By John Norton - OSV Newsweekly, 4/8/2012
In late March I was in southern California for the first few days of the annual Religious Education Congress hosted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — my first time to an event that bills itself as the largest gathering of its kind in the world.
Wow. Next year, I’m going to stay all the way through to the end.
Since its launch 44 years ago, there’s been some controversy surrounding it, particularly with regard to past choices of speakers or avant-garde liturgies.
But what I saw was an extraordinary gathering — some 40,000 people, including nearly 500 from a smattering of other countries — of an extraordinarily diverse group of people who all share a common passion for passing on the Faith to the next generation.
I haven’t had that sense of being part of a “universal Church” since I worked at the Vatican, and witnessed the ebb and flow through St. Peter’s Square of visitors from around the world.
Walking through the vast exhibition hall in the Anaheim Convention Center, it soon became commonplace to turn one corner and see several heavily wimpled nuns poring over religious books; and around the next, several silver-haired nuns in casual business attire happily ready to inspire passers-by in the social-justice cause featured at the booth behind them.
Though religious education was the congress’ focus, the exhibits encompassed much more. In addition to every type of catechetical material imaginable, the booths included Catholic colleges, Catholic magazines, liturgical vestments and furnishings, holy cards and medals, software for parish administration, retreat centers, discounted religious T-shirts and even Vietnamese Catholic artworks.
The first day of the congress is dedicated to young people and their own “Youth Day.” This year drew more than 12,000 teens from across Los Angeles (accompanied by about 2,700 chaperons). They were disgorged from bus after bus in the early morning, their cheerful voices and song cutting through the fog and dark. As the sun rose and the day became clear and bright, the convention center area was a swirling sea of colors, as each group of kids shifted to this or that individual event in their solid-color T-shirts.
The sheer number and variety of speakers — 193 — and the topics addressed is also vast — from dynamiccatholic.com’s Matthew Kelly’s “Finding Catholic Game Changers” and Jesuit Father James Martin’s “Heaven and Mirth: Joy, Humor and Laughter in the Spiritual Life,” to “The Future of Catechesis in the Digital Age” or TV chef Father Leo Patalinghug’s “Food is Love: A Eucharistic Theology for the Family.”
I came back from the event with lots of story ideas (and recharged from visiting one evening with some very good friends). Stay tuned.
Comments? Be sure to write email@example.com.
Please note: Comments left online may be considered for publication in the Letters to the Editor section of OSV Newsweekly.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Catholic Faith Resources | For Catholic Parishes | Order OSV Products | RSS | Advertise | About Us | Contact Us | Jobs