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Meet Sister Wilma Lyle

S. Wilma Lyle

S. Wilma Lyle

After my first contact with ”Sisters”—Dominicans who taught catechism for a week in the summer—I went home and told my mother I wanted to become a Sister when I grew up.  Five years later my mother died.  At thirteen, I began to take care of the family (dad, siblings, and household duties plus attending school).  I felt like I was in a fog, learned a lot, and did survive. The last two years of high school I attended Mount Marty as a boarder.

At age 17 I heard the call to be a Benedictine sister at Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton.  By age 23 I had graduated from high school, received a teaching certificate, taken some college classes, made temporary vows, and learned two lessons: what it meant to be a Yankton Benedictine and how to teach reasonably well.

Yankton Benedictine Sister Wilma Lyle

Sister Wilma Lyle and her family in 1928. Sister Wilma is sitting between her Dad’s knees; to their right is Marchell, Mary Fran, Bill, Mother, with Elizabeth and Phyllis in front.

My teaching career began with working in parochial grade schools and at Mount Marty High School.  After I received my PhD in theology from St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana (first class of women students to do so), I became the Academic Dean at Mount Marty College and taught theology classes.

In response to the Church’s request to minister in education in Central and South America, I was sent to Guatemala where members of my community and I taught in an elementary and secondary school.  Twenty five years after we left, our graduates told us that they learned from the “American Sisters” that a school is to be managed like a business where students learn what is required of them.

Yankton Benedictine Sisters Guatemala mission

Sister Wilma Lyle (driving) and Sister Consuela Chalvez wave good-bye as they begin the long drive to Carcha’, Guatemala where they taught for seven years.

Recently I celebrated my 75th Jubilee as a member of my Benedictine community so I had occasion to reflect on my life.  I realized that God had called me not just to be a sister but to be a Benedictine sister.  I have lived the Rule of Benedict these seventy five years and now know that it was meant for me because Saint Benedict understood human nature and wrote a Rule that respected that humanity.  He knew that some women were meant to seek God in community.  He presented many challenges in his Rule but respected both the weak and the strong.  His Rule includes the needs of both.

I served as teacher, leader in the community, and worker of charity in the Church to the best of my ability— that in all things God may be glorified.

Sister Wilma Lyle

Benedictine Sisters
Sacred Heart Monastery
1005 W. 8th St.
Yankton, SD 57078

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