Our History -Roots and Growth

Our History: Yankton Benedictines Photo of Maria Rickenbach Monastery in Switzerland

Maria Rickenbach

The Yankton Benedictines trace their roots to St. Benedict who founded the Benedictine way of life at Monte Cassino, Italy in the 5th century. The Rule of St. Benedict has as its core community life with a balance of work and prayer. From there Benedictines spread throughout the world including Switzerland and the community of Maria Rickenbach. In 1874, five sisters from Maria Rickenbach came to Maryville, Missouri. Out of this mission grew the beginning of Sacred Heart Monastery in 1880.

Our History: Yankton Benedictine Sisters at Standing Rock Reservation ministering to Native Americans.

Sisters and Students at Fort Yates

Bishop Martin Marty OSB, the Vicar Apostolic of Dakota Territory, soon visited the young community and asked the sisters to assist him in ministering to the Native American people at Fort Yates on the Standing Rock Reservation in present-day North and South Dakota. Because of the distance from Missouri to Fort Yates, the sisters moved the motherhouse to Zell, South Dakota, and in 1889 relocated to the bluffs of the Missouri River in Yankton where the sisters purchased an empty school building adjacent to Bishop Marty’s residence.


Our History: Yankton Benedictines (pictured) welcome a variety of volunteer activities within the monastery.

Sisters at a gathering in the Monastery Refectory

Here in Yankton there currently are 81 members who live a community life according to the Rule of St. Benedict. The Benedictine Sisters of Yankton serve the people of the area in a variety of ministries including education, health care, parish ministry, social services, retreats, and numerous of volunteer activities. The Sisters sponsor Mount Marty College in Yankton, and together with the Presentation Sisters of Aberdeen, SD, sponsor Avera Health, a multi-state health care system.

Look at  archive news about our Sisters.

View The Monastery on the Missouri — an article from South Dakota Magazine.

Download our Call of the Prairie | History of Our Community Presentation.


Our Benedictine Heritage

Being Benedictine means that we are gifted with a 1500 history of Gospel living. Therefore, as monastics, our days are centered around the our efforts to pray the Liturgy of the Hours with beauty and attentiveness and to love and serve one another in community. Our Scriptural model for our monastic life together is Acts 4 :32, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”

Benedictines are monastics who live under the Rule of St. Benedictand their prioress. Our motto is Ora et Labora, Pray and Work. As monastics, our charism and ministry (See Our Charism, Mission, and Core Values) are rooted in the time and place in which we live, which makes each Benedictine monastery a little different from another.

S. Marielle Frigge’s thoughts on being a Benedictine.

Being a Benedictine is, in many ways, a very ordinary life, lived in community by ordinary people who try to live by certain core elements of the gospel. Benedictine life is nothing very flashy or “important” by cultural standards, but it becomes important when lived, as St. Benedict says, “so that in all things God may be glorified.” It is often said that it is “a balanced life”; think of it as being in a continual process of balancing, like riding a bike. Balancing a bicycle seems counter-intuitive: turn in the direction of the fall. But our life is like that: when community living seems difficult, turn toward the community for strength; when prayer seems dry and empty, turn toward the dry, empty desert where God waits; when a particular task seems unbearable, turn it into work done for the love of Christ, “which comes before all else.”

Sister Marielle Frigge
Retired Professor, Sacred Heart Monastery

The Rule of St. Benedict

Yankton Benedictines Rule of Saint BenedictThe Rule of St. Benedict was written in the early 6th century by Benedict of Nursia, Italy. The Rule contains 73 chapters which outline a way of life based on the Gospel and lived in community under the guidance of and obedience to an abbot (men) or prioress (women), and obedience to one another.

The Rule begins with the word “Listen” which sets the tone for all that follows. Benedict says that all monastics should “Listen with the ears of their heart to the voice of the Lord calling them.” The call is first to community and a commitment to God and one’s community members. This listening involves hearing God speaking in prayer, in people, in nature and in the everyday events of life.

Key concepts in the Rule include the centrality of prayer and work (ora et labora), humility, obedience, stability, silence, respect for persons, places and things, and service to one another and those living in the locale.

The scriptural base of the Rule makes it as relevant today and it was over 1500 years ago when it was written. It is followed by professed Benedictine men and women throughout the world and by count-less lay men and women who as Benedictine Oblates live the Rule to the best of their ability in their everyday lives.

The Rule of St. Benedict and information about the Rule can be found here.

To learn more about St. Benedict’s sister St. Scholastic read St. Scholastica’s story of love.

The Rule of St. Benedict

Our Name and Logo

Our Name and Logo

At the time of our founding in Maryville, MO in 1880 the monastery was named St. Gertrude, a 13th century Benedictine mystic who had a great devotion to the Heart of Christ.

Sacred Heart Monastery SD LogoOur community embraced the name of Sacred Heart Convent in 1890, as they settled into a former convent and boarding school under the patronage of the Sacred Heart. This was located just north of the residence of Bishop Martin Marty, on a Missouri River bluff which is our current home. Following the Second Vatican Council’s directive to renew the charism of the founder, the Sisters began using the name Monastery rather than Convent to reflect our monastic heritage.

Sister Mary Kay Panowicz is the designer of our community logo. The squared cross shape is known as a Maltese or often called a Benedictine cross. The heart represents the heart of the community, the one heart of many Sisters, united in the heart of Christ. The heart is open to permit a flow inward and outward. The wavy lines represent the love received Yankton Benedictines Travelers S Heart2and love given, to one another and to all those to whom we minister. This love is, of course, empowered by the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The flowing lines also remind us of the Missouri River that flows just below the monastery and of our baptismal call.

This lovely icon to the right was written by the late S. Mary Charles McGough, OSB, a member of St. Scholastica Monastery, Duluth, MN. It also hangs near the entry way of the monastery. Each year on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Yankton Benedictines communally pray a prayer of dedication to the Sacred Heart. You can recite the prayer as well.

Yankton Benedictines One heart one soul squareOne Heart, One Soul is the motto of the Yankton Benedictines. This window was above the doorway of one of our early buildings and is enshrined today at the entrance of our monastery.

Benedictine History

S. Ann recently completed the revised, updated and reorganized edition of Benedictine Men and Women of Courage: Roots and History, done in collaboration with Dr. Neville Kelly. Photo courtesy of the Yankton Press and DakotanPassionate author who has written extensively about S. Benedict, S. Ann Kessler has published “Benedictine Men and Women of Courage: Roots and History.” She continues to share Benedictine history through a blog on http://www.benedictinehistory.com/