New magazine brings faith to public square

  • October 19, 2011

More than two years in the making, Canada has a new magazine that intends to inject the voice of faith into public debates.

Convivium, which published its preview issue Oct. 18, is modelled on the influential American publication First Things. And just as First Things has been praised as an important vehicle to explore the delicate relationship between religion and society, Convivium publisher Peter Stockland hopes to engage religious-minded Canadians in public debates about the serious moral and cultural issues of our times.

“We want the magazine to appeal to anyone who would agree that it is proper and interesting to have people of faith active in the citizens’ square,” Stockland said.

Stockland and the magazine’s editor, Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, are both Catholic Register columnists. So Convivium will certainly be catholic in outlook even though it is not strictly labelled a Catholic magazine. It is being published through the Cardus Centre for Cultural Renewal, a leading Canadian religious think-tank.

Convivium is the Latin phrase for living together. Convivium magazine’s goal is to foster community by engaging educated readers who share an interest in religion, politics and culture in a public dialogue that, Stockland says, is not currently happening in Canada.

The preview issue hit the streets with limited distribution in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa. Starting next February, the magazine will be published six times annually.

For the launch issue, de Souza debuts with an article about the “incarnate message” of Marshall McLuhan and the politics of Jack Layton’s death. The issue also features an essay by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J.,  on the new missal and a piece by former NDP MP Bill Blaikie on the social gospel roots of the NDP. There are also articles by National Post religion writer Charles Lewis and an examination by Jan Harvey and David Kilgour of Chinese human rights abuses.

Stockland said the magazine has been launched with the help of some “generous people” who believe in the project.

“We have been fortunate enough to get some money in the bank to get the magazine launched and established,” he said.

The initial issue will be free, said Stockland, so as to “reach out to as many people as possible.”

“We want people to become aware of what the magazine is all about. But long term, we want it to become a magazine that people want and will support.”

That support will come in the form of Convivium memberships at $50 annually. Members who join this community will receive six magazines per year plus have exclusive access to members-only benefits that could include things like lectures and seminars. 

“We want it to be something like the National Geographic model, where subscribers are invited to participate in exclusive events and receive other special offers,” Stockland said.

The magazine is the “flagship” of a broader Cardus initiative called the Convivium Project that is being created to “engage Canadians who take faith seriously as an essential part of the conversation we have about our life together.” The project’s ultimate objective is to develop a strong voice for the role of faith and religion in public life.

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