The Racine Dominican Sisters arrived in May 1862. One of their first ministries was the education of young people. A parish committee at St. Patrick’s Church prepared the Church basement for a school and soon nearly 200 students were enrolled. No distinction was made as to nationality or religion of the enrolled students and “lessons in singing, music on piano, guitar and melodeon” were offered in addition to “embroidery and fancy needle work.” On June 1, 1862, The Racine Weekly Journal indicated classes were in session.
Within the year, the Sisters were asked to staff nearby St. Joseph School and a year later started teaching at the southside school of St. Mary Parish. St. Catherine’s Academy for young women opened its doors one year later in 1864. Over the next century the Racine Dominicans, in partnership with the Catholic parishes of the community, supported 14 schools educating thousands of young people; Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
Schools supported by the Sisters included:
St. Patrick, St. Joseph, St. Mary, St. Catherine, Holy Name, St. Rose, St. Louis, St. John Nepomuk, Sacred Heart, St. Edward, St. Rita, Holy Trinity, St. Sebastian, St. Lucy
The schools flourished until the 1970’s when a combination of factors led to declining enrollments and over the next several decades a number of the schools closed or merged. In addition, several unrealized initiatives were pursued to increase collaboration across the independently sponsored schools beginning as early as the 1960’s.
In 2010 a new initiative was co-sponsored by the Racine Dominican Sisters and Archbishop Jerome Listecki. The ACE (Alliance for Catholic Education) Consulting group of the University of Notre Dame was engaged to gather input from stakeholders and develop a recommendation. This study was delivered in 2012.
Over the next few years, there were several “stops and starts” targeted at forming a system using other regional models in Appleton, Kenosha, Fond du Lac and Oshkosh as benchmarks. In the fall of 2016, a task force consisting of the Racine Dominicans, Racine Pastors, the Archdiocese and lay Catholic leaders rallied and developed a proposal for a Catholic School system. The proposal was presented to parish leadership and ultimately approved by Archbishop Listecki in May 2017. Formal incorporation followed in July 2017.
Siena Catholic Schools of Racine was born.