History of Mother of God Monastery
The Mother of God Monastery community has a rich heritage going way back to the beginnings of the Benedictine order. In 6th century Italy, St. Benedict of Nursia wrote his Rule about community living and founded several monasteries of men and women.
In 1864, Mother Gertrude Leupi established a Benedictine monastery for women in Switzerland named Maria Richenbach. Ten years later, five of these Sisters moved to Maryville, Missouri, to minister to German immigrants in the “new country.” Soon after, Bishop Martin Marty, first bishop of Dakota Territory, invited some of them to come to Dakota and help educate the Native Americans. In 1874, these Sisters settled at Zell, SD, where they built their first monastery on a claim of land, as did many pioneer families. Their next move was to Yankton, SD, in the 1880′s to begin a new foundation which they named Sacred Heart Monastery.
The Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery of Yankton planted new roots of Benedictine life when, in 1961, they founded a new community in Pierre, SD, Mother of God Monastery. Here the Sisters moved into a wing built onto Saint Mary’s Hospital, which the Yankton Sisters had operated since 1899.
In 1967, the Sisters moved again, this time to Watertown, SD, where they built Harmony Hill High School and a monastery wing on Carpenter Hill, two miles south of town. From 1972 – 1995, the highschool building was used for adult education and many other functions.
In 1997, the present monastery was built. The school building was demolished and the original monastery wing has become Harmony Hill Hall which houses the Benedictine Sisters Foundation and Spirituality Offerings.
Originally, the Sisters served primarily in elementary and secondary Catholic schools in North and South Dakota, as well as in several hospitals. Presently, they work in parish ministries, schools, pastoral care at hospitals and care facilities and in a variety of other ministries, depending on the identified need and the individual skills of the Sisters. Several Sisters still work in elementary schools and health care facilities. The community’s latest endeavor is the Benedictine Multi-Cultural Center, located on Monastery property and Highway 81.
“Let all serve one another…for such service increases reward and fosters love.”-Rule of St. Benedict, Ch. 35