MORE THAN 40,000 TO ATTEND LARGEST GATHERING OF CATHOLICS IN THE UNITED STATES THIS WEEKEND IN ANAHEIM
–The 2017 Religious Education Congress will feature: Mass for immigrants, exiles and refugees celebrated by Archbishop Gomez; rally dedicated to raising awareness of death penalty and immigration reform; and special prayer experience to protect the environment, based on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si–
More than 40,000 people of faith from around the world will attend the 2017 Religious Education Congress (RECongress) – the nation’s largest annual gathering of Catholics – this weekend (February 23-26) at the Anaheim Convention Center (800 Katella Ave, Anaheim, 92802).
“I’m excited for this year’s Congress. It’s always a great time for fellowship and prayer,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez, who will lead the opening of the four-day event on Friday, Feb. 24 at the Arena. “And this year’s Congress theme of trust in God is just the message we need to hear in these times of uncertainty and fear in our country. I look forward to Youth Day especially — the chance to pray and share with thousands of young people from across the Archdiocese.”
“Embrace Trust” (¡Confía!) is the theme of the event, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Office of Religious Education, which is open to all who wish to learn more about the Catholic faith or seek personal growth. RECongress kicks off on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 8 a.m. with Youth Day, attended by more than 15,000 adolescents from throughout California and other states, and concludes Sunday, February 26, with a 3:30 p.m. Mass presided by Archbishop Gomez in the Arena.
Highlights of events on Thursday, Feb. 23, through Sunday, Feb. 26, include:
- More than 15,000 adolescents from throughout California and other states will attend Youth Day on Thursday, starting at 8 a.m. It is a day just for youth from many different backgrounds to participate in a rally, liturgy and workshops designed specifically for them.
- On Friday, after the opening ceremony and welcome, Archbishop Gomez will conduct 45-minute live online chat session (10:15 a.m.-11a.m.) with students from St. Francis of Assisi School in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles.
- A death penalty and immigration rally organized by Catholics Against Death Penalty-Southern California, led by Father Chris Ponnet, leader of Pax Christi and St. Camillus Center in Los Angeles, and the Archdiocesan Office of Restorative Justice, will be held on Saturday starting at 11:45 a.m. on the East sidewalk of the Anaheim Convention Center. This year, the rally – which has been held for two decades to advocate for the death penalty – will highlight the need for immigration reform, which could bring relief to hundreds of families of the incarcerated.
- Auxiliary Bishop David D. O’Connell for the San Gabriel Pastoral Region of the Archdiocese will lead a Spanish-language workshop on Saturday from 1-2:30 p.m. on how parish communities can activate to support immigrant brothers and sisters. The workshop will include several testimonials from immigrants of different backgrounds.
- Two Masses focusing on immigrants, exiles and refugees will be celebrated simultaneously in English and Spanish on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. Bishop Robert McElroy of the Diocese of San Diego will serve as celebrant and Archbishop Gomez will concelebrate the English-language Mass held in the Arena. The Spanish-language Mass, held at Convention Hall B, will be presided by Bishop Gerald Barnes, of the Diocese of San Bernardino. Various groups will process up during the beginning of the parallel Masses, including DACA students, Syrian refugees, Haitian refugees and human trafficking victims. After communion, a reflective power point presentation with images of refugees will be shown.
- On Sunday, the RECongress will culminate with a large-scale Mass in the Arena at 3:30 p.m. presided by Archbishop Gomez.
- In response to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si (On Care for Our Common Home), the Sacred Space in the Convention Center’s third floor (Room 304) will offer an ongoing and interactive prayer experience for the protection of the environment generated through a multimedia art exhibition. The Sacred Space includes a prayer Labyrinth, a Chapel, and live musical performances.
During the four days, nearly 200 speakers will conduct more than 300 workshops in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. The event will feature more than 250 exhibitors in Hall A, including the offices and ministries of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and the Dioceses of Orange, San Bernardino and San Diego.
More than 40,000 participants hailing from all parts of the U.S. and nearly 20 countries in Latin America, Europe and Asia, include Catholic school teachers, Catholic school principals, campus ministers, chaplains, directors of religious education, parish administrators, members of youth and young adult ministries, among others.
For more information, visit www.RECongress.org. All Masses celebrated during the four days, as well as keynote speeches and workshops in the Arena will be live streamed via http://www.recongress.org/live.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Media interested in covering the 2017 Religious Education Congress are asked to call the above contacts to coordinate access inside the Convention Center.