Nuns Doing More Than Lord’s Work In Watertown

"Service just comes natural to us."

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There’s a saying that goes, “prayer is asking for rain and faith is carrying the umbrella,” and depending on the day, you may catch these women with umbrellas in hand but their faith is always in their hearts. Three sisters from the Mother of God Monastery in Watertown are doing more than the Lord’s work in South Dakota.

There are several combinations  that may make more sense than weather and nuns. However, for Sister Marva, Sister Rose and Sister Aurelia, their service to God and weather go hand in hand.

“And we were driving past this location, one day, and said ‘Wouldn’t it be perfect up there in the Monastery'”

It was like a sign from God.

“We gave Sister Marva a call in probably October 2011 and they’ve been here ever since and we hope they’re going to be here for a long time,” explained Tim Kearns from the National Weather Service site in Aberdeen. He helped build the observing site at the Monastery.

After joining the Mother of God Monastery in 1991 and completing her solemn profession in 1998, Sister Marva has been a part of the Mother of God Monastery for a long time. But it’s only recently that she, along with Sister Rose and Sister Aurelia, have become weather observers for the town of Watertown.

“We get calls from the police department, the schools and the street department especially when there’s been snow because they want to know if they need to call a snow emergency,” said Sister Marva Hoeckelman, “whether they need to call out the snow plows or call off school.”

With a temperature gage beside their garden, a station to collect rain or snow and their dedication to service, you’re looking at the only Monastery observing site in the state of South Dakota that’s driven by dedication to spiritual service.

“For women in religion in general, doing things like this, like, service just comes natural to us,” she said.

While service is a part of their mission, the documentation that these sisters take is crucial to the state of South Dakota.

“The only snowfall data we get from the Watertown area is here at the Monestary and that data is used for decisions such as plowing, closing schools or closing early with schools,” said Tim Kearns from the National Weather Service in Aberdeen, “it’s used for water resources here in the Watertown area as well as the state climatologist using it to brief the governor, just recently, on the drought declaration here in the Watertown and South Dakota area.”

While their data helps those like Tim Kearns of the National Weather Service in Aberdeen, as both Sister Marva and Tim Kearns pointed out that the Monastery is part of a bigger network.

“We have nearly 11,000 sites and those sights all are used from all the way back to the 1800s to build what we know as our climate across the United States. So they help build our climatological database across the United States and really are the backbone of climate,” Tim explained.

But all that service, still begins from the heart.

“It wasn’t too difficult to get service me and the other two sisters because we were always talking about the weather in the dining room,” said Sister Marva.

Sister Marva says that her favorite season is spring with plenty of sun. In fact, throughout winter, she says she has to tell herself to hang tight and that spring is coming, spring is coming.

Tim Kearns from the National Weather Service in Aberdeen says that The Mother of God Monastery is one of 50 or so religious sites within the network that spans across the nation, Puerto Rico and the Pacific Islands.