Tag Archives: early dakota history

Siouxland Solitude, finding a quiet spot, Sacred Heart Monastery

13 Aug

As of late life has gotten busier and the fall election campaigns in Iowa are in full swing, bombarding voters with this person and that person, someone who will fix the bad stuff for us. When really, it seems the next person doesn’t get more done than the last person, because our political system seems a wasteland awash in acrimony and boys and girls who represent the worst of what America has to offer.

So sometimes one needs to find a little solitude and someplace to just get away for a bit, an hour, maybe two, to just contemplate quiet. I found such a spot last spring when I travelled to Yankton, South Dakota. I hadn’t really walked around that small city before and during my walk found a little gem, the Sacred Heart Monastery, which is a Benedictine facility. According to its history page, “In 1874, five sisters from Maria Rickenbach came to Maryville, Missouri. Out of this mission grew the beginning of Sacred Heart Monastery in 1880. 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 we purchased an empty school building adjacent to Bishop Marty’s residence.”

It sits next to Mount Marty College, a Catholic liberal arts school. It sits on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River and I wandered out behind the monastery and into a park-like area and cemetery. I then encountered one of the nuns “talking” with past friends, as we all do, while walking through the monastery’s cemetery. For all the bustle around the order, the school and a hospital are nearby as is a main thorough fare, it is quiet. You could hear a turkey calling for its mates down below. The Missouri River continuing its trek much like it probably did when Lewis and Clark passed through on their mission.

The nun and I talked a bit, and she gave me a little background. It left me wondering a bit why these women would want to spend time in a sometimes hot, and definitely wintry cold place sitting atop a bluff, but the solitude and calm permeated throughout, giving one a short respite to the outside world.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux CIty, Iowa

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