Our Ministries

Sacred Heart Monastery
7 min readSep 13, 2021

Our Ministry of Prayer

Prayer is a central element of each sister’s ministry as she participates in Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, and private prayer. For some Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery, prayer is their primary ministry. Many of these sisters reside in the St. Joseph Care Center at the monastery and are often referred to as the “Powerhouses of Prayer.” Prayer requests, personal intentions community needs, and world needs are all included in the prayer ministry of these sisters as well as in the prayer of the entire community.

Elementary and Secondary Education

Since the earliest days in the history of Sacred Heart Monastery, beginning at Maria Rickenbach, Switzerland, the sisters have been involved in education. This ministry has been at schools in North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado with some of the earliest schools being on the Standing Rock Reservation in Dakota Territory. Having the opportunity to teach Catholic values and beliefs and all subjects in a Catholic environment have been important aspects of this ministry for all who have helped form elementary and secondary students in their faith, learn a variety of subject matter and prepare them to serve others and God. Many Sisters continue their teaching careers by helping students at the college or by tutoring adults working at Ability Services in Yankton.

Higher Education

Working in higher education enables sisters to impart Benedictine values to the next generation of professionals. S. Kathryn Burt reflects that “One of the greatest gifts of being an educator is observing the growth of another individual towards becoming who God is calling them to be.”

Sisters are currently teaching in the education, religious studies, nursing, math, music and art departments, and also work as staff members at Mount Marty University, a sponsored ministry of the Yankton Benedictines. S. Lynn Osika is Assistant Librarian and S. Rose Marie Maly is currently the Director of Campus Ministry at Mount Marty College. S. Marietta Kerkvliet is VP of Mission at Mount Marty College. Sisters have also worked at other area colleges.

Health Care Ministry

The Gospel mandates the ministries of healing, giving people health and life as Jesus did. The Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery responded to the needs of the people and began Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton since 1897. Today the Sisters minister in a wide variety of health care settings. Ss. Joyce Streff (pictured below) and Joyce Feterl are hospital chaplains. Other Sisters help in St. Joseph’s Care Center, looking after the physical and emotional needs of our elderly sisters; Ss. Sarah Schultz and Peggy Venteicher (both pictured below) are nurses working at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, while several other Sisters are nurse educators at Mount Marty College; Ss. Mary Carole Curran and Kate Crowley have worked in the field of mental health.

Parish Work

As the needs of the Church have changed and roles for women in ministry have expanded, the Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery have responded to the needs of parishes by serving in a variety of ministries. This ministry includes religious education, adult education, R.C.I.A., parish administration, home visiting, Bible study, and bringing communion to the homebound, to name a few.

Retreats/Spiritual Direction

Retreats provide a time and place to peacefully rest and renew your relationship with God. You can experience solitude, prayer, and spiritual refreshment within the monastic community.

A spiritual director is an experienced companion-guide with whom you can share your experience of God on a regular basis. The spiritual director listens prayerfully, raises questions and gently supports another person who is seeking God. Spiritual direction helps one focus and intensify their journey with God.


The Yankton Benedictines sponsor two major ministries: Mount Marty University and Avera Health. Sponsorship is a formal relationship within the Catholic Church that allows a religious community to carry on the mission of Jesus through a particular ministry. Sponsorship involves both canonical (Church) and civil laws and requirements.

Avera Health System

The Yankton Benedictines became involved in health care ministry in 1897. This ministry grew over the years to include a number of hospitals in South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado. In 2000, the Aberdeen Presentations and the Yankton Benedictines joined in a co-sponsorship relationship of their health care ministry by forming Avera Health. As sponsors, sisters from both communities are involved in leadership and governance of Avera Health. As with the college, the two religious communities have certain reserved powers (responsibilities) for the mission and operation of Avera Health. A group of six sisters (3 Benedictine and 3 Presentation) have been delegated responsibility for much of the sponsor-ship oversight of Avera Health. Sisters also serve on the Avera Health Board and the Boards of Trustees of the individual hospitals and also work in some of the healthcare facilities.

Mount Marty University

Mount Marty College was founded in 1936 and the Yankton Benedictines have been actively involved in its governance and operations. As the sponsor of the college, the monastery has certain reserved powers (responsibilities) regarding the mission and operation of the college. Sisters serve on the Mount Marty College Board of Trustees (pictured at right) and those working at the college are involved in the daily life and operation of the college.

Outreach involvement within the community

The hands and heart of Benedictine Hospitality reach out to help those in need around our town and state. We call these volunteer ministries our “Outreach.” Outreach takes many shapes, from the person to person mentoring in the Big Friend, Little Friend program, to administrative work. In addition, various sisters fund raise as a board member in one of the many social agencies in our the Yankton area. Sisters who minister in other towns address the special needs of those communities. Many Sisters volunteer in areas related to their areas of expertise. For example, working with the deaf Catholic community of the Sioux Falls Diocese, tutoring mentally challenged adults, and being on the advisory board for Dakota Diabetes.

Among the area social agencies, sisters currently serve on the Boards of: River City Domestic Violence, Yankton Area Child Protection Team, United Way, Pathways Shelter for the Homeless

Among the area social agencies, sisters currently serve on the Boards of: River City Domestic Violence Center, Yankton Area Child Protection Team, United Way, Pathways Shelter for the Homeless, Habitat for Humanity, Contact Center, Big Friend/Little Friend, Boys and Girls Club, Emmaus Catholic Worker House, and Healthy Yankton

Ministry to Community

“The members should serve one another … for such service increases reward and fosters love.” (Rule of Saint Benedict, 35:1–2)

As Yankton Benedictines we are called to mutual service as our physical ability and ministry commitments allow. So we take turns cooking and baking, serving meals and doing the dishes, serving at the reception desk, cleaning our monastery home, tending plants, gardens and the orchard, planning liturgies and serving in liturgical ministries, making arts and crafts for sale and display, tending our ill and fragile Sisters, driving sisters for appointments, sewing and mending, caring for our guests…and the list goes on. As in any home, we respond to the needs of our monastic family as we share our time and living space. And as we do so, we increase our charity, our love for one another.

St. Benedict recommended the practice of foot-washing, which was still a practical task in his day. On Holy Thursday, the Prioress and administrative team us wash the feet of Sisters, symbolic of their ministry to the community all year round.

Music and the Arts

The Sacred Music Resources Center is a specialized library which collects, preserves, and provides access to Gregorian plainchant publications representing the period from 1880 to the present.

S. Patricia Ann Toscano teaches piano, organ, and voice lessons. She has the privilege of using the beautiful Casavant organ in the Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel to teach on.

S. Mary Kay Panowicz creates custom designed vestments, stoles, banners and also designs altar furniture, baptismal fonts, and other religious art work for sacred spaces. She is a trained liturgical consultant who works with parishes who are renovating or building worship spaces.

S. Kathleen Courtney creates small stained glass pieces, primarily vigil lights and mobiles. She also incorporates stained glass into her outreach retreat work, Praying in Color. Click here for St. Kathleen’s contact information.



Sacred Heart Monastery

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