Dominican High School, Whitefish Bay, held a sponsorship transition ceremony in November. The school, founded by the Sinsinawa Dominicans in 1956, will now be sponsored by Dominican Veritas Ministries. (Photo courtesy of Dominican High School)

The Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa undertook a courageous and difficult task to make sure the schools they sponsor, including Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, will continue as Dominican ministries into the future.

The sisters, who sponsor five schools in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, joined with four other Dominican congregations in the country to create Dominican Veritas Ministries, a Pontifical Juridic Person that will ensure the schools’ Catholic and Dominican identity will continue into perpetuity.

“The sisters developed a path to allow their mission to continue, even as their numbers decline,” said Leanne Giese, President of Dominican High School. They are following the footsteps of Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli, who founded the Sinsinawa Dominicans and also built schools around the country.

“This was a tremendous achievement,” said Kristin Melley, Executive Director of Dominican Veritas Ministries. “They bravely looked the future in the eye and said we care about our ministries.”

The designation of Pontifical Juridic Person allows DVM to be a canonical sponsor of the participating ministries. Obtaining this designation required permission from the Vatican. The process began in 2016, as the congregations contemplated how they could move their missions forward while keeping their Catholic and Dominican identity. On Dec. 8, 2022, the request was approved. A year later, on Nov. 16, Dominican High School had a sponsorship transition ceremony to honor, celebrate and thank the sisters for their forethought and continued support.

Several other PJPs have come from a single congregation or province but this was the first to bring five independent congregations with their own missions and histories together. “They came together to imagine a meaningful response to this moment they all share,” said Melley. The Dominican Sisters of Houston, Adrian, Sinsinawa, Peace and Springfield have formed a new canonical entity in Dominican Veritas Ministries while maintaining their own canonical status. They remain separate civil corporations with their own identities and boards of directors.

As a result, Dominican High School is no longer sponsored by the Sinsinawa Dominicans. “They are our founders, but now our sponsor is Dominican Veritas Ministries,” said Giese. “Dominican (High School) will remain a separate civil corporation and will continue to be governed by our board of directors. Most importantly, there will be no change nor impact on the faith formation and college-preparatory education we provide our students.”

Dominican Veritas Ministries plans a new experience for sponsorship that connects each unique ministry. “A Dominican education can be approached in different ways. The schools are unique but also have much in common,” said Melley. “Now they can collaborate and help each other out in what continues to be a challenging culture. The leaders of the school will be connected and approach challenges with support from one another and a wider community of professionals and Dominican educators.”

Dominican Veritas Ministries will offer ongoing formation for school leadership, including presidents and boards of directors. They will help each school remain distinctively Dominican. They hope to tackle the question: What makes us Catholic and Dominican?

The Dominican order, also called the Order of Preachers, was founded by St. Dominic in 1216 with the mission to proclaim the Gospel to every corner of the world. St. Dominic envisioned a “family at the service of the Church to preach Jesus Christ and his mercy.” The Dominican motto is Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare — to Praise, to Bless, to Preach.

Dominican priest Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli was born in Milan, Italy, and came to America in 1828 at the age of 22. As he traveled the Northwest Territory, he established parishes and religious congregations, including the Dominican Sisters in Sinsinawa, in Grant County. In 1993, he was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II.

As part of their ministry, the Sinsinawa Dominicans sponsor educational institutions based on the five values of truth, justice, community, compassion and partnership. While Dominican High School is no longer officially sponsored by the Sinsinawa Dominicans, these values are still an important part of the school.

“The Sinsinawan values will always be symbolic to Dominican High School, because they will forever be our founding congregation,” said Giese.

Dominican High School began in 1956. “The original plan of excellence created by the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa included a college-preparatory curriculum with the perfect combination of academic rigor and high expectations, infused throughout with our Catholic faith and traditions,” said Giese.

Now 67 years later with 335 students, the school in Whitefish Bay continues to offer a rigorous program of study and exemplifies St. Dominic’s vision of a family at the service of the Church. Dominican High School was recently awarded Exemplary Recognition in Mission and Catholic Identity by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Schools.