If you haven't been paying attention, I understand. Everybody wants your attention nowadays, and all of us face a thousand experts shouting a thousand opinions. So I'm grateful you're here, following Cardus.
And I'm very pleased to offer my own highlights of Cardus's year, as the grateful president of this enthusiastic young outfit. I won't try to be comprehensive—that's what our yearbook is for. Rather, let me share a few of the items that I'm most excited about.
First, on our research side:
- After getting the best, most representative data ever on religious school graduates in the United States and Canada, we parlayed our gains into an exciting new thing for the Cardus Education file: a research partnership with the University of Notre Dame. And, the research team is going back for the next iteration of US graduate data in 2014. I'm looking forward to the database and new website they're launching in January.
- Just last week, we published a brand new paper that attempts the impossible: tiptoeing forward through the pockmarked battlefield between pro-union and anti-union forces. If the right people listen, it just might work.
- We had an institutional religious freedom law case fall into our laps—Loyola v. Quebec—and we responded. We poked and prodded the conversation across Canada, and convinced both the Calgary Herald and the Vancouver Sun to agree with our position.
- But what I find most exciting is that after seven years of trying, we finally got proposed amendments to Calgary's Centre City Plan onto the council's agenda—and they voted unanimously in favour. Suddenly, faith-based organizations are recognized again in Calgary's governance documents. I'm a former city councillor, and I know that governance documents actually matter. I couldn't be happier that Calgary now formally recognizes FBOs as, among many other things, "a source of stability in the social fabric." And, we're already eyeing other cities in the same boat . . .
Second, in our publications:
- We landed a big fish. James K.A. ("Jamie") Smith is renowned in the Christian community for his speaking and his landmark books Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?, Desiring the Kingdom, and Imagining the Kingdom. Now, he pilots our oldest flagship journal, Comment, working to battle what he calls "a creeping and incoherent secularism at work in our society." Jamie's running his own list of Comment favourites from 2013—check it out on Twitter.
- Easily my favourite moment for Convivium came when editor Raymond de Souza interviewed Canada's Governor General, David Johnston, at the Vatican on the eve of Pope Francis's first Mass. How wonderful to see His Excellency arguing for religious faith as a public good! If you're not a Convivium member, you can still read the interview: I asked the magazine staff to post a free piece of that print issue online.
And for the third piece of our strategy, events:
Convivium and the Hill Family Lecture Series knocked it out of the park. Do you know of another outfit that could (a) draw 400 people—on Toronto's snowiest day—to meet a Hong Kong cardinal and a Canadian cabinet minister; (b) bring a priest, professor, and central banker together to discuss economic virtue; and (c) present a British Lord speaking of faith in our common life? All in a year's work for our events team.
- Because they are private events that I usually need not worry about, our annual Cardus Senior Fellows retreats tend to sneak up on me. But every time I meet these gifted scholars and practitioners, I leave unbelievably inspired, and with an unbelievable list of new books to buy. It's a rare privilege, and I don't take it for granted.
But folks, all the events and reports in the world can't show you what I get to see every day, which form the chief highlights of this year and every year for me as president. You can't appreciate the energetic, dogged, faithful, brilliant, and playful team I get to work with.
- You haven't seen, for instance, the side projects our two talented interns advanced during their summers with us. Andy Bayer developed a unique dataset of directors of Hamilton, Ontario charities, with a view to examining if too much overlap stifles regional innovation. And Emily Scrivens studied transitional housing initiatives for youth emancipating out of the criminal justice system, identifying the moral and economic barriers pushing the marginalized even further out.
- But you probably have seen us making bold moves into new media, new formats, new platforms. You may have even found us for the first time because of these moves. I'm delighted to see Cardus publishing iPad apps and promoting our ideas on video and in new media, and I'm grateful for the media and publications colleagues that make this happen.
I promise, I didn't write the above to make you reach for your wallets. I truly felt moved to simply look back in gratitude. But I'm also keenly aware my staff will ambush my office if I don't point to our year-end fundraising appeal, and encourage you to watch our awesome new video, "We Believe": https://www.cardus.ca/organization/news/205/.
Thank you for patronizing Cardus. I hope and trust we'll earn your continued attention.
Michael Van Pelt