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~Click to view St. Paul Parish - The Catholic Mission of the Yankton Sioux People Official Website~

St. Paul Parish - The Catholic Mission of the Yankton Sioux People
102 Church Drive
PO Box 266
Marty, SD 57361
Phone: (605) 384-3234 Fax: (605) 384-3575
A Parish of The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls SD

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     Catholic Christianity was introduced to the Ihanktonwan Sioux people through the efforts of Fr. Pierre DeSmet, S.J., around 1839 and continued through the work of Native Catechists and other religious. Eventually a small wood frame church was moved here to Marty from Wagner and was put on this present site on land that was purchased. Fr. Sylvester Eisenman, O.S.B., was missioned to Marty after three elders of the people went to the Benedictine monastery in St. Meinrad, Indiana, and camped there until someone was assigned; they so greatly desired a school for their children. With the construction of several of its buildings coordinated by Fr. Sylvester’s brother Leonard, St. Paul’s Indian Mission School opened in 1920. The heavy sand and limestone blocks were shipped by rail from Indiana to Ravinia, ten miles north of Marty, and transported by buckboard and truck to the present site. Many of the school children helped with construction, alongside the monks, sisters, faculty, and other lay people. St. Paul the Apostle to the Nations Church was dedicated in 1942 (see "Tour of the Church" page).

     St. Paul’s Indian Mission School flourished as a Catholic boarding school for many years. Students attended Mass every day in the new Church. Academic programs were successful, with the Oblate Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Benedictine monks of Blue Cloud Abbey teaching alongside dedicated lay professionals; vocational education programs taught students useful trades in “the Shop”; and three surrounding farms, tended by staff and students, provided food. The mission school constituted a vibrant nucleus of community life with up to 500 boarding students and many laypeople living nearby.

     With the cultural influence of AIM (the American Indian Movement), and for various other reasons, Blue Cloud Abbey (the Benedictine community that sponsored the mission) ceded sponsorship of St. Paul’s Indian Mission School to the Yankton Sioux Tribe in 1975. The school thus became Marty Indian School and continues today as a K-12 boarding school under the leadership of the Tribe.

     The Church, formerly part of the school complex, became a parish in the Sioux Falls Diocese (formally established in 1989).

     Recognizing the need to continue and develop various mission services for the Ihanktonwan people in the area, the staff of the Mission devised the Okodakiciye Mission Association (the Dakotah word meaning “spiritual bonds of friendship”). In these times of broken promises and diminished support by the federal government, staff of the mission — the Oblate Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular — offer a caring ministerial presence and provide opportunities for Native men and women to be trained in leadership for the spiritual strengthening and well being of the people.

For more on the history of St. Paul's Indian Mission...

     The book Miracle on the Prairie by Mary Eisenman Carson (niece of Fr. Sylvester) – Miracle on the Prairie is about the building the Church of St. Paul, Apostle to the Nations, at Marty, South Dakota. Caught between the juggernaut of World War II and the labor grab of a Federal Dam rising on the nearby Missouri River, an isolated band of workmen build a 167-foot high stone shrine on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. True story of how a self-educated engineer with improvised equipment and an unconventional crew, raises an acclaimed landmark, 10 miles from a railroad. Project stands as a monument to the old chief's persistent plan for a school and Blackrobe of their own. Seen through old letters, interviews, and the author's keen memory of the builder, her Dad, this history of 1942 "Miracle on the Prairie" includes the improbable story of Benedictine Father Sylvester Eisenman, his builder-brother Leonard, and the un-traditional heroes of the shrine that now attracts tourists and pilgrims. For more information on this book and Mary Eisenman Carson's other 3 books, contact Infinity Publishing at - 8th Landing: the Yankton Sioux Meet Lewis and Clark - American Indian Legends of the Holy Man - Blackrobe for the Yankton Sioux: Fr. Sylvester Eisenman, O.S.B.


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