America was one of the many participants in the 2012 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. For those who haven't experienced "Congress," it's hard to describe the sheer magnitude of the event: tens of thousands of Catholics (both clergy and lay) from around the world doing almost every type of ministry in the church; scores of speakers (e.g., Ronald Rolheiser, OMI; Helen Prejean, CSJ; John L. Allen, Jr.); and hundreds of exhibitors, all coming together to help one another better promote the faith. And Congress's Youth Day, the day before the adult participants arrive attracts thousands of young Catholics from Southern California.
For me, Congress always a real shot in the spiritual arm, reminding me of the underlying health of the Body of Christ. (This year the "Mid-Atlantic Congress" revived the tradition of the East Coast gathering.) For most attendees, it's an opportunity to learn more about their own fields of interest--e.g., Scripture, sacramental theology, young adult catechesis, music ministry, pastoral counseling, and so on, from some of the country's leading scholars and practioners It's also a chance to learn about unfamiliar fields, and to worship with great and enthusiastic crowds of fellow believers. Finally, it's a chance to catch up with friends and professional colleagues. As I said, it's always hard convey the sheer size and spirit (or rather Spirit) of Congress, but this video from Loyola Productions (also a participant) gives you a glimpse of the vastness of "Congress."