February 2001



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Learning in Faith for All Ages

ANAHEIM -- Embracing the theme "Clothed in Love, Summoned Beyond," more than 20,000 religious educators will gather at the Anaheim Convention Center February 16-18 for the 31st annual Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. Additionally, approximately 10,000 high school students in grades 9-12 will participate in Youth Day, which kicks off the four-day event on February 15.

Through workshops, multicultural liturgies, prayer services, and entertainment, the Congress seeks to spiritually revitalize, enrich and educate participants who journey from all parts of the United States and Europe.

"The Congress is for all people involved in religious education," said Ruth Bradley, Director of the Office Religious Education for the Diocese of Orange. "From the beginning catechist to the accomplished professional teacher, the Congress offers a setting for spiritual uplifting, and an opportunity to hear top-notch speakers in the field of religious education."

Youth Day will begin with morning music by the Irish pop-rock group Ceili Rain, and the Ohio-based group Who Do You Say That I Am?, followed by comments from Father Tony Ricard, the pastor and parochial administrator of two New Orleans parishes-Our Lady Star of the Sea and St. Philip the Apostle. Father Ricard will address the theme of the Congress. A total of 13 offerings each in the morning and afternoon workshops will

explore such topics as "The 411 on `R-U-Saved?"' with Msgr. Ray East, a nationally known inspirational speaker, and "Scripture Rocks!," an interactive presentation on utilizing the Bible in our daily lives, featuring Carole Goodwin, Director of Youth Ministry for the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky.

Cardinal Roger Mahony will preside over the Youth Day liturgy, with music from parish and school choirs from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles under the direction of Ed Archer of St. Monica's Parish in Santa Monica. Two rallies will close the day, highlighting the day's speakers and musicians.

"Not only does Youth Day unite Catholic youth, but it is a great day of evangelization and witness to our Catholic faith," said Nancy Hormuth, Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Orange. "It is a powerful day for our youth, who spiritually take away not only many insights, but also a strong feeling of connectedness to their Catholicism."

The remainder of the weekend will be designed for religious educators, who will have the opportunity to participate in three 90-minute workshops daily, with 27 sessions during each time period.

Bishop Rembert Weakland, O.S.B, Archbishop of Milwaukee, will give the keynote address, titled "Leading Through Service," which will emphasize ministry as a service that involves teaching and leading.

Other workshops and speakers will include:

Rev. Msgr. Thomas J. Hartman and Rabbi Marc A. Gellman -- regular Good Morning  America correspondents who are popularly known as the "God Squad" -- will speak about the spiritual dynamic of forgiveness and its impact on our spiritual and physical well being.

"Dead Klan Walking-The Journey Continues": Portrayed by Academy Award-winner Susan Sarandon in the film Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., will share her experiences inside prisons, most notably with death row inmates. Her book Dead Man Walking has been translated into 10 languages and is currently being made into an opera.

"Abortion: Soul Wound of the World": Victoria Thorn, founder and Executive Director of ~the Milwaukee-based National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing, established Project Rachel in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Thorn has overseen the formation of similar programs in 100 Catholic dioceses. She will discuss the impact of abortion in the lives of Generation X.

= `I Like Being Catholic": Michael Leach, a leader in Catholic book publishing, and Therese Johnson Borchard, author of several books on Catholic traditions, base this workshop on their book of the same name. The speakers asked American Catholics from all walks of life to share their stories and traditions.

In addition to workshops, there are several opportunities to attend multicultural and group-oriented liturgies throughout the three days, including Byzantine, Hispanic, Jazz, Asian, Healing, Hispanic (Mariachi), Nigerian/African-American, and Young Adult.

Overseeing the entire operation of the Congress is Adrian Whitaker, Congress Coordinator. From booking speakers (some up to two years in advance) to organizing liturgies to finalizing workshops and overseeing between 500 and 600 volunteers and 160 vendors in 350 booths, Whitaker plans the Congress a year in advance. To her, though, all of the organization is well worth it when Congress comes to its fruition.

"There is a presence at [the] Congress that I don't think can be matched anywhere else in the United States at any other conference, " she said. "When I walk through the Congress area, I see people coming out of workshops and sometimes you can tell that they have been emotionally touched-they are holding each other, crying and sharing parts of their lives as they open up.

"When I see the Congress, I say, `This is church.' "   OCC



Copyright 2001  Orange County Catholic -- February 2001