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Mission and History

Dominican University established the St. Catherine of Siena Center to examine critical issues of church and society in the light of faith and scholarship. The center calls together members of the university community, professional ministers and the wider community of faith who are committed to deepening their insight into the role of the Christian in today's world.

Like St. Catherine of Siena, the center is concerned with the Church's mission of justice in the world and its own continuous and faithful reform. As St. Catherine responded to the intellectual and ministerial needs of the Church in her day, so the Center is dedicated to the pursuit of truth and creation of a more just and humane world now.

The Center addresses these issues in a variety of ways; including lectures, symposia, conferences, workshops, retreats, research and discussion groups. The Center's advisory council serves to assist in strategic planning.

Major Programs

Each academic year, the Siena Center explores a new theme tied to a pressing contemporary social, cultural or ecclesial issue. Past series, for example, have examined environmental sustainability, interreligious dialogue, the common good, immigration, and the role of the arts in worship. We seek to involve members of the wider community as well as the Dominican University community in an on-going conversation with some of the sharpest minds and finest exemplars of the Christian tradition.

The Mazzuchelli Lecture, a long-standing tradition at Dominican University, focuses on topics of cultural significance. It honors Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli, the founder of the Sinsinawa Dominicans, sponsors of Dominican University. The Siena Center is pleased to co-sponsor the Mazzuchelli Lecture with Dominican University’s Promoter of Mission Integration.

In November, the Albertus Magnus Lecture honors the Dominican saint who is patron of scientists, as we explore the relationship between science and religion. It takes place on or near November 15, the feast day of St. Albert the Great. The Albertus Magnus Society, a gathering of persons who share an academic, professional or general interest in exploring issues related to the intersection of religious belief or experience and scientific insight, meets regularly throughout the academic year in the pursuit of new information and insight in a setting that is both scholarly and congenial.

Each Advent, when the church looks forward in hope, we ponder signs of the fulfillment of God's reign in the church or the larger world. During Lent, a time of reconciliation, we consider the many places where reconciliation is needed and where healing is taking place. 

The Caritas et Veritas Lecture, was renamed the Diane Kennedy, OP Lecture in 2014, supports the mission of Dominican University by exploring a dimension of the Dominican tradition. Formally hosted each year around the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, January 28, this lecture now occurs in March, the month of Sr. Diane's birthday.  Diane Kennedy, OP, DMin,‘55, was Dominican University’s founding Vice President for Mission and Ministry. Currently, her role is the Promoter of the Cause for Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP. She has served for over 50 years in the ministry of educating and animating communities in the Dominican Catholic intellectual tradition.

Finally, toward the end of each academic year, the St. Catherine Lecture honors the center's namesake as one committed to the call of the baptized to transform the world. This lecture reflects St. Catherine's commitment to the continuing reform of the church; it takes place each year near the time of her feast, April 29.

In these events we seek to explore a diversity of contemporary social and church issues, including business ethics, health care, liturgical reform, war and peace, church authority and governance, social justice and the role of the arts in worship. We seek to involve members of the wider community as well as the Dominican University community in an on-going conversation on these issues.

Siena Center Staff

Rachel Hart Winter, PhD, Director

Rachel is an ethical theologian who brings a wealth of experience in scholarly research, higher education administration and teaching, and pastoral ministry to the work of the Siena Center. She graduated from Lehigh University with a Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Neuroscience, earned a Master of Theological Studies degree at Loyola University Chicago, and recently completed her doctoral dissertation: Just Water: A Catholic and Feminist Response to the Commodification of Water. Her theological interests lay at the intersection of ecology and theology, drawing from the Bible, Catholic social teaching, ecotheology and feminist theory. During her years at Loyola, Rachel also worked in both University Ministry and at the Joan and Bill Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage. Previously, she served as a Jesuit Volunteer in the Marshall Islands and as associate director and operations manager at Jesuit Volunteers International. In addition to directing the Siena Center, Rachel serves on the Board of the Foundation for Adult Catechetical Teaching Aids and is a Member of Alpha Sigma Nu: the Honor Society of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. She is married to Patrick Winter, and has two sons, Joseph and Thomas, and one daughter, Catherine. Hart Winter published a book with a team of scholars from around the world on an interdisciplinary textbook that integrates ecology, ethics, and spirituality called Healing Earth through the International Jesuit Ecology Project.

She can be reached at