After a morning’s baking, there is a sizable stack of cakes, which the nuns carefully take down to the cellar, where they spread them out on shelves. After cooling for a few hours, the cakes are flexible enough to be cut without breaking.
A nun then places the cakes into a cutting machine in a similar way to feeding a stack of paper into a photocopier. After she presses the appropriate buttons, a bore spins round rapidly, drilling down into the cake and cutting out the hosts.
The cutter, which the nuns bought in 2015, is digital, so it can be programmed to create hosts of different sizes from a single cake, making the most efficient use of each one.
Once the machine has finished cutting a stack of cakes, the hosts are collected in a container. The nuns give the remainder of the cakes, together with broken hosts and other waste, to a local farmer to feed to his animals.
The nuns then place the hosts in trays in a room with a dehumidifier. When the hosts have dried out, the nuns place them in bags, in which they can be stored for many months.
Sister Eustochium said the nuns who usually work in the altar bread department are now helping in other areas of the abbey -- cooking, cleaning, sewing, or working in the vegetable garden and soft fruit cages.
“Our retreat house is closed, and our soap-making business has also stopped production. Card-printing, calligraphy and icon work all continue, however,” she said.
“Our main work, of course, is prayer, and that goes on even more intensely than ever. Thanks to the monks of [the nearby] Quarr Abbey we continue to have daily Mass, though we are obliged to keep our church locked. We look forward very much to opening it and welcoming visitors once again.”