From dark soil and hard seeds, new life springs forth on prairies, gardens and bogs and wherever they grow, peace, harmony and healing also seem to be part of the harvest.

Many visitors to the Conservancy for Healing and Heritage, located at 7410 W. Rawson Ave., Franklin, have experienced this serenity.

Adjacent to the Reiman Cancer Center, the 36-acre parcel features a rare combination of ecosystems, and includes a chapel, walking trails, and Kopmeier Lake, also known as Priest’s Lake, a 35-foot deep, archdiocesan-owned, spring-fed kettle lake that was a popular destination for priests visiting it for some R and R for four decades.

Begun in 2012, the nonprofit organization recently received a $500,000 grant from We Energies Foundation to name the healing garden and the east garden’s screened in private gazebo. The healing garden will be referred to as: “We Energies Foundation Healing Garden.”

Funds from the grant have the allowed the Conservancy to begin construction of the east healing garden, said Susan Rabe, Executive Director and CEO.

“The total cost of the Conservancy, including land is $4.9 million. This includes the construction of the Healing Chapel in the Woods, healing garden, and lake and nature trails. We need an additional $1.5 million to complete,” she said. “We receive funding from various corporate and private organizations, as well as individuals. Our supporters recognize the missing link in our community the Conservancy is meeting. It is a unique combination of land, a glacier lake, a chapel, shared healing spaces and environmental education in an ice-age forest. Funding is needed to complete the trails and healing garden, so we need everyone’s support.”

The Conservancy serves 10,000 cancer patients annually from the nearby Reiman Center and the southeastern Wisconsin community. Open to the public, the Conservancy appeals to anyone with a physical, mental or emotional imbalance, said Rabe. She added that the preserve offers individuals a gentle and supportive place to visit, the opportunity to hike, learn or relax in nature or by viewing nature through the large chapel windows.

“The core of the mission is that we are protecting this natural habitat while creating shared spaces for comfort, inspiration, healing and education,” she said. “The Reiman Healing Chapel in the Woods and Healing Garden offer the healing space needed in our community. The chapel is open Monday through Friday and one can visit to read, prayer or take time to contemplate life’s many twists and turns. The positive effect of connecting to nature has been documented for centuries. We’ve also developed programs held in the healing chapel ranging from integrative cancer care, brain health, stress reduction and increasing happiness to environmental/wildlife programs including birding and coyote education.”

Begun as a test in late 2017, the popularity of the programs was so high, that development of additional programming became a core operation in the Healing Chapel.

“The setting is unmatched and adds to the positive impact of the program. Program development has created community partnerships which make us happy that we are adding to the value of the Conservancy,” said Rabe. “The majority of our programs are free and open to all ages and abilities. They range in topic from integrative cancer care, brain health, stress reduction and increasing happiness to environmental/wildlife programs including most recently birding and coyote education.”

According to a We Energies Foundation press release, the Conservancy is acting on its mission of furthering education by welcoming 170 Franklin High School AP environmental science students who worked to clear invasive species. They also learned about economic and health impact of the future garden.

”The Conservancy’s efforts to protect the beautiful surroundings while creating a peaceful setting for visitors to focus on their wellbeing, embraces our foundation’s key areas of focus,” said Beth Straka, vice president of the We Energies Foundation and senior vice president of corporate communications and investor relations at WEC Energy Group, the holding company of We Energies. “We are very pleased to be sponsoring the healing garden and the east garden gazebo – and look forward to seeing the space develop into a place of tranquility and reflection.”

If you want to help:

The Conservancy for Healing and Heritage


Susan Rabe

Executive Director and CEO