by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News
ANAHEIM, CA — Tens of thousands of the faithful, including many Filipinos, flocked to Orange County for the annual Religious Education Congress, one of the biggest Catholic events on the West Coast. For many it was a great way to kick off the Lenten season.
Some 40,000 Catholics took part in the three-day conference.
The annual Congress brings out many Filipinos eager to learn more about their faith, through prayers, workshops, and keynote speakers.
“I learned more things at the Mass homily and how everyone else all here for the same thing and that’s really cool,” said Laurie Razon from Incarnation.
“I got volunteer hours the first time; thought it was really fun… so I decided to come back this year,” said Joel Pastrana, a spirit leader. “It’s really been fun this year too.”
With Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez playing an active lead role — one of the special guests was the Vatican’s ambassador to the US, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre joined the thousands of attendees in the pre-Lent congress and its mission.
“One of this biggest goals of catechesis in general, is how people encounter the living Christ,” said Father Chris Bazyouros, Director of the Office of Religious Education for the Archdiocese of LA. “That’s what we hope to do, and also as an office that has a mission of training catechetical leaders, we hope to help people to grow in the faith.”
When the Catholic Church is made up of large immigrant communities, as well as marginalized groups — part of the educational experience also includes tackling major social issues.
Immigrant rights, refugees, politics and the death penalty were among the hot topics during the conference.
“Pope Francis told us that he wants the church to get out there and get involved in people’s lives to show that the faith can help people understand what’s happening and find the best way forward,” said Fr. Chris. “We’re touching on so many issues around us, because that’s where people are and they need the light of faith to help guide them during these difficult times.”
It’s a message that many of these Catholics hope to spread.
“I’m enjoying expressing my faith along with a lot other people,” said student Eryn McNally from Chaminade. “I just want people to know there is hope, no matter what position you’re in, or like where you are in life there’s hope for a better life and better faith.”
As many of the youth enjoy the praise and worship, they also make sure to listen the 200 speakers at the workshops.