At this abbey, nuns are also entrepreneurs

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VIRGINIA DALE, Colo. – Five miles south of the Wyoming border is a place where silence and song intertwine.

The Abbey of St. Walburga will celebrate its 80th year next month. For the past nine decades, it has provided sisters with a place to pray.

“When you pray together you really are the voice of Christ,” Mother Maria-Michael said.

The sisters spend several hours in silence until they’re called upon to pray together. At that point, a certain melody fills the air -- and it’s beautiful.

“This community does that well,” Mother Maria-Michael said.

Living in an abbey can be difficult, though. It costs quite a bit to maintain, which is why the sisters started a business.

“The word business is what always comes to my mind. It’s a bit jarring. But we’ve gotta pay the bills and that’s what this is,” Sister Hildegard said.

At this abbey, the flock tends to its herd.

“The Lord is my cowboy,” Sister Maria-Walburga said.

Sprawled out over several acres in the back of the abbey is a ranch run by nuns. They do everything themselves.

“We have the second largest water buffalo herd in Colorado. We have three,” Sister Maria-Walburga joked.

Along with the water buffalo, the sisters also take care of chickens, llamas and a few bulls. But no animal on the ranch has as big of a presence as the cows.

“It’s pretty easy to stand behind our product,” Sister Maria-Walburga said.

For the past eight years, the sisters of St. Walburga have been transforming their farm into a sound business, turning their cattle into cash by selling their meat.

“People snapped it up,” said Sister Maria-Walburga, who maintains the ranch.

Last year, the abbey made nearly $50,000 off meat sales. This summer, cheese will be added to the sales list. A cut of the profits goes toward improving the abbey and the rest goes to filling their table.

“We try to live as best we can off the things we grow,” Mother Maria-Michael said.

While some might look at the business as something unusual, the sisters say it helps keep the abbey running.

The business is so successful, there’s a waiting list for the meat.

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