We were until recently the newest community in the Catholic diocese of Portsmouth, having been canonically erected as a monastery by Bishop Crispian Hollis in September 2004 — the first community of contemplative Benedictine nuns to have been established in England for more than fifty years. At the end of May 2012 we moved to Howton Grove, Herefordshire, in the diocese of Cardiff. The novitiate was formally opened six months later and our first postulant was received in June 2013.
The three founding members were originally nuns of Stanbrook Abbey, Worcester, although we are not a Stanbrook foundation but an entirely independent or autonomous community. The Holy See confirmed our vows and consecration as moniales or nuns and granted us the privilege of monastic rather than papal enclosure. In practice, that makes very little difference, although it does allow us to welcome guests into parts of the monastery (such as the refectory and library) which would not normally be open to visitors.
D. Teresa, D. Catherine and D. Lucy
We count ourselves lucky that one of our founding members was D. Teresa Rodrigues, who died in February 2010. She was clothed at Stanbrook in 1951 and in the course of a long life attained much wisdom. Her love of scripture and contemplative prayer enabled her to make lasting contributions to the liturgy: the Mass lectionary and the three volumes of the Divine Office owe much to her scholarship and skill. She set herself the task of making the teaching of Fr Augustine Baker, the great master of contemplative prayer, better known and was at work on a new edition of Holy Wisdom in modern English when she died.
While Secretary of A.I.M. (Alliance-inter-Monastères) D. Teresa must have visited nearly every Benedictine monastery in the world and was able to contribute much practical know-how to the setting-up of the monastery here. We are confident that her love and interest continue from beyond the grave. Her hope was that we would become a flourishing community, traditional in inspiration but contemporary in expression.
This web site will give you some insight into how we are setting about achieving that aim and the way in which we try to maintain a creative balance between the two.
D. Catherine is usually known as Digitalnun. She read history at Cambridge, did Ph.D. research in Spain, then spent a few years in banking before entering Stanbrook in 1981. This totally non-technical background probably explains why she loves designing web sites and playing with bits of code and various gadgets. At Stanbrook she was a jill-of-all-trades: poultry-keeper, cook, and cellarer (bursar). For some years she was in charge of Stanbrook Abbey Press where she revived some old skills, such as printing on handmade paper, and introduced some new ones such as electronic publishing. In between times she saw to the refurbishment of the printing room, translated the Rule of St Benedict (she was a member of Regulae Benedicti Studia), taught herself Hebrew and made gallons of wine. She is a keen gardener and for many years contributed a weekly column to 'The Universe' newspaper. She has been prioress since 2004.
D. Lucy is known, not entirely ironically, as Quietnun. She was born in Edinburgh and read biochemistry at St Andrew's. However, she abandoned research in order to teach, first in the Highlands, then in London. An adult convert to Catholicism, she spent a year as a volunteer with the Sisters of Our Lady of Grace and Compassion. She entered Stanbrook in 1983 and served in various capacities, including assistant novice mistress and subprioress. Her many years as infirmarian have made her suspicious of all but obvious illnesses, but she is kind to animals, including the monastery dog, although she says she prefers cats. Her scientific background makes her take a keen interest in all things technical and she can always be relied upon to read the manual. Over the years she has developed a special ministry to clergy of all denominations. She is now novice mistress and domestic bursar.