A look back at three decades of the L.A. Religious Education Congress
('70s, '80s and '90s)

Office Coordinator,
Office of Religious Education

CHANGING WITH THE TIDES of society and the needs of the Catholic Church, for more than 30 years the Religious Education Congress of Archdiocese of Los Angeles has been educating the leaders and catechists throughout the world. With Congress 2000 it is celebrating three decades at the Anaheim venue.

An early registration book states that Congress is "where all who attend may advance scholastically and spiritually for the benefit of each and the common good of all." We might now use different words to describe the experience, but the essence of the 2000 theme, "Awaken Hope – Shout Jubilee," is the same. We come to Congress to learn, to connect with others in the various ministries, to awaken in us the spiritual potential that will help us continue our work in the Church and in society as a whole. For those early participants and for us now, the annual weekend has been a "Mount Tabor" experience; like the apostles, we don’t always want to "come down from the mountain," but we’re given some wonderful tools to take with us for another year.

What did Congress in the 1970s look like? The focus was on the catechist – referred to then as "CCD worker or teacher" – and his or her skills in the classroom. Workshop topics included themes relevant to what was going on in society, like "The Theology of Ecology" and "The ‘Switched-On’ Generation: God, Love and Rock and Roll." The latest in audio and visual media tools were showcased in workshops such as "Super 8 Movies and the CCD Student." Issues of race and culture began to be addressed in the mid-’70s with a few workshops offered in Spanish and topics such as "The Black Experience."

The forerunner of Youth Day was established as an afternoon event, and Congress evening activities included "sing-a-longs, a dinner-dance and . . . share-ins covering many fields of Confraternity work." Entertainment included Joy, Inc. and Senovia – youth and young adult performing groups, a barbershop quartet, and The Prophets – a group of Chicano students. Bob Hurd and his group Whitebird led workshops and music for liturgies. New and traditional Closing Liturgy songs included "Take Our Bread" by Joe Wise, "Sing of Mary," and "America the Beautiful."

The 1980s at Congress began to dig more deeply into the connection between societal issues and the life of the Church. Topics emerged such as "The Grief Children Experience When their Parents Divorce," "Hidden Child Abuse: Continuing Challenge of the 1980s," and "Relaxation vs. Stress and Burnout." Social justice became a focus with "The Death Penalty: Rambo or Jesus? A Challenge to Christians," and "Careers and Lifestyles: Choices for Justice." Workshops also looked more deeply than ever before at the roles of women and of the laity, and at cultural issues.

New to Congress in the ’80s was the banner contest, media previewing opportunities throughout the weekend, and entire sections of the Registration and Program Guidebooks books in Spanish.

Where are we today? We will come to the Congress 2000 from a society in some ways changing faster than ever before in history. Technology provides many opportunities to reach more people in different ways, but brings new challenges too. Online chat sessions, registration and payment systems; web sites providing information on exhibitors, speakers, and Church documents; CD-ROMs, videos – all of these moving Congress, catechetics and ministry in general, into uncharted, exciting territory.

Church documents of the ’90s have impacted ministry and, in turn, Congress, including the U.S. Catholic Conference’s youth ministry-focused "Renewing the Vision" and "Sons and Daughters of the Light" for young adult ministry. "Sin Fronteras," published by the Comit Episcopal de Baja y Alta California, Sonora y Arizona, discussed multiculturalism and evangelization, while the Catechism and the "General Directory for Catechesis" were revised for the changing Church. "Gather Faithfully Together," written by Cardinal Roger Mahony, has generated discussion and helped to continue some of the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. Vietnamese workshops, liturgies of many characters, young adult events, innovative ways to pray with and to minister to all ages, are just some of ways we are implementing Church teaching in the community.

Generation X, AIDS, inculturation, evangelization, liturgical renewal, the "global village," reconciliation – this year of Jubilee at Congress will no doubt be one stimulating reflection, recollection, renewal and readiness for what is to come in the Church of the Third Millennium.

Appearing in ORE REsponse Newsletter January 2000.


  REVIEWS Index -- See what's been written about Congress!

  Milestones of the Religious Education Congress
  CCD / RECongress history in pictures
  Congress Themes (1956-present)
  RECongress 1970 (photos)
  The CCD: History in the Making (1972)
"A look back at 30 years of Congress" (2000)
"The past history of the Religious Ed Congress" (2001)
"The early days: 'A certain spirit' " (2001)
" 'Congress at 45" (2012)
"Still growing, a half century later" (2016)


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