Next week is the annual Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, a giant Catholic cruise-ship of an event, with typically upwards of 40,000 people from a broad array of pastoral work spending several days together in Anaheim for conversation, inspiration, and a hope for a holy break from the routine. I know of no other annual conference that brings together such a broad array of Catholicism's diversities than this one. I think it is almost impossible to come away from this event and not be humbled by the irreducible difference that exists under the name "Catholic," an internal pluralism which I always find both provisionally transcended and also magnified at the Congress, as one wades through throngs of Catholics of multiple identifications and affiliations, as one walks the giant bazaar of Catholic wares for sale, as one settles into sessions with dozens, hundreds, or thousands of others who call themselves Catholic and who have their own unique story of the church to tell. The organizers in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' Office of Religious Education each year accomplish a heroic work of orchestration, and I am sure this year will be no different.
This year I will be moderating two sessions, both on the Saturday of Congress (20 March). One is titled "Catholic Identity 2010: Young Adults Speak!" It will feature a panel of young adults talking about how they understand and practice their Catholicism; we'll try to gain some small vantage on what matters to at least some young adult Catholics today and what that portends for Catholic ministry on the ground, including Catholic theological work today. The other is titled "Gay and Lesbian Catholics: Church Teaching and Pastoral Approaches," and will feature Sr. Fran Ferder, Fr. Richard Benson, and Bishop Raul Vera Lopez talking about important considerations for church workers who must relate church teaching to pastoral work with lesbian and gay Catholics.
There are many gifts of the Congress: faces revealed, friendships renewed, and (for me) the compelling strangeness of Catholic wayfaring encountered anew. So let's have once again this great Catholic circus, a small reminder of the Catholicisms from home contexts that we tend so quickly to categorize under that venerable and perhaps too-often capitalized category, "the Church."
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
Cross-posted to Rock and Theology