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Dominican sisters celebrate new Siena Retreat Center

Dominican sisters celebrate new Siena Retreat Center

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CALEDONIA — The Racine Dominican sisters Friday evening will hold an invitation-only grand opening of the $8.2 million Siena Retreat Center built last year as part of Siena on the Lake.

The Siena Retreat Center, 5637 Erie St., is part of the three-phase, $68 million Siena on the Lake joint venture between the Dominicans and Lincoln Lutheran of Racine.

The two organizations call Siena on the Lake a “continuing choice living community” on the 26-acre campus where the retreat center is located. In addition to the retreat center and the sisters’ residences, the campus will offer living choices for people 55 and older spanning from independent living to memory care, rehabilitation and skilled-nursing care.

Siena Retreat Center hosts approximately 6,000 people from diverse faith traditions each year through sponsored retreats, spiritual direction, a bookstore and space for private and group retreats.

Sister Diane Poplawski said the center, a nonprofit solely owned by the Dominicans, is in use about 330 days a year.

Siena Retreat Center was founded by the Racine Dominican sisters who, in 1966, opened the doors of their convent to discussion and retreat groups. The need for retreat space and increased retreat offerings grew throughout the decades. Today a staff of 12 and a board of directors serve the mission of the nonprofit, which is to “nurture a spirituality of healing and wholeness in an environment of peace, joy, and beauty.”

The old, 42,000-square-foot center, which was demolished last fall, sat on the southeast end of the Siena campus and had a limited view of the lake, Poplawski said. The new one was built in the northeast corner overlooking the lake shore and a ravine.

The new, 48,000-square-foot, three-story structure, has 68 bedrooms. Updated amenities include private bathrooms, individual heat and cooling controls in all rooms, wireless Internet access and greater handicap accessibility.

“Shades of aqua, azure, and tan, reflective of the natural landscape, enhance the serene setting inside the retreat center,” the Dominicans state.

The center has large and small meeting rooms and two dining rooms, one a small one for private events.

Geographically, 62 percent of retreat center users are from Wisconsin and 93 percent from the Midwest, but the center has had visitors from nearly every state and other countries as well, she said.

As for why people come from far and wide to stay at the center, Poplawski said, “I think people are longing for a quiet, beautiful space in this busy world. ... Our hope is that people come to be renewed and strengthened in their own life, and then, hopefully they bring those gifts to a world that longs for peace and harmony and meaning.”

For more information call 262-898-2590 or visit

Siena on the Lake in three phases

Phase 1, 2013:

- Siena Retreat Center

- Residence for Racine Dominican sisters

- Total cost $17.9 million

Phase 2, 2014:

- Health center consisting of skilled-nursing community and memory assisted living

- Wellness center with rehabilitation therapy gym and multipurpose rooms for alternative wellness such as yoga and Pilates

- Total cost $22.7 million

Final phase, 2015-early 2016:

- 85 independent-living apartments open to the public

- A main dining venue, café’ and various community spaces

- Indoor pool area

- New administrative space for the leadership offices of both the Racine Dominicans and Lincoln Lutheran of Racine.

- Total cost $27.6 million

For more information go to


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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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