The 13 Sisters of Our Lady of the Angel monastery believe God has a plan for everyone. When Sister Barbara arrived on the newly purchased 507-acre farm in central Virginia in 1987, she was surprised to find an abandoned cheese barn filled with ready-to-use machinery. Without much hesitation, Sister Barbara and the others realized God’s plan.
The first rounds of cheese made by the Sisters was in 1990. Their semi-soft, mild Dutch-style Gouda comes in 2-pound wheels. The Sisters use it to make grilled cheese sandwiches.
Tucked in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, down a lengthy stretch off Route 250, over a bridge, through the woods and at the end of a gravel road sits Our Lady of the Angels Monastery perched on the hillside. This is where the Sisters live a self-sustained lifestyle filled with prayer, devotion and cheese-making.
Their day starts around 3 a.m. with a morning prayer. By 7 a.m., Sister Myriam leaves mass early to turn on the autoclave. The windows of the cheese room grow foggy as the room heats up to a proper cheese-mixing temperature. By 9 a.m., Sister Maria forms ovals around steel presses, and by 11 a.m., the machines cut the sheets of cheese mixture into cubes. Sister Miriam takes the cubes and squeezes them into molds. They work in shifts and wear scrubs and rainboots in the barn — it’s a full-day affair.
“This work is good,” Sister Eve Marie said. “It becomes sort of mindless and allows us to work for God in ways similar to prayer and our studies.”