St. Francis Serenades at Clare Hall, St. Francis, WI

On May 31st, 2020, Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee’s Program Coordinator, Cherrie Hanson invited friends Susan and Jack Nicholson of the musical duo, Frogwater to serenade guests, volunteers and health care workers on the front lawn of Clare Hall. The quiet setting of the building and its arms-open-wide shape seemed acoustically opportune to perform al fresco. Clare Hall, previously a retirement home for the Sisters of Saint Francis of Assisi, became a repurposed safe haven for at risk homeless men and women during the pandemic. The City of Milwaukee partnered with the Archdiocese and the Wisconsin Army National Guard to reopen the unoccupied building. With the help of IFCGM’s Executive Board Treasurer, Rob Shelledy and the Director of Community Relations for the Archdiocese, Lydia Lococo, and Jim Mathy, the Milwaukee County representative at Clare Hall, the serenade project was approved.

The Nicholson’s local legacy includes performing at Irish Fest, County Clare, Summerfest, Shawno Folk Music Festival, and Renaissance Theater Works and UPAF promoting community arts funding and awareness. Their virtuosity spans a repertoire from celtic, folk, blues, classical and a bounty of original compositions. They immediately accepted the chance to gift their talents to brighten the spirits of guests quarantined at Clare Hall. 

Although this live outdoor event was not open to the public to protect everyone involved and maintain social distancing, it was recorded and shared on Facebook.  Jim Mathy from Milwaukee County and his staff provided pizzas and refreshments. The residents and staff were seated outside the Hall for the two hour concert.  We are planning to continue this project as long as there are residents at Clare Hall and approval from county representative, Jim Mathy

St. Francis Serenades on Facebook

Wisconsin Churches can resume services, but many say they are waiting - Interview on WTMJ News:

WISCONSIN (TMJ May 22, 2020) The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee representing more than 20 faiths in Southeast Wisconsin say their 500 different churches, synagogues and temples have also headed online and don’t plan in-person services for awhile.  “Most of the plans are June, July and some of the faith partners are thinking of 2021. Waiting out the whole year,” said Pardeep Kaleka, executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.

President Donald Trump called on governors to deem places of worship “essential” to allow religious services. For Wisconsin, this call comes for a state with no order prohibiting any churches from restricting in-person services. Wisconsin Council of Churches which represents more than a million church members, said the only restrictions in the state are from local health departments and faith organizations themselves. They are urging caution.
TMJ4 news on WIsconsin Churches


How local faith leaders are encouraging social, not spiritual distancing.

On April 23, 2020, Lake Effect Producer Audrey Nowakowsky, talks to faith leaders. Then, our astronomy contributor walks us through an at-home experiment we can do to track the sun’s movements. We learn how gardening can inspire creativity and expend some energy for kids stuck at home. Plus, an essay about mindfulness. Guests included:

  • Pardeep SIngh Kaleka, Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee;
  • Ahmed Quereshi, Islamic Society of Milwaukee;
  • Rabbi Hannah Wallick, Milwaukee Jewish Federation;
  • Bishop Steven Andrew Miller, Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee
  • Jean Creighton, astronomy contributor
  • Melinda Myers, gardening contributor
  • Barbara Miner, writer and essayist
  • Juliana Hatfield, musician
    Listen to broadcast on WUWM's Lake Effect


Returning to Places of Worship - Interview on CBS News:  

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- Along with other businesses and locations reopening, places of worship aren’t far behind. They will reopen their doors at the end of the month.They say they will follow health recommendations, including limited worship and attendance.  “Our comeback plan was put together because it was thoughtful,” said Most Reverend Jerome Listecki, the archbishop of Milwaukee.  Archbishop Listecki announced the “Catholic Comeback” Thursday.  It’s a three-phased approach in returning to parish operations and ministry.“Through the gradual opening, it’ll give pastors the opportunity to see the resources that they need in order to make sure that the environment is kept safe.”  Archbishop Listecki says they’ll be taking safety precautions, including social distancing and deep cleaning and sanitizing after services.  They also recommend people wear masks.During phase one, attendance will be limited to 25-percent capacity.  There will be no choirs and no handshakes during the ‘sign of peace.’

“At Interfaith, our faith partners are really very responsible and really want to assure that their communities are safe,” said Pardeep Kaleka, the executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.  Other places of worship also plan to reopen in stages.  “They’re going to stick with trusting the science and the data and proceed with the caution of the community and understanding that the health of their congregations and the community is the main priority,” said Kaleka.  Leaders say their followers are eager to return to worship, but it’s a sacrifice they have to make for the greater good.  “We’re hopefully keeping people safe and then we can return to our practices basically when we’ve got at least a handle on what’s happening in terms of the spread of the coronavirus,” said the archbishop.  They are still discouraging those with pre-existing health conditions and over the age of 65 from attending services in-person.  
 View full interview on CBS58 news

Free Covid-19 Testing Sites

On Monday, two free Covid-19 testing sites opened in Milwaukee.  The locations are, Midtown Center on 5760 W. Capitol Dr. and UMOS, Inc. on 2701 S. Chase Ave. Both sites are open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.  No appointment or pre-registration is necessary. 

These sites are supported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Wisconsin National Guard.  Governor Tony Evers urges anyone who needs a test to get tested and protect their family and community from the virus.  This is part of a larger statewide effort to increase testing.  There are 51 labs processing a total of 13,797 tests daily.

Another free drive-through testing location provided by Pick ’n Save (The Kroeger Co.) will open on May 14th at 1001 Vel R. Phillips Ave. in downtown Milwaukee. Tests will be available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, then May 18-21 and May 26-29. Community members can register for the tests online. Eligibility will be established using a virtual screening tool that is based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plus recommendations from state and local government.

The Walgreens at 620 W. Oklahoma Ave. in Milwaukee is also offering free drive-thru Covid-19 testing.
You must first complete a questionnaire online before going into the store. Walgreens testing information

MAKING MASKS AT HOME: As recommendations from the CDC are evolving for the use of face masks, here is a easy version you can make at home for personal use: 

Rev. Bobbie Groth, a vital Interfaith Cabinet member of 25+ years collaborated with Dr. Mike Kaplan and Gabriel Green, a healthcare worker, to create a tutorial for a mask that adds a protective layer to a fabric mask. The key is the MERV 13 filter material you put inside the fabric layers to block the viral microns.  The filter material is harvested from furnace filters that can be purchased at Menards and shipped to your home. This step-by-step guide was to encourage people who can sew to make masks independently, and thus protect the supplies of professional grade masks for hospitals. These masks are durable and sanitizable.

Recommending that you always follow the CDC's guidelines:

  • DO NOT purchase N95 masks as these are vital to our healthcare workers right now.
  • Wearing protective masks is NOT a substitute for SOCIAL DISTANCING.


The effects of COVID-19 are taking an emotional, physical and spiritual toll on us all.

On Monday, April 6th, Pardeep Singh Kaleka invited Imam Noman Hussain from the Islamic Society of Wisconsin, Rabbi Noah Chertkoff from Congregation Shalom Milwaukee, and Rev. Dr. Lisa Bates-Froiland from Redeemer Lutheran Church - Milwaukee to discuss how they are staying in touch with their communities and their plans to handle observances of holy days safely. Clergy are leading cooperative worship and study through Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook Live throughout the week.

View our first Interfaith Discussion exploring how faith leaders are helping our communities navigate these challenging times.
Facebook Zoom broadcast, April 6th, 2020