The House of Mary Shrine is located 6 miles west of Yankton, South Dakota, on Highway 52. Three Crosses, sentinel reminders of the life and death of Jesus Christ, overlook Lewis & Clark Lake and Campground. The panoramic view includes Gavins Point Dam, Lewis & Clark Lake, sunrise/sunset and the Nebraska chalk rock bluffs.
Larry and Irene Hames believe in miracles. Irene suffered a major health concern, and Larry and the family sought Mary’s intercession, especially through the Rosary. In thanksgiving for Irene’s recovery, they wanted to honor Mary. The entrance, with a series of 9 pillars, depicting Mary’s life and apparitions and a statue of Mary was their way of giving thanks to Jesus through Mary.
The Little House of Mary
This simple little cabin was built along with several other cabins. It was set away from the others as if predestined for greater things! And so it was. The land it stood on was set aside for the Lord with no plan in sight. The Rosary Makers decided to use the cabin to meet in and make Rosaries and PRAY. And there the Shrine got its start. Through ideas and prayers, the Shrine took shape starting with the 3 Crosses and continues to this day. The Little House of Mary is a reminder of the origin of the Shrine and is used as a place of Prayer. A beautiful stained glass window is found here. The window is of Mary surrounded by the Rosary with the Holy Spirit hovering over. It is hand-beveled crystal designed by Nick Brogenrief. This was a state Catholic Daughters of the Americas’ project with a variety of donors from across the state.
A statue of St. Joseph was sculpted and erected by Frank Yaggie. It stood welcoming visitors and keeping an eye on the Chapel for 30 years, and has now been retired to the Little House of Mary. A marble statue of St. Joseph, donated by the English family in 2009, now welcomes visitors and keeps watch over the Shrine. Bishop Swain blessed this statue in July 2010.
Chapel of St. Joseph
A Priest said a Chapel was needed—so, a statue of St. Joseph was buried on the proposed location. When excavation of the basement was underway and the Rosary Makers were praying in the Little House of Mary, they remembered the buried statue. There was St. Joseph on the dirt pile—another confirmation to the mission. Bishop Hoch blessed the Chapel. A wood furnace was the first heat source, and folding chairs the seating. The Cross was designed by Marvin Miller, a Baptist neighbor. Fr. Reidelsheimer, the first Spiritual Director, donated $600 to start the Chapel. The basement was dug by Delmar Christiansen in exchange for the black soil; the brick laying was donated by Wayne Pascco’s crew. Catherine Logan bought the nails, and pounded the first nail as construction began.
Three Rosaries have been placed at the Shrine. Originally a Rosary of roses graced the hillside. Mr. & Mrs Ben Peterka constructed a large 15-decade wooden Rosary which winds through the trees.
The Rosary Pond
A Rosary Pond in the shape of a heart representing the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary is made of field stone with rock beads, and was one of the first sites built at the Shrine. Each October a Rosary Rally is held and the Rosary is prayed in candlelight around the pond.
In early Christian life, rocks have found a place in many situations. St. Stephen, the first Martyr, was stoned to death; David slew Goliath with a stone; and so on. At the Shrine, rocks have been a theme used throughout. A retaining wall was needed near the Rosary Pond. In 2014 Steve Schweitzer and his family took charge of the project through numerous obstacles which became a labor of love. Family and volunteers came from Minnesota; Colorado; Indiana; Florence, South Dakota; Nebraska; and Yankton to build the wall. Steve died a month after completion. He had been the engineer of many of the rock walls, and a special volunteer at the Shrine.
In the fall of 1991, Ed English was inspired to develop a series of ponds that would cascade down the hillside and bring The House of Mary Shrine alive with water. Mr. English died prior to starting the project. In his memory, the Living Waters Memorial was constructed. The theme of the Living Waters Memorial begins at the Cross of Jesus Christ where water which flows from the Cross represents the Graces that come forth from Christ’s suffering and death. The water then continues down the hillside until it passes through the pond in front of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary who is the Mediatrix of All Graces receives the Graces from Her Son and showers them upon all mankind which is represented by the fountain in the lower pond. Bishop Carlson blessed the Living Waters.
Found on the hillside, the Pieta depicts Jesus in the arms of His Mother when He was taken down from the Cross.
The Stations of the Cross
The Crosses lead one to the top of the hill and the three giant Crosses. At the beginning of the Shrine, these Crosses were constructed by volunteers. In a ceremony, witnessed by Fr. Augustine, the Crosses were placed in their special spots. Fr. Augustine was from Canon City, Colorado, and was a Benedictine Monk. He was 75 years old and held a PhD in Theology. Mrs. English said, “He seemed very Holy and wise.” When asked if we were on the right track, with a little deliberation, he said, “1. this is a good idea; 2. the area will be blessed and those working on it will be blessed; 3. it will NEVER BE EASY; 4. you will be surprised the people God will send to develop it.” They have since been replaced by new Crosses of bronze steel which now lead pilgrims to the top. It is an inspirational climb as the Passion of Christ is recalled and comes to a climax at the empty tomb.
