By Cathi Douglas     2/4/2016

RECongress 2016 – the world’s largest gathering of Catholic high school students, adults and young adults – begins with Youth Day at the Anaheim Convention Center on Thursday, Feb. 25 and continues with a host of events until Sunday, Feb. 28.

The four-day event, with the theme of “Boundless Mercy” in acknowledgement of the Year of Mercy, will attract more than 40,000 registered visitors. It will feature more than 200 speakers and more than 300 workshops in three languages, as well as entertainment, evening concerts and 16 Liturgies. The Congress Exhibit Hall – held Friday through Sunday – will showcase more than 200 companies offering materials ranging from religious art to music, and representing vendors from publishing houses to educational institutions.

Sponsored by the Office of Religious Education of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, the Congress began in 1968 as an “institute” for religious education (CCD) teachers and has grown to include people of all vocations and different faiths.

“One of the most important factors in faith formation ministry is leadership and well-trained catechetical leaders,” says Father Jerry Horan, vicar of faith formation for the Diocese of Orange. “That’s really what the Congress is all about.

“As we look at the Church and its multicultural realities, this is an important training opportunity to renew and strengthen the skills required for religious educators and catechists,” Father Horan adds. “It provides a place for renewal of theological thought and spiritual experience. For those who run parish programs, this is where they can deepen their knowledge and sharpen their skills.”

Youth Day will attract more than 20,000 high school students who will share in Liturgy, workshops, entertainment and a Youth Day Rally.

RECongress begins the following day and features several keynote speakers. Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, author of “Dead Man Walking” and a noted human rights activist, is Saturday’s keynote speaker, presenting “Boundless Mercy and the Compassion of Christ.”

Sunday’s keynote address, “Pope Francis, the Environment and U.S. Politics,” will be presented by Father James L. Heft, SM, a Marianist priest, professor and president of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at USC, who has authored 12 books and 190 articles.

Other prominent speakers at RECongress include John L. Allen Jr., associate editor of Crux, and author of nine books on the Vatican and Catholic affairs. Also speaking is Father Gregory Boyle, founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries and an acknowledged expert on gangs and intervention. Bishop Robert Barron, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, also is a featured speaker.

“What’s always the high point of each Congress is the time it provides to meet and support the people who are doing religious education or faith formation in the Diocese,” Father Horan says. “Another aspect this year that’s invigorating and insightful is the theme – it will be exciting to see the expression of ‘Boundless Mercy’ and the focus it’s given.”

Truly an international event, last year’s Congress attracted participants from Canada, Australia, Mexico, Ireland and from many Western states, he notes.

For more information, or to register for RECongress and/or Youth Day, visit recongress.org or contact the Los Angeles Office of Religious Education at 213-637-7348 or [email protected].