Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa celebrate 175th anniversary Mass

By Special To The Compass | April 8, 2022

The congregation was founded by Dominican Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli

Some members of the Leadership Council for the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa joined Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison after a Mass celebrating the 175th anniversary of the congregation on March 20. Pictured from left are Srs. Pam Mitchell and Colleen Settles, Bishop Hying, and Srs. Toni Harris (prioress) and Betsy Pawlicki. (Submitted Photo | Special to The Compass)

SINSINAWA, Wis. — The Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa gathered for Mass on Sunday, March 20, in recognition of the yearlong celebration of the 175th anniversary of the congregation. 

Bishop Donald Hying of the Diocese of Madison presided in the Queen of the Rosary Chapel at Sinsinawa Mound. Those present included sisters of the congregation and the leadership councils of neighboring congregations of sisters, co-workers, Dominican Associates of Sinsinawa, and invited guests. Due to continued COVID restrictions, the Mass was livestreamed for others to attend virtually.

Sr. Toni Harris, who serves as the 14th prioress of the congregation, presented the congregation’s history, with their land acknowledgment statement. She described how the motherhouse at Sinsinawa started out under the umbrella of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, was later part of the Diocese of La Crosse and is now in the Diocese of Madison, “but we never moved!”

Dominican Fr. (Venerable) Samuel Mazzuchelli established the congregation in 1847 with a small group of immigrant women. 

 A special Mass for the Sinsinawa Dominican congregation’s 175th anniversary was held at Sinsinawa Mound on March 20. Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison (center) presided and used the chalice of Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli. Those serving as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion were, from left, Srs. Mary Margaret (Marie Antoine) Murphy, Priscilla Torres, Ellie (Francesco) Hoffmann and Laura (Bernal) Goedken; Janice DeMuth (co-worker) and Karen Timmerman (associate/co-worker). (Submitted Photo | Special to The Compass)

“Since then, nearly 3,400 women have made vows as Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. Two more will make perpetual vows in May,” said Sr. Toni. She acknowledged that Lent is not ordinarily the season of celebration. However, she said in closing, “Lives can be miraculously reborn if we find the courage to live them in accordance with the Gospel. 

“Holding this hope,” she continued, “let us fully embrace the challenge of Fr. Samuel that we have heard thousands of times, embrace it in a new way, and set out into the years ahead for ‘any place where the work is great and difficult, but where also with the help of the one who sends us we shall open the way for the Gospel.’”

Bishop Hying gave thanks to God for the congregation and its rich spiritual legacy. 

“Before Wisconsin even became a state, your community was here. None of you look that old, by the way,” he joked. “So many of you have given your entire lives to this work, this mission, this community and to your charism.” 

The bishop reflected on the sisters’ call to religious life, the places they have ministered, and “the people whose lives that have been touched and enriched and informed because of your wisdom, your holiness, your prayer, your consecration. Only God can measure the ultimate impact of nearly 3,400 women radically consecrated to Christ and the service of the Gospel. None of us can ever fully measure or weigh the glory of that impact. This is a beautiful moment to celebrate your legacy.”

Bishop Hying brought forth the Gospel message of surrendering to God, “who is in charge and working out the purpose of salvation.” He spoke of Fr. Mazzuchelli, whose sainthood cause is in process, and his trust  in divine providence and the legacy the sisters and others have continued. 

“For all that has transpired and has been completely a blessing to the world and to the church because of your community, we give thanks and praise,” Bishop Hying said in closing.

To view the Mass online, visit and click on the “on demand” tab.  

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