Dozens of students, faculty and staff from Loyola Marymount University headed to Anaheim, California, to participate in the annual Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, a four-day event hosted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from March 17-20.
“It is the largest annual Catholic catechetical and liturgical gathering in the world,” said John Flaherty, associate director of Campus Ministry and the chairperson of the Liturgy Committee and music director of the congress. It regularly attracts 40,000+ delegates every year. “LMU’s influence is significant in all areas of Congress,” said Flaherty. “And in terms of the liturgy and worship, when we plan these celebrations, I take as many people and as much of LMU to the experience as I possibly can because students come back inspired and on fire.”
Students volunteer as sacristans and musicians and staff exhibit booths, while faculty, staff and alumni lead and teach workshops and presentations on all manner of significant topics within the Catholic Church today. On the Friday and Saturday evenings of the Congress, six Masses and prayer services are celebrated simultaneously. This year, on Friday, Jesuits, all of whom had some type of connection to LMU, served as the presiders at all of the masses. Flaherty said the experience of being involved in Congress and in LMU’s liturgies prepares students to serve in parishes. “They will be able to step forward in their communities long after they leave LMU because of what they learned at LMU to help in worshipping communities all across the country and throughout the world.”
Robert A. Hurteau, director of the Center for Religion and Spirituality, said he believes it is mutually beneficial for LMU to have a strong presence at the congress. “The benefits go both ways for LMU and the Church. LMU benefits from being in contact with religious educators and pastoral leaders, so that we can shape our offerings to better serve their needs,” said Hurteau. “And the Church benefits from learning about the academic resources we offer for religious educators and pastoral ministers.” The CRS booth at Congress was well attended.
Sister Rosemarie Nassif, S.S.N.D., executive director of the Center for Catholic Education, said that the Congress is a wonderful way to network because every diocese in California is represented. “We learn a lot by intermingling with all Catholic school teachers and administrators throughout California,” said Nassif. “We also network with the organizations at different booths – learning more about opportunities for partnering and for engaging our center.” Nassif said that the several of the candidates for Partners in Los Angeles Catholic Education (PLACE) Corps, Catholic Archdiocesan School Teachers (CAST), Catholic School Leadership Academy and Blended Learning through Innovation in Digital Education and Leadership (iDEAL) learned about the programs during Congress. But she said she believes the most significant part of the congress is the inspiration of Catholics gathering from all around the world. “They are coming together to share faith, vocations and mission to create a better world,” said Nassif. “Sharing liturgy in many languages lights the fire in hearts joining together.”