Oblates of St. Benedict are Christian individuals who have associated themselves with a Benedictine community in order to enrich their Christian way of life. Oblates seek God by striving to become holy in their chosen way of life. By integrating their prayer and work, they manifest Christ’s presence in society.
Since the very beginning of Benedictine monasteries in the sixth century, Oblates have been a part of the Benedictine community. These lay people associated themselves with the work of the monks and nuns and promised to regulate their lives according to the Rule of Benedict, without leaving their homes, families, and occupations. In the 1940s, enrollment at Mount Marty Jr. College was at 60, with the high school and college students considered an integral part of the Sacred Heart Benedictine Community. To strengthen the ties between the monastic family and its lay clientele, the Benedictine Order provided the institution of the Oblates.
On February 10, 1947, Fr. Henry Huber, OSB, invested 25 students attending Mount Marty Jr. College as Benedictine Oblate affiliates of Conception Abbey. This practice of receiving Oblates continued for several years.
Vatican Council II made it clear that women’s convents could invest their own Oblates. On February 10, 1963, SacredHeart Convent, Yankton SD, invested 19 affiliates as Benedictine Oblates. They were no longer under Conception Abbey. On February 10, 1965, 20 more Oblate novices were invested as affiliates of Sacred Heart Convent and 15 MMC girls made their final oblation as Oblates.
In 1994, S. Kathryn Easley, prioress, appointed S. Phyllis Hunhoff to begin a Benedictine Oblate Chapter in Lincoln, NE. Gradually this Oblate group grew into chapters in four cities (Lincoln, Hastings, Steinauer, and Omaha) in Nebraska. When S. Phyllis retired in 2012, Oblate Deans were appointed to take the place of the religious Oblate Director, these individuals take the mission and charism to places where Benedictine monastics no longer serve.
During the early nineties, a Benedictine Oblate Chapter was formed in Sioux Falls, SD, with S. Barbara McTague as the Associate Director. The Online Chapter of Oblates was begun in 2003 with S. Bonita Gacnik as Associate Director. The Oblate group at Mount Marty College, has expanded to include, besides the college students, the faculty and staff. S.Rosemarie Maly is Associate Director and Barbara Rezac is her Oblate Assistant for this group. The Mount Marty College Oblate group response has been so substantial, that they are meeting regularly once a month, besides the Yankton group, of which S. Patricia Heirigs is the Director. The plans of the Yankton Benedictine Oblates indicate that an Oblate will be a co-leader; sharing responsibility with a professed monastic and co-leader in the future.
From these small beginnings at Mount Marty College over 700 Oblates are now affiliated with Sacred Heart Monastery. During the 70 years that Sacred Heart Monastery has had Oblates, twelve Sisters have been Oblate Directors for the Yankton Oblates.