Mother Noella Marcellino Ph.D. is a Benedictine nun of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CT, a contemplative Benedictine community dedicated to the praise of God through prayer, hospitality, and stewardship of their land. She began making the Abbey’s Bethlehem cheese in 1977 according to a traditional technique taught to her by a native of the Auvergne France. Mother Noella was appointed and installed as Prioress at Our Lady of the Rock Monastery on Shaw Island, Washington in September 2020.
She received her doctorate in Microbiology in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Connecticut. With the aid of a Fulbright Scholarship to France in 1994, and a subsequent three-year fellowship from the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), she traveled 30,000 km through traditional cheese-making regions collecting native strains of the yeast-like fungus Geotrichum candidum to assess its biochemical and genetic diversity. A documentary film about this journey, The Cheese Nun: Sister Noëlla’s Voyage of Discovery, produced by the Paris American Television Company, has been shown in film festivals and aired nationally on PBS Television in 2006. She was honored with the reception of the International Academy of Gastronomy’s Grand Prix de la Science de l’Alimentation in 2005, and the French Food Spirit Award in Scientific Advancement, given in the French Senate, Paris, in 2003.
In December of 2020 Mother Noella gave the Medical Grand Rounds lecture for the Faculty Development Program at the Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville Florida. She was the keynote speaker at the Science and Culture of Fermentation Symposium held at Dartmouth College in August 2019. She gave a plenary presentation at the 2018 Nutrition and Health Conference sponsored by the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, founded by Dr. Andrew Weil, and was a guest lecturer for the Harvard University Science & Cooking Public Lecture Series in November, 2016. Her article: Sacro Speco–St. Benedict’s Cave: The Roots of Monastic Cheesemaking was published in the Fall 2017 Food issue of Communio, International Catholic Review. She is a contributing author to The Oxford Companion to Cheese, Oxford University Press, 2016, and to the American Society of Microbiology book Cheese and Microbes, 2014.
Mother Noella’s work has been featured in Dr. Andrew Weil’s book Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being, as well as in the 2016 Netflix documentary series Cooked, Part IV Earth: Fermentation’s Cold Fire, directed by Alex Gibney and based on journalist and author Michael Pollan’s book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, published in 2013.