Milwaukee CRC

Group Leader: Robert Beezat
Contact: [email protected]

Next meeting(s):

Milwaukee: Thursday, September 17 at 7 PM at Panera’s on Layton Avenue in Milwaukee.

Past Meeting Minutes

August 5, Milwaukee

Because one of our members, Tom McGovern had a Letter to the Editor in the current issue, we discussed The Green Road and An Unlikely Union articles from the July 10 issue which he referred to in his letter.  That discussion led to a more general discussion of labor unions in the US and Europe.  One of our members, Paul Misner, has just written a book titled Catholic Labor Movements in Europe: Social Thought and Action, 1914-1965.

We also discussed the letters to the editor in the current issue related to Confirmation; “How to Do a Funeral” by Fr. Nonomen; “The More You Know” by Jo McGowan; “Under God” by Andrew Bacevich; and “Mercy For the Remarried” by Cathleen Kaveny.  Since most of us received our current issue a day or two before our meeting, we did not get any further except to briefly discuss Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment and the economy.

May 20,  Milwaukee

We focused mainly on the May 15 issue.  And some of our members had already gotten their June 1 issue, so we had some discussion about the “Theists vs. Atheists” letters and a little on “The Elephant at the Synod” article.

May 19, Racine


This was the general sense of our group in Racine this morning after talking about articles in the two most recent issues of Commonweal (April 10 and May 1).  We met at Circa Celeste Café in Racine and they were very accommodating, lowering the background music to a level which did not interfere with our stimulating, refreshing, and fun discussion.

We started our discussion about the article by Cardinal Kasper about “How Francis Sees the Church.”  We then moved on to “American Reckoning.” We also discussed “A Theory of Everything,” “A Place and Time Apart,” and “In God and Mammon We Trust.”

April 2, Racine & April 15, Milwaukee

As usual, we discussed a number of topics in the last 3 issues of Commonweal (March 6 and 20, and April 10).   We discussed “How We Train Our Priests;” “Unity, Not Uniformity;” “Papal Economics;” “Preparing to Be Unprepared;” “Share the Wealth;” “Soft Thinking, Hard Problems;” “”Does Method Matter?” “No Longer Docile;” ‘Faith on the Front;” ‘Open House;” “ Nonexistent & Irreplaceable;” and “Unexceptional.”

February 19, Racine & February 25, Milwaukee

We discussed a number of articles from the February 6 and February 20 issues including the following: “True Confession;” “Victims , Not Heroes;” “A listening Church;” “Right the First Time;” “History and Divinity” the book review of How Jesus Became God; “Peripheral Vision” a book review of The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope; the book reviews “Loose Ends” and “Shaving Ockham;” “Hidden Behind Words;” “An Ambassador to the End;” “What Christians Owe Jews.”   Finally, some of the Milwaukee group got their March 6 issue the day before our meeting on February 25.  So we discussed “How We Train Our Priests” a little and will discuss it more at our next meeting.

January 13th, Racine & January 20, Milwaukee    

As usual, we talked about a number of articles at our discussions.  Having several members in Racine with Italian heritage, we discussed the “Pieta and Meatballs” book review.  In both groups we discussed the book review of Evolution, Games, and God and ‘Til Death Do Us Part.”  We also discussed the “Mario Cuomo, Politician” editorial and “The Conscience of Mario Cuomo” article.  “Seeking Refuge: Life and Death at the Border” was also discussed.

One fun happening at our Milwaukee meeting is that Panera’s was closing at 9 PM and we were still talking at 8:30 PM, the Panera’s staff were clearing their shelves of product so that there was room for fresh stuff made during the night.  They came to our table with bags of bagels for each of us to take home.  We weren’t sure if they thought if they gave us free bagels, we would leave or if we just looked hungry.  Maybe other CRC groups could meet at Panera’s as well and see if they get free bagels too. 

Also in Milwaukee,Tom McGovern gave us a report on his trip to New York in October for the Commonweal Conversation event, which he enjoyed very much. When he showed up for lunch at the Commonweal office a couple of days later, he said the staff was all pretty wiped out from preparing for and hosting the event but were gracious in hosting him anyway. 

December 2, Milwaukee

We had very good discussion among the Milwaukee Commonweal Readers Community (CRC) on December 2. Two new folks joined us, Paul Misner and John Cooper.  Nancy Moews and Mike Daun were also in attendance, plus me.  Three other folks wanted to come, but had to attend to other business.

November 25, Racine

We talked about a number of articles including the following in the October 24 issue: The “Two Faiths” from the Editors; “Consider This”; “That ‘70’s Church”; “The Commonweal Catholic”; and the “Formative Years” articles with particular interest in our CRC liaison’s article including her reference to the mysterious “leader of our Milwaukee CRC group."  We all agreed that Christian Wiman’s poem with images of anusless angels and dry-cleaned deacons was a waste of space and paper. Please, can you find some poets who write understandable poetry with insightful  and beautiful images and glorious language?