Three Large Crosses
Three large Crosses were placed high on a hill overlooking Lewis & Clark Lake. As each Cross was erected, a ring of light formed around the sun. This was taken as confirmation that the volunteers were on the right track. A picture of the ring around the sun can be viewed in the Chapel as well as a stained glass window depicting the event. A reporter from the Denver Register was present and was critical that the equipment from Gavins Point Dam was being used to dig the holes. He then experienced the rings around the sun, and became a believer in the endeavor.
Below the Crosses, the path leads to the tomb with a crude replica of Christ’s resting place. As you enter, a voice is heard saying, “We know you seek Jesus, He is not here, He has risen.” The stone cavern was crafted by Ed English and Ed Krempges.
The Risen Christ
Just to the side of the tomb is a statue of the Risen Christ sculpted by Frank Yaggie. A light illumines it at night for observation from far below.
The Meditation Area is a sort of resting point between the lower level and the Crosses at the hilltop. A marble altar for outdoor Masses can be found here. It is home to Moses, an angry statue (with good reason). The statue depicts Moses as he came down the mountain to find his people worshipping a golden calf. An iron creation of St. Michael (both images sculpted by John Day) depicts his victory over Satan and he stands guard over the area where outdoor services can be celebrated.
The Holy Stairs
The Holy Stairs lead to the meditation area, the tomb and the three giant Crosses. They replaced the original Holy Stairs which were constructed of railroad ties. Each step was donated, and a prayer was assigned to it. It was replaced due to deterioration. We cherish the original donors and prayers in a book called “The Holy Stairs Prayer Booklet.”
The Marian Visitor Center/Gift Shop
The Center/Gift Shop, across the road from the Shrine proper, was formerly the Klimish school. It was donated by Margaret Hunhoff and moved to the Shrine under the guidance of Willard and Jeanette Schramm. The refurbishing was paid for by former students. The Center holds a museum and provides Holy reminders.
The Holy Innocents and Way of the Saints Arbor
The arbor which frames the statue of Jesus and the Children is the entrance to the Holy Innocents Garden and the Way of the Saints. The Garden came to be when the school was moved in—the inspiration came—and so the parking lot was transformed to the “Holy Innocents Garden,” and now the “Way of the Saints” has been added.
The Holy Innocents Garden
The Garden started from a parking lot next to the Visitor Center when grass, flowers and bushes were planted, and then a search for a statue began. Thanks to the generosity of the Hames and Moriarty families along with other donations, a sculptor, Ed Hlvaka of Spearfish, was chosen. His model of the children, and especially Jesus’ extended hand with the unborn child in it, could not be denied. Bishop Carlson gave his blessing to this endeavor. A Holy Innocents Memorial has been a part of the Shrine since the beginning, originally erected when Arlene Foxhoven lost a baby at birth. They felt the need for closure of a life they missed sharing, as well as the importance of the unborn. The Feast of the Holy Innocents is celebrated each December 28th.
The Guardian Angel
This setting is found in the Holy Innocents Garden. The Angel is watching over the children as well as all of us as we go through each day.
Rachel Weeping for Her Children
This statue is an interpretation of the Biblical text Jerimiah 31:15. Rachel’s silent cry is for a child lost, as symbolized in the empty blanket across her lap. The rose laying at her side is also a sign of life. Rachel’s message is simple: “Cherish Life.” This “Holy Innocents Garden,” an expansion of the original Holy Innocents Memorial, is dedicated to the memory of all children lost to miscarriage, abortion or childhood death. This Rachel statue is included in the Garden as a comfort to all parents who grieve a lost child. Names of Holy Innocents may be left at the memorial.
Willard and Jeanette Schramm were early volunteers at the Shrine. When Willard was asked to help build a Chapel, he said he needed a hog barn more. However, the Chapel was built, and the barn came later. Willard was the Shrine’s “St. Joseph the Carpenter” for many years. The Gazebo was built in memory of Willard.
The Way of the Saints
The pillars are found at the far end of the Holy Innocents Garden. They embrace the story of Saints chosen by their benefactors.
These small cabins are in a secluded area in the woods for quiet meditation and retreats. Deer, turkey, and other wildlife are reminders of God's creation.
The Sunrise Service
This service is held each Easter at sunrise. It begins at the Chapel with Scripture readings and music. A procession to the top of the hill recalls the last day of the life of OUR LORD before He was crucified. We follow His path, and at the top of the hill call to mind His death. Then, in GLORIOUS JUBILATION, we proceed to the tomb to CELEBRATE HIS VICTORY OVER DEATH! JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN!!
Each Monday, from April through September, Mass is celebrated at the Shrine by Monsignor Hermann. The M&M Masses were started because there were no Monday Masses in Yankton at the time, and because help was needed in the flower beds. The M&M stands for Martha and Mary—to work like Martha or to pray like Mary.
Features of The Shrine