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“On the ledge east of Fond du Lac there are seven springs. I saw one of them and looked for the others. It is a beautiful piece of land. 
Oh, how I wish that the Agnes Sisters might some day live on this beautiful land watered by the springs.” 
— Excerpt from the journal of Father Caspar Rehrl, founder of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes


The motherhouse of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes is a multipurpose building provides living space for thirty sisters, a chapel, offices, and meeting rooms for daily business. The first residents moved in on February 5, 2002. Father Rehrl’s prophetic words made preservation of the land and the springs a priority in deciding where to build, what materials to use, and how to landscape the grounds.

The Hoffman Corporation of Appleton, Wisconsin was selected as architect and general contractor. In 1996, Hoffman had designed Nazareth Court and Center, a long-term care facility for the congregation. The focus of the design for the building was responsible stewardship of resources. Natural and locally available building materials were selected, including the stone used inside and outside: Niagara Drift from a nearby quarry. Gravel and stone from the foundation of the barn that was previously located on the property were crushed and recycled into pavement for the driveway. Barn boards were carefully removed for recycling and beams and arches were given to Amish farmers for their future building needs.


The Lobby

The lobby entrance was designed as a place of welcome and hospitality. The result is an artistically designed gathering area providing space to display elements from the history and mission of the congregation. Early in the design process, a decision was made to keep the area simple and uncluttered. Materials used include stone, rocks, reflective colored lighting, and muted earth tones for wall colors. When people enter into the space there is a shift from the world they came from into a contemplative setting full of tranquility and peace. 

On the five-foot soffit encircling the lobby midway up toward the domed ceiling is an artistic interpretation of the CSA history in line form. The CSA mission statement, written in both English and Spanish, reflects the reality of CSA membership. Dichroic glass was used to capture the light from the windows which are high up in the dome walls. Behind the reception desk is a glass wall display corridor providing space for photographs of our sisters in ministry. 

Lobby Mural

The mural in the lobby alcove depicts the town of old Barton in the 1850s which was the site of the first convent for CSA. Barton, Wisconsin is located on the edge of West Bend and the original building is now under the care of the historical society of the West Bend. The two sisters featured are Mother Agnes Hazotte who was called the “child of destiny” by Father Rehrl when named the general superior at age 17 years. She continued in that role until her death forty years later. Her blood sister, Lidwina, joined her and was the novice director for twenty years for the congregation. 

Stairwell Stained Glass Windows

St. Agnes of Rome: St. Agnes, a member of an aristocratic Roman family, was martyred in 304 during the last great persecution of Christians by the Emperor Diocletian. Only twelve or thirteen years of age at the time of her death, she was buried in the catacombs. She soon became an object of popular devotion and a church was soon erected over her tomb. It was here at the Basilica of St. Agnes that one of the three founders of the Congregation, Father Caspar Rehrl prayed, asking her to send him young women to help teach the children of the immigrants then pouring into Wisconsin. In turn, he pledged to name the community in her honor.
St. Clare of Assisi: St. Clare, at the age of eighteen, was moved by the example and teaching of St. Francis. Determined to serve God in poverty, she ran away from home to follow Francis. She was soon joined by other women and, with Francis, founded a monastic order dedicated to manual labor and prayer. Originally called the Poor Ladies, the community is known today as the Poor Clares. Clare died on August 12, 1253. It was on her feast day in 1858 that three young women became the first to attempt to give life to Father Rehrl’s dream of a society which would help him bring his vision to life.

Sisters’ Residential Area

The building’s structure allows for multi-purpose uses into the future as necessary. The design of the members’ living areas provides for independent living households. Four to five sisters can live in a household with each having her own bedroom and bathroom while sharing a kitchen, dining room, living room, and laundry room. A library, music room, computer room, activity room, and exercise area are spaces shared among the households. First floor living areas have attached garages and storage space.


The chapel and lobby entrance are round representing the circle of life. Bridging the chapel and lobby areas is a walkway with the stream flowing under it representing the flow of life connecting CSA members to the earth and nature. The celebration of Eucharist is at the center of members’ lives and so is the chapel. All the major hallways lead to this place of worship.
Mark Joseph Costello, OFM, Cap. served as the chapel architect. The intention was to create a sacred space for worship honoring the art and architecture of the space while also inviting in the beauty of nature. The materials selected were wood and stone, a reminder of CSA’s pioneering roots and beginnings in Wisconsin.

At the entrance of the chapel is a stone water font symbolizing baptism, the beginning of the faith life for Catholics. The four cornerstones embedded into the stone pillars at the entrance represent three expansions to the 390 E. Division Street building and the new motherhouse. They show that life is a process of letting go and beginning anew. Home for the sisters is not a permanent place, but rather who they are as women and where their faith journey calls them.

Artifacts from previous convents were incorporated into the new building. Among the items brought from the 390 E. Division Street motherhouse are lead glass doors for the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and altar marble used to frame the tabernacle.

Circling the inside of the chapel are twelve stone pillars defining a space for communal prayer around the table of the Lord, all under a domed ceiling. The lectern and the altar table are constructed of natural cherry and bronze elements.

The Story of the Windows

The stained glass windows were inspired by the springs which first brought the pioneering women to settle in this location in Fond du Lac. These springs have played an important role in the physical and spiritual nourishment of the community. The opal blue glass swirls represent how the water flows across the grounds and beneath the corridor leading to the chapel. The bright horizontal and vertical bands of more transparent bubbly glass represent the water flowing underground and coming to the surface. The bright horizontal bands of red, orange, yellow, and violet may be seen as threads in a tapestry that tie the panels together and, like the individuals of the community, are randomly unique but collectively harmonious and orderly. The circular rhythms symbolize many things in both the world and beyond, but also respond to the architectural theme of the space. The glass is carried out into the gathering area and over the entrance doors. The introduction of some beveled glass also connects to the historic doors of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

The windows were fabricated almost entirely by women at Derix Glasstudios in Taunusstein, Germany. The glass was made by Lamberts Glassworks in Waldsassen, Germany specifically for this project. The were designed by Guy Kemper, a painter who often collaborates with master glass blowers and craftspeople to translate his paintings into glass, mosaic, and sculpture.


The landscaping design includes restoration to native prairie land and tall grasses, the use of native plant materials to attract birds and butterflies, the preservation of wetlands, the reintroduction and planting of an oak and hickory forest, and the creation of miles of walking paths and two ponds. Stones bordering the ponds were donated from a local farmer’s fields where they had been used as a fence line.