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In 1961, a group of 140 women from the Sacred Heart Convent in Yankton decided it was time to spread their work to another part of South Dakota. They eventually found a home in Watertown, where they built the Mother of God Monastery. But over the years the community's growth has slowed and numbers are nowhere near what they used to be. But the sisters have faith.
It's not a building you'd expect surrounded by South Dakota fields. But, the women inside know it's where they belong. Each took her own path to the Mother of God Monastery.
Sister Emily Meisel heard the calling when she was a child. "I knew all along that that's where I needed to be. It felt good and always felt right because of that strong message from God in my childhood."
As a teenager, she entered a monastery and chose a life of ministry and prayer. "When I entered there were 16 of us and each year there were about 16 up to 20 coming through the Yankton Community where I entered."
But over the years, numbers have dropped. Many women who made the lifelong commitment have passed on. And, monasteries around the country don't see as many young people. Here, the last time a woman took vows become a sister was in 1998. But some believe the trend will change. Today, two women are have started the process.
"I just found that myself more and more wanted to live a life for God but expressing God bringing the sense of God to other people. and finding that sense in myself more and more deeply," says Sister Susan Dreyer.
After 28-years as a counselor on the west coast, Dreyer is a novice, a title she gets before becoming a nun.
"Monasteries seem peaceful but they're really real work houses of growth," says Dreyer.
She says mornings start at 6 with an hour of mental prayer. "And then get up and get going and then we have Liturgical prayer at 8-o-clock and at 8:30 I'm learning the organ and the piano."
Then there's an hour of studying before the 11 o-clock mass. The days are long, but just like the sisters who surround her, Dreyer knows this is where she's supposed to be.
The Mother of God Monastery used to have 140 sisters. Now there are seventy. But the women understand the world is changing. 50-years ago sisters filled hospitals and schools.
"Our sisters did all of the teaching in all of the schools in wherever we were located in the Dakotas in Nebraska," says Meisel.
Now they fill other jobs in communities throughout the country. While some work in Watertown, others live as far away as Texas. Sisters say the changes are simply part of God's plan.
They have faith more women with generous hearts will hear the calling and be drawn here. Someday, the numbers could shift.
"We're looking forward to that," says Meisel.
Right now, there is only one woman in her twenties at the monastery. Otherwise, most are much older. You can learn more about the steps to sisterhood and the Watertown monastery.
Click here for more information on the Mother of God Monastery