By Brian F. Hogan
The CCHA’s 79th Annual Conference occurred in Waterloo, 28-29 May 2012. Mark McGowan chaired the introductory session and MC Havey of the Redemptorist Archives and Carol Hopp of the Archives of Ontario reviewed the issues involved in archiving, processing and conserving the collection of textual, audio and visual materials produced by Fr. Matthew Meehan, CSsR, over his fifty-one year career of religious broadcasting.
In the day’s second round, three academics representing the fields of theology, religious studies and sociology explored the multi-faceted topic of “History or Theology? The Progress and Prospects of Catholic Studies at Canadian Universities.” Dennis Greco outlined the Catholic Studies programme at the University of Prince Edward Island. Reid Locklin then traced key moments in the development of the “Christianity and Culture” programme at St Michael’s College. David Seljak concluded the session with reflections on the development of St. Jerome’s “Master’s of Catholic Studies” programme. All three papers reflected the complexity of representing Catholic religious issues within secular institutions.
Moderator Patricia Roy chaired an afternoon session focused on two persistent tensions experienced by Canada’s Roman Catholics. The first and final talks dealt with the theme of anti-Catholicism. In his paper investigating Roman Catholic-Protestant relations in Prince Edward Island, Callum Beck of the University of Prince Edward Island followed the warp and woof of these relations across several decades. In his treatment of “Anti-Catholicism in Canada, 1910-1929”, Kevin Anderson of McMaster University employed a series of issues to illustrate how they were regularly exploited to surface vitriolic expressions of bitter bigotry. The session’s second paper presented by Michael Wilcox of the University of Toronto provided an informative review of the lived experience of the language question within Canadian Catholic culture.
The day concluded with the celebration of the annual liturgy, by CCHA Secretary-General Edward Jackman OP at St Jerome’s College. This was followed by a reception and banquet which featured German cuisine. After the dinner, President-General Peter Meehan presented the George Edward Clerk Award to Mark McGowan.
Incoming CCHA President Edward MacDonald acknowledged the generous service of President Jacqueline Gresko with an appropriate gift.
The intricate thematic mix of identity, cultural transfer and religious mentalities was highlighted in two papers presented in the second day’s initial session. McGill’s Colleen Gray examined “The Mental World of Charles de Glandelet (1645-1725), French Priest in the New World”. Continuing the thematic, in a more modern and personal context, Cornelius Jaenen’s paper explored the relationship between Belgian immigrants to Western Canada, and their Catholic faith, over several generations.
The final morning session featured a joint gathering with the Canadian Society of Church History. Here three presenters, Megan Baxter of the University of Western Ontario, Indre Cuplinskas of St Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta, and Christo Avalis of Queen’s University explored issues associated with “Churches and Reform in the Interwar Period.” The papers reviewed the challenges and accomplishments associated with bridging the gap between faith profession and faith expression in the social sphere.
The conference’s final session was entitled “Mixing Politics and Religion: Exploring the Nature of the Irish Catholic Community.” Moderator David Wilson introduced graduate students Laura Smith and Brandon Corcoran of the University of Toronto, currently researching dimensions of Irish Catholic experience in 19th century Bytown.
Edward MacDonald’s concluding paper delved into the question of Ireland’s Repeal Movement of the mid-1850s, as received and expressed on Prince Edward Island. Fittingly, this paper served to reiterate a recurring thread across the fifteen papers and several dozen discussions: namely, that for good or ill, ties among religious, political and social concerns have been thoroughly embedded within Canadian culture over several centuries. These are truly ties that bind even while they sometimes pinch!