Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In LA, "Merry Congress"

Sure, the national stage is seeing its share of developments in these days... still, with the LA church a fortnight into its Post-Mahony Era, a good bit of American Catholicism's attention turns West this weekend as the largest fold on these shores hosts another edition of its marquee event: the Religious Education Congress.

Set to start tomorrow with the traditional Youth Day, the weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center -- a stone's throw from Disneyland -- brings together over 40,000 catechists, clerics and kibbitzers from all corners for talks, liturgies, receptions and an all-around B12 shot for the work ahead.

As the now-retired cardinal proclaimed last year, Congress "is the largest church gathering like it in the entire world!" And of course, even more eyes will be on Anaheim this year as Archbishop José Gomez attends and leads the mega-gathering for the first time.

Set to be on hand for all four days, the freshly-ascended LA prelate will maintain at least two of his predecessor's traditions for the weekend, holding a public online chat on Friday and hosting the bishops in attendance for dinner that night.

As for the rest of what makes Congress unique -- and beloved and controversial in equally-passionate measures out there -- here's some clips from last year's Friday Opening Rite to set the baseline....

So it's been said, the dancing book-bearers were nixed even before Gomez's February succession. As for the rest, webstreams will abound.

Meanwhile, with St Patrick's Day upon us, it's worth recalling that, for the 24th year, Congress will be presided over by the formidable figure who's perhaps the the Stateside church's most influential "FBI": Religious Sister of Charity Edith Prendergast, whose quarter-century at the event's helm has more than tripled its attendance and made the weekend the primary source of funding for the LA church's religious education efforts year-round.

While Congress invariably sees launches of all sorts, this year's brings a particularly significant rollout as Prendergast releases a new (Mahony-foreworded) book, a compilation of her opening talks through the years.

And with that, back to things Eastern.