Situated atop a high hill visible for many miles, Sinsinawa Mound is home to an order of Dominican sisters as well as a retreat center for people of all faiths.
The scenic mound in southwest Wisconsin was known by Native Americans as a sacred place long before the sisters made their home here. In the Sioux language, Sinsinawa means “home of the young eagle.” Since its association with the Dominicans began, it has often been referred to as “Hill of Grace.”
Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, a pioneer Roman Catholic priest, purchased the site in 1844 and three years later founded the Sinsinawa Dominicans. Over the years the order grew in numbers and influence, at one time including nearly 2,000 members who served across the world.
Though their numbers have declined, the sisters of Sinsinawa continue to serve both in the U.S. and abroad in professions that include teaching, health care, counseling, and the arts. About 200 live at Sinsinawa Mound. Many are retired but others work in various ministries and offices. Sinsinawa also has a growing number of associates, women and men who are drawn to Dominican spirituality and who participate in the mission of the order to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.
Sinsinawa Mound includes 450 acres of woods, gardens, and fields as well as a complex of buildings. Its Queen of the Rosary Chapel is a beautifully designed, contemporary-style church with a circular sanctuary. Mahogany pews, marble floors and limestone altars fill its interior, while its fluted ceiling features 37 diamond and half-diamond-shaped windows that tell the Christian redemption story.
The overall effect is stunning, particularly on days when bright sunshine streams through the colored glass. The complex also includes two labyrinths for meditation and prayer, one inside and one out-of-doors. On its lower level, the exhibit “Tracing a Journey” traces the life story of its founder, Father Samuel Mazzuchelli.
Thousands of people come to Sinsinawa each year for a diverse array of programs and guided retreats. Guests are also welcome for private retreats. See the Sinsinawa Mound Center for more information.
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Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of the Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper and Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.