Sinsinawa Dominicans moving into a new development in Muskego this month take a tour during its construction on the former site of Tess Corners School on Janesville Road. (Submitted photo)
About 90 retired Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa — about one-third of the order — will move to a new home in Muskego this month.
They will reside at Stair Crest, a 120-unit senior housing development being completed by Presbyterian Homes Services, one of the largest nonprofit providers of senior housing in the nation.
“Presbyterian Homes and Sinsinawa have an alignment of missions and values. Both are faith based and both operate in the Gospel context,” said Prioress Sr. Toni Harris, O.P., in a PHS video about Stair Crest.
The order has been working for many years to establish a housing option for retired Sinsinawa sisters to live in community in a more metropolitan area.
The Sinsinawa Dominicans also are working with other developers to find new uses for many of its buildings at its large campus in the small community of Sinsinawa in southwestern Wisconsin, where the order was founded in 1847.
“We are positioning ourselves for a more sustainable future. The sisters’ work in the region in the last 175 years has brought great value, but with fewer sisters and staff, the expansive campus is no longer being fully used. The congregation hopes to repurpose all the buildings to be of lasting value to the communities it serves,” a media release said.
The order’s motherhouse will remain at Sinsinawa, and 20 to 30 sisters will continue to work and live there. While Sinsinawa Dominican membership peaked at 1,983 in 1966, the order now has about 280 members in the United States, Bolivia and Trinidad, and about 230 women and men lay associates.
The Sinsinawa Dominicans may be best known in the Milwaukee area for founding and continuing to sponsor Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, but the order also founded 14 other Archdiocese of Milwaukee schools (see sidebar). Edgewood College and Edgewood High School in Madison are among the other schools founded by the order.
In 1995, the order founded the Dominican Center in Milwaukee’s Amani neighborhood to offer a holistic approach to education and women’s programs. Sr. Ann Halloran, a cofounder of the Dominican Center, will be among those moving to Stair Crest. Sinsinawa sisters also served as directors of STEPS, a workplace education program for five hospitals in the Milwaukee area.
“I am very happy to welcome this large group of Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. These sisters have contributed greatly to spreading our faith here,” said Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki.
At the Stair Crest groundbreaking nearly 18 months ago, Presbyterian Rev. Erin Hittle, a Presbyterian Homes Services campus pastor, noted that Tess Corners Elementary School had operated at the site for nearly 100 years.
“Lord, we ask that as Stair Crest steps into this rich history, that the tradition of lifelong learning, development of deep friendships and community participation will only continue,” she said.
Stair Crest will include 80 independent living apartments, 20 assisted living apartments and 20 memory care apartments. It is named for Lois Stair, who was a member of First Presbyterian Church of Waukesha. In the Milwaukee metro area, PHS operates Avalon Square in Waukesha, Dickson Hollow in Menomonee Falls, Kirkland Crossings in Pewaukee, Towner Crest in Oconomowoc and Fairway Knoll in Germantown.
The sisters will reside in about two-thirds of the apartments at Stair Crest, but other rentals are open to the public.
St. Leonard, Muskego’s only Catholic parish, is looking forward to welcoming the sisters.
“We also look forward to creating a partnership with Stair Crest to deepen our relationship with the sisters’ new community; we have met with their representative to set a few plans in place, including hosting a welcome luncheon here at St. Leonard,” said Samantha Dresen, parish Director of Communication and Marketing.
Sr. Patty Rinn, O.P., spoke at St. Leonard Masses in late February to introduce those present to the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa order. She noted that when the order was founded in 1847, Sinsinawa was part of Archdiocese of Milwaukee, along with the rest of Wisconsin.
“This move to Muskego reconnects us to the diocese in a brand new way and, in time, I’m sure some of our sisters living at Stair Crest may venture out to enjoy your parish life and community right here at St. Leonard’s,” Sr. Rinn said.
“We hope it’s a blessing for you and your sisters,” said presider Fr. John Cella, O.F.M., after Sr. Rinn spoke at the 9 a.m. Mass.