of her last blog posts, after receiving this news, she wrote, “Catholicism can be a hard religion to live by but is a beautiful religion in which to die.” 

She went on to thank God, writing, “The God in whom I believe is much bigger, and so much more fun, than we often allow him to be. I thank him for letting me be a Benedictine, which has been the supreme joy of my life, for the friendships he has inspired and the graces he has poured out on me despite my stubbornness and lack of co-operation.” 

“I ought to thank him for the difficulties, too, but I don’t ‘do’ piety. Brutal honesty is more my line. I know he understands,” she wrote.

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