Religion Conference Attracts CSU East Bay Students

Mark Laluan / The Pioneer

Mark Laluan

A gospel choir performs at the Black Culture Mass at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, which saw 40,000 in attendance including CSU East Bay’s Catholic Club.

The members of CSU EastBay’s Catholic Club joined over 40,000 in attendance at this year’s Los Angles Religious Education Congress (LA Congress).

From March 18 to 20, 308 workshops and 250 exhibitors organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angles covered a wide variety of topics ranging from leadership development to trends affecting the Catholic Church.

Before the weekend’s events, on March 17, a “Youth Day” was organized which catered to high school-aged teens. This day-long rally attracted Catholic youth from across the nation.

LA Congress represents one of the largest gatherings of religious educators and clergy in the entire nation. Attendance was not limited to professing Catholics as lecturers and attendees from other Christian denominations and other faiths were also in attendance.

The weekend’s events began briskly on Friday with a Mass held at 8:30 a.m. to open the festivities. The rest of the weekend was filled with workshops, more Masses and surveys of the exhibition floor. Kiosks selling everything from books, music and art vied for the rapt attention and pocketbooks of attendees.

Religious orders also made the rounds promoting vocations—or in plain terms ‘recruits’—for their various religious communities. Orders ranging from the Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans and others showcased the richness of their traditions, dating back centuries ,to those in attendance.

The workshops themselves—mostly held in English, but with 54 held in Spanish and 8 held in Vietnamese—each provided a unique window into the Catholic experience, an experience shared jointly by the over 68,115,001 individuals in America and over 1 billion worldwide.

Highlights from the workshops included talks by CNN’s resident “Vaticanist” John Allen, presentations by noted web commentator and new media proponent Father Robert Barron and insights into Jewish-Christian relations by Rabbi Michael Mayersohn.

Allen’s talk on “The Pope’s PR Problem”—which highlighted strengths and weaknesses of the Roman Curia’s media strategy—and his talk on “All Things Catholic”—which addressed hot button issues the Catholic Church is addressing—treated convention goers to a useful primer on the state of affairs in Catholicism today.

Father Barron’s presentations on the “The YouTube Heresies” and “Thomas Aquinas and Why the Atheists Are Right” outlined the challenges of evangelization and communicating the Christian message through new media. His message chimed along with Pope Benedict XVI’s guidelines for the “New Evangelization,” which is the concept that, in a pluralistic society, there is no reason for religion not to have a seat at the proverbial table.

And Rabbi Mayersohn’s insights in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Real History of Jewish-Christian Relations” and “Jews and the Roman Catholic Church Since Vatican II” showcased how Jewish-Christian relations have improved dramatically and have turned into a positive force for good since reforms were implemented by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

After each day of workshops, Masses were held that showed a variety of faith traditions within the Catholic Church. Of note was the Black Culture Mass presided over by Father J-Glenn Murray, which proved a hit with convention goers on account of its inspiring use of sound to communicate the facets of faith.

“It was a winning experience,” said CSUEB student Vincent Arcega. “The music was great, the homily was awesome and it brightened up a usually dreary Lenten Mass.”