Earlier this month I attended my fourth annual LA Religious Ed Congress in Anaheim. As always it was a full and fruitful event. With over 40,000 in attendance (15,000 on Youth Day), there was always something to do or someone to talk to. Here are a few of the many highlights:
The theme of Youth Day was “Never Alone, Always Accepted.” Paul J. Kim, a talented young musician and speaker, talked about how he found a personal relationship with Christ when he least expected it and how that has transformed his life. He didn’t mince words about the challenges facing youth today and how to find authentic relationships designed around God’s plan for love.
Fr. Stan Fortuna, with his quirky and sometimes outrageous style, gave a frank talk about everyone’s true vocation: love. Becoming a priest after a successful career as a jazz musician, he was able to connect with the audience in a unique way, proven by the lively Q&A session following his talk.
Pam Stenzel spoke passionately about chastity education and the dangers of STDs, especially for women. She also told a moving story of a 15-year old who was raped and was planning on an abortion until she heard her baby’s heartbeat. She chose adoption instead…and that adopted baby girl was Pam herself!
Fr. Jonathan Morris gave such an honest talk about dealing with gay marriage and its effects on families who struggle to know how to respond. “Get out of yourself” and “Lead with mercy” were the key takeaways, and a prayer he suggested we all pray is “Lord, touch my heart in a way I don’t expect.”
There is so much to appreciate about our Catholic faith! Seeing the wide spectrum of Catholics in attendance at LA REC enlarged my vision of our household of faith and helped me appreciate my brothers and sisters in a new way.
“Lord, touch my heart in a way I don’t expect!”