From Switzerland to South Dakota: Our History

Sacred Heart Monastery
2 min readSep 13, 2021

Our History -Roots and Growth

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.

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.


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 University in Yankton, and together with the Presentation Sisters of Aberdeen, SD, sponsor Avera Health, a multi-state health care system.



Sacred Heart Monastery

We are Benedictine women of Yankton, SD, sharing our gift of seeking God through prayer, work, study and community life.