In the November 14 issue, we discussed “Pope Frank” From the Editors; “Blessings in Disguise” about Marilynne Robinson. I had read it based on a review in the New York Review of Books. I heartily recommended it to the group but suggested they read the Commonweal article after they read the book (some spoiler alerts).

In the September 26 issue, we talked about “Smart Money” and “At Rome’s Mercy.”

As always an interesting and lively discussion with hot coffee while the weather was about 15 degrees outside and the streets and sidewalks were slick with ice.  But you can’t keep a group of Commonweal readers down.

August 28, Racine

In addition to our regular Commonweal readers, one of our members brought a friend who is not Catholic and never heard of Commonweal.  But he is a thoughtful person and active in his Protestant Church for many years.  We spent most of our time talking about the “Francis Effect” articles (Massimo Faggioli, "The Italian Job" and James L. Fredericks, "Francis's Interreligious Friendships"), and it was enlightening to hear the perspective of someone who is not a Catholic but is a faith-filled person.  We hope he comes back to join us in the future.  (Who wouldn’t want to hang out with a bunch of Commonweal readers?  We hope!) As part of our discussion on the Pope, we also talked about the “Shrine to Humility” book review.  One of our discussion group members has been there, and so we got a personal viewpoint as well.  We discussed the “Borderline” editorial.  Finally, we spent some time discussing “When a Deeper Need Enters”

July 29, Milwaukee

We started out talking about the movie “Ida.”  One of our members saw it.  One of our members is a retired Chair of the History Department at a Wisconsin University who’s are of concentration was European history, so her perspective added a lot to our discussion.  As always, when I read Commonweal and participate in CRC discussions, I learn a lot of new things. The discussion regarding European history led us to a discussion about Fascism and its connection to Catholic Social Teaching following “Rerum Novarum.”  We wanted to discuss Liam Callanan’s short story “Exhibit A” with him because he lives in Milwaukee.  Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for him, he is on vacation this week with his family.  We hope he can make the next meeting.  We also discussed the “Merciful God, Merciful Church” article/interview; “The Duplicity of the Ideologues”; “Catholic & Libertarian”; and “Cruel But Not Unusual.” 

Finally, we talked about poetry.  One of our members brought in a poem by James Dickey titled “At Darien Bridge.”  Unlike most of the poetry we find in Commonweal and other publications, this one was understandable.  As one of our members said, it is good enough to invest some time in re-reading and further thought and study.  We would appreciate it if Commonweal  would have an article or two about understanding the kind of poetry that is in ­Commonweal and many other publications, most of which we cannot understand and appreciate, though we would very much like to do so.

July 17, Racine

We had another fun and interesting Racine Commonweal Readers Community meeting at Wilson’s Coffee and Tea in Racine.

As always, the conversation touched on a lot of topics related to religion, politics, and culture. We began by discussing the “Catholic & Libertarian” article.  Since Racine is part of Paul Ryan’s Congressional District, we are all pretty familiar with Mr. Ryan and his interpretation of Catholic Social Teaching.  We also talked about “The Duplicity of the Ideologues” article.  We pretty much agreed that when reading the letter from Kenneth Woodward about the LCWR that Mr. Woodward should lie down with a cool cloth on his head and relax.  We talked about “The Larger View” article and the short story, “Exhibit A.”  Somehow, that got us into a discussion about poetry today and how hard it is to understand poetry, including most of the poems in Commonweal.  Some of us have loved poetry for years but have found that poetry in general over the last 30 plus years has become difficult to understand.  We read the poems once, then twice, and then say “Uhm, what is the poet saying and what am I missing?”  Maybe Commonweal can do an article or two about modern poetry and how  maybe we should be reading it to understand what the poets are saying.  We also talked about the article on Cardinal Kasper and the articles on same-sex marriage.

Finally, we wondered if Commonweal could do some articles on how do you talk with family and friends when we have very different perspectives on the religious, political, and cultural topics covered in Commonweal.  How should a person respond when someone at a family gathering makes statements with which we disagree, without turning the dinner into a battleground or a “no response” which could signal acquiescence with the opinion?  A little wisdom from Commonweal’s stable of thinkers and writers would be appreciated.

June 24, Milwaukee

As usual, we talked about a range of articles touching on “religion, politics, and culture” as covered Commonweal’s last few issues.  The Spring Book Review issue sparked a lot of discussion.  One of our members read the book The Sleepwalkers.  That sparked a lot of discussion about the 1st World War and its implications regarding our current issues in the Middle East.  It also led us to discuss John Connelly’s review of Not I: Memoirs of a German Childhood.  We talked about the Chris Wiman article and his book, My Bright Abyss which one of our members had read.  We discussed the interview with Cardinal Kasper.  We also discussed the three part article on same sex marriage which also led to some discussion of the Synod on the family which the Vatican is engaged in.  Finally, we congratulated one of our members, Tom McGovern, who is going to the Commonweal Conversations celebration in NY this October.  We all agreed that it would be a wonderful idea if one year soon, the Commonweal Conversations event would be held in Chicago so more of us Midwesterners would be able to attend.

April 5, 2014, Racine

February 25, 2014, Milwaukee

February 6, 2014, Racine

January 24, 2014, Racine:

We added a new member to our group this morning, Paulette Berggren.  She joined Laura Gellott, Br. Michael Kadow, Mike Frontier, Tony Rottino and myself.

We had a fun, lively and interesting discussion about several articles in the January 24 issue.  We spent most of the time on “Darwin’s Tree of Life” article by Elizabeth Johnson as well as other books some of us have read by her such as She Who Is and Friends of God and Prophets.  Part of our discussion of the Darwin article focused on evolution of the brain.  During this discussion we talked about a documentary which one member of our group saw part of called “Free the Mind”  based on the work of Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  We thought that one of our future Commonweal Readers Community meetings should be structured around viewing this film together and discussing it in terms of some of the themes raised in the Darwin article.

We spent a good amount of time discussing the articles by James Fredericks and Andrew Bacevich re: “American Innocence: Niebuhr & the Ironies of History – An Exchange.”

We also discussed two articles by J. Peter Nixon which appeared in earlier issues of Commonweal on Obamacare.

January 21, 2014

We had a small but hearty group at last Tuesday’s Milwaukee Commonweal Readers Community at Panera’s in Oak Creek.  Temperatures at 3 degrees above zero and falling after several inches of snow earlier in the day cut down on attendance.  I got a few emails and/or texts earlier in the day that people would not be able to make it that night.

So the group was just me, Don Sass, and Tom McGovern.  We did have some interesting discussions about a number of articles from the last several issues of Commonweal.  I will not attempt a summary of our discussions but will list some of the articles we talked about.

October 25 Issue: “We Will Not Bleed”

November 15 Issue: “Painting the Jewish Jesus” and “A Bold Piece” on Alice McDermott’s new book

December 6 Issue: “Raising Catholics: A Symposium

December 20 Issue: “I Do, Undone” and articles on Obamacare by Charles Morris and J Peter Nixon.  “Heard on High” about Wallace Stevens.  “Making the Past Present.”

January 10 Issue: “Shadowplay” articles and “Voracious” on Sartre.

January 24 Issue:  Most of us had just gotten that issue a day or two of the meeting, so we did not have time to read much but we talked a little about Niebuhr and Bacevich.

All in all, we touched on a broad range of subjects, which is what Commonweal is all about.  It was fun and interesting and I always learn new things from the articles in Commonweal and the readers who have joined in the conversation.


November 2, 2013

We had some interesting discussions about articles which appeared in the September 27,  October 11, and October 25 issues of Commonweal.  We spent quite a bit of time discussing David M. Kennedy’s book review “We Will Not Bleed” which reviewed Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country by Andrew Bacevich.  We also spent time discussing “A New Balance,” the editorial from the October 11 issue.  We also liked the letter from Paul Stubenbort of Bensalem, PA on Christians involvement in secular democratic hopes and to “marshal every Christian to support the best in their politicians.”  We also spent some time discussing John Garvey’s article, “An Imperfect Union: When Church & State Marry,” and John Cavadini’s article, “Why Study God: The Role of Theology at a Catholic University.”


First Meeting: September 22, 2013

We found out most of us have readers of Commonweal for many years, some continuously and some off and on.  One member of the group was a rather recent subscriber.  One member of the group had an article published in Commonweal and several of us have had letters to the editor appear in Commonweal.  We had a wonderful time meeting and hearing from each other about our background and experience and why we showed up at this first meeting.  Mostly it was because we wanted the chance to talk with other Commonweal readers about articles we read in Commonweal but do not usually have a chance to share ideas and exchange opinions about what we have read.

We used the packet of reading regarding Issues in the Contemporary Church which Commonweal had prepared.  We spent most of the time talking about "A Modus Vivendi? Sex, Marriage, and the Church" and "Further Adrift: The American Church's Crisis of Attrition."  And since it was only a few days after Pope Francis's lengthy interview for America magazine and other Jesuit publications, we spent some time discussing that news as well. It was a bit ironic that we spent part of our first Commonweal meeting discussing an article from America magazine.  Maybe someday when we get a laywoman elected Pope, she will grant an important interview to Commonweal!!