God Bless the nuns!
Editor’s Note: CNN Photojournalist Bill Alberter brings us this report from Virginia.
Tucked away in the rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley just west of Charlottesville, Virginia, lies a convent of nuns who – along with their daily worship – create a homemade Gouda cheese that’s just heavenly.
Just about 23 years ago, a group of Catholic nuns from Massachusetts set out for Virginia to create a convent for worship that was totally self-sufficient. It became the Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels. “Part of our tradition is to support ourselves by some sort of manual labor,” Sister Barbara Smickel explained.
They purchased a sprawling farm, which had a barn that housed cheese-making equipment. Even though none of the sisters knew how to make cheese at that time, they decided that was how they were going to provide for themselves.
The sisters of “Our Lady of the Angels” had some help along the way. Friendly neighbors Jim and Margaret Morse lent their expertise in cheese-making. “I think what they really needed to know was how much hands-on work there was,” Jim Morse said.
Nearly every Thursday, the sisters are up at 3:00 a.m. to start the cheese-making by hand. They make about 21,000 pounds of cheese each year, which they sell at the monastery, via mail order and at local grocery stores in Charlottesville.
This fall marks 20 years that the sisters have been making their heavenly creation